Mark B's Comeback Thread

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Mark B, Sep 23, 2010.

  1. Mark B

    Mark B Pianissimo User

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    Aug 20, 2010
    Redlands, CA
    Has it really been a month already? Unbelievable how fast the time goes by. It’s already been seven months on the comeback trail and while it seems like I’ve come a long way, I realize I’ve got a long way to go. When I think about my attitude when I first started playing, it’s almost laughable. I figured by this time I’d be much farther along. The reality of it is; after thirty years, it’s pretty much starting over. I’ve long ago accepted that fact and just take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, one rehearsal at a time. Though I’ve not come as far as I once thought, the trip has been every bit as much fun as I imagined it would be. The work has not become drudgery. I wake up in the morning looking forward to my next practice. After seven months, being able to say that is huge.

    The biggest news this last month was getting to rehearse with the Fourth of July Band. This is a community band that serves mostly to play for the City’s big Fourth celebration. There is no audition to get in. As I was told, “If you can get the right end of the horn to your face, you’re in!” Over the years, though, they have taken on some other opportunities to play and this year is no different. We’ve had four rehearsals now and my experience has run the full spectrum of emotions.

    First of all, I sat down and as I listened to those around me warm up, I became terrified. In fact, I decided that we must use the term “comeback player” as some sort of shield to fend off criticism for our playing. I decided that “I’m a comeback player” rolls off the tongue much easier than, “I’m not very good as a player yet for a good reason!” Then, when we started playing, I have to admit I was totally lost. I felt overwhelmed and way in over my head and I absolutely had the time of my life!! I might have been discouraged if not for a kind warning beforehand that this might be the case. Those words rang true in my ears and I took it to heart it would be better the next week. Truthfully, it was. Each rehearsal has been better and better. The most important thing is; I’ve had fun and continue to have fun!

    There are a ton of trumpet players in the band. One gentleman is 85 years young and is a really good player. I sit by him so he can cover for me! I find it interesting, though. There are a handful of players that want to play the lead part and most everybody else seems to want the third part. So, being the new guy, I got the second. It’s OK by me.

    The push to play better with the community band has added an extra push in the practice room, which has resulted in my teacher pushing a little harder, which is good. My sight reading, while still not good, is improving again. My fingers are still slow reacting to what my eyes see. Of course, my eyes are slow, too, so I have some work to do in that regard.

    I had kind of a neat thing happen this month. I was leaving my lesson one night and a young boy and his mother were waiting just outside the door. I stepped around the corner to get myself situated with my gear and my jacket when I overheard the mother ask if I had been playing long because I sounded really good. My teacher told her I played through high school, but was returning after 30 years off because it was fun. Now he took the opportunity to lay it on pretty thick for the kid, who rarely practices away from school. He told him I practice every day because that’s what you have to do in order to improve. I left before the entire conversation unfolded, but I got a pretty good chuckle out of it.

    That’s probably enough for this update!

    Mark
     
  2. Heuy

    Heuy New Friend

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    Jun 11, 2010
    Darwin, Australia
    Great stuff Mark, always read your postings with interest as you appear to be replicating my comeback accross the pond in Oz. You give me hope and the willingness to proceed..Love the quote "Comeback Player" which is defiantely my description now, albeit I think I will be using it for a fair few years..LOL

    Thanks for takeing the time and posting your progress for good and bad, it is a good read..

    Cheers
     
  3. Mark B

    Mark B Pianissimo User

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    Aug 20, 2010
    Redlands, CA
    Dropping out of lurking orbit for another update.

    I went back and reread last month’s update before starting this one. My attitude toward the “comeback player” status has not changed. In fact, I’ve quit using that altogether. The truth of the matter is; after 30 years off, it’s starting over. The fact that I’ve retained some fingerings and some scales all these years is just gravy. Chops building and making the noise musical are another matter and that really and truly is starting over.

    All this time, I’ve been focused on “getting back” to where I was 30 years ago. At my age, I can’t remember what I had for dinner last Wednesday, so what makes me think I can remember where I was skills-wise thirty years ago? I quit worrying so much about where I was thirty years ago and instead; focus on being better thirty days from now. This might not seem like a big deal, but for me, the stress release has been monumental. I’m no longer marking progress by some imagined standard I hold up for myself. Instead, I check myself day to day, week to week and this has marked another turning point for me in my progress. As fun as this trip has been all along, it’s become even more fun because I’ve taken the stress I placed upon myself out of the picture.

    I even tried to pin my teacher down on where he thought I was progress-wise. I wanted to get an idea if he thought I was progressing as he thought I would, or faster, slower, etc. He danced around the question nicely and I explained I wasn’t compliment fishing, or anything, just looking for an honest assessment to my progress so far. I have to give him props, he didn’t blow smoke up my backside and he didn’t beat me up. He told me I was making progress and it was steady, just keep up doing the work and then he cautioned me about playing in tune and to focus on centering my notes every time instead of feeling for them. All pretty good advice, I’d say.

    I’ve thought more on the significance of this. My teacher always tells me he gets pretty hungry in the summer as students drop off the program. Some are just for the summer, others are for good. Kids don’t practice and are hard to keep motivated. It’s not hard to wonder why. We’ve all become as jaded as they are to some extent. We all have become slaves to instant gratification. We want everything to be faster; Internet, food, cars, lines at Disneyland…. You name it and we want it NOW. Something that takes hard work and dedication over months and even years; not so much. If there is one thing we can take away from having played in years gone by, it’s in knowing how it feels when you DO get that rush of gratification.

    I remember the first time I played solo in a contest. I just about peed down my leg and instead, peeled off a solo that earned me a superior. I knew I did well when I saw the look on my director’s face and that rush was fantastic. Seeing the actual score was icing on the cake. Then, there was the first time I played in church. This marked the first time in front of family and friends. Again, I was nervous as could be. I remember sitting in the pew with my family and watching the bulletin anxiously as the agenda wound closer and closer to my name. The butterflies in my belly got to a feverous pitch as my turn grew closer. I was shaking as I took my place, but when the pianist started with the intro, I relaxed and just played my part. I made a couple mistakes that I covered well and when I finished, I could tell from the faces in the crowd I’d done well. Again, that euphoric rush was incredible. My parents were near busting at the seams and people had many kind words to say. I was truly high at that point. No drug could have induced such a feeling as I had that day.

    In my humble opinion, this is why we do what we do. The hours spent in the practice room going over drills and playing parts until we’re sick to death of them. It’s one thing to meld in with a group and as much fun as that is, it’s nothing compared to putting yourself in the spotlight and responding with a great performance. That’s where you get the real juice and that’s just something you can’t explain to somebody that’s not been there before. It’s an incredible feeling, but how, as a teacher, do you convey that to an 11-12 year old kid that trumpet practice is interfering with his/her video game time?

    Moving on from the philosophical soapbox; I’ve noted some improvement in accuracy issues in recent weeks. I was having some issues in consistently hitting anything much above an in staff D centered and accurately. I can play up to a high C pretty easily, but it might take me a couple stabs to get it cold. If I’m playing up a scale, it’s not a problem, but to just pop one off cold was a hit or miss situation. This has improved pretty dramatically of recent.

    I made a discovery this week that was kind of cool I’ve been struggling with 1/8th and 1/16th notes in 2/4 time; it was just too fast for my old eyes and fingers. This week, I noticed that things have slowed down some for me. This is huge, in my opinion. I noticed it and as soon as I started thinking about it, I screwed up…. Still, this was an exciting bit of progress, for me. I noticed it again in subsequent practices, so I believe I have turned a corner in this regard and won’t be so freaked out by such fast runs any more.

    The big news for this update is that I participated in my first live performance in thirty years! The Fourth of July Band participated in Train Days at the San Bernardino Train Station. It was a pretty neat event, the highlight being an old steam locomotive rolling into the station and a cheesy western “shoot-out”. We played for about three hours with a couple breaks. I was surprised at the number of people that just hung out and watched us play. We got a lot of compliments from bystanders.

    One thing I took away from this performance was a little disheartening. I found it hard to believe how many people just want to show up and play rather than helping move gear, set up and tear down. Most of the helpers were the older guys. There were very few younger, more able bodied people pitching in. Hopefully, that will change as more of the regulars start coming out.

    As the Train gig was not the focal point for the Fourth of July Band, many members haven’t joined in on rehearsals, yet. Now that work begins on the Fourth in earnest, there will be more members getting with the band. I’m looking forward to that.

    Thanks for taking the time to read. Things continue to progress and I manage to maintain a pretty high level of enthusiasm. Practice time can sometimes come at a premium, but I try to get some work in every day. Even if it’s just a few minutes, I try to get the horn in my face every day.

    Mark
     
  4. Mark B

    Mark B Pianissimo User

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    Aug 20, 2010
    Redlands, CA
    Oh yeah, one last thing that has absolutely nothing to do with trumpet playing. I'm a new grandpa!

    Mark
     
  5. BrotherBACH

    BrotherBACH Piano User

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    Oct 5, 2010
    Congratulations on the grandpa thing! It is good to read your posts and progress. We are all in this togther.

    BrotherBACH
     
  6. Heuy

    Heuy New Friend

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    Jun 11, 2010
    Darwin, Australia
    Congratulations Gramps.

    Love you reading on your progress, you seem to be mirroring my own thoughts on my 30 year comeback, although I am many miles away in Darwin Australia and started playing trumpet in the Uk back in the 70's.

    Funny enough I came to the exact same conclusion recently, I'm not really a comeback player thirty years is too long! I am basically a new player on a new learning curve. In fact i came to this conclusion after listening to Thomas Hootens Trumpet Call CD. WOWl what a standard and whatever standard I thought I was 30 years ago I certainly wasn't that standard :noway: and then when I hear Trumpet players in my city band and one lead player is thinking he is making a comeback after only a four month break. I defiantely realised I aint coming back to anything as I never really arrived in the first place:-(

    And exactly the same situation with 8th and 16th notes in 2/4 time, but I ahaven't yet quite got over that hurdle yet. Also the same with anything above D in the stave. In fact panic I panic a little when playing a new piece with the band and get a little worried with the pitch's and not splitting notes, sliding from d to f or just playing too high..

    Still your reads are great and help me in realising that I am not the only one experienceing this sometimes frustrating experience, thus not on my own:play:

    Cheers and all the best, keep posting

    Anthony
     
  7. Mark B

    Mark B Pianissimo User

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    Aug 20, 2010
    Redlands, CA
    Anthony,

    Glad to know I'm not the only one feeling the way I feel. Good stuff.

    While trying to pin my teacher down on his thoughts regarding my progress, the only comment he really made was that he had another student about my age that is relearning the horn. Apparently, he went out and spent a wad of cash on a new high end horn and mouthpiece, but he doesn't practice consistently. My teacher told me I'm light years ahead of that guy because I do the work and come to my lessons prepared every time. This guy comes to the lesson and it's pretty obvious he hasn't touched the horn since the last lesson. So, I guess the lesson here is "shut up and keep practicing!" ;-)

    The thing with 1/8th and 1/16th notes in 2/4 time is still a new enough thing that I can't say for sure I've turned that corner. It just seems to have slowed down for me. Another week will tell and certainly by the time I do the next update, I should be able to say for sure. Regardless, it's an encouraging thing at this point in the game.

    Those fun little discoveries and "wow!" moments can sure make a person's day!

    Mark
     
  8. daleptt

    daleptt New Friend

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    Apr 25, 2011
    As an older retired wanna be trumpet player. I appreciate hearing that there are others out there who, like me, are struggling a bit in trying to improve their skill. Most appreciative of your story and I just wanted you to know it was very inspirational. Think I'll go practice.
     
  9. Mark B

    Mark B Pianissimo User

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    Aug 20, 2010
    Redlands, CA
    Daleptt- I'm glad to be a source of inspiration! We all need that from time to time.

    If you're not already, I highly recommend getting a teacher and taking some lessons. It's a great source of accountability and another inspiration to practice.

    Good luck and keep on tooting!:play:

    Mark
     
  10. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Oct 26, 2003
    Baltimore/DC
    Mark, I think it's tremendous that you are as into it now as when you first came back to it last summer. I think that sometimes adults get grand ideas when they embark upon a new endeavor or hobby and they don't really fully take into account the time commitment and work - they are thinking pies in the sky, and that's great at first and a lot of fun because of the excitement that accompanies those new endeavors. And then the initial thrill and excitement wears away and that's when the rubber really hits the road and separates the ones who didn't fully think it through from guys like you who set the goals and work systematically toward setting them up and knocking them down. This is how I know you'll succeed.

    Sometimes I look at my own efforts with the horn and I wonder where I'd be if I wasn't actively gigging. Would I still continue to play? Somehow I doubt it - I put the time and work in when I'm in the practice room because flat out, I don't want to go out and suck when I gig, but if I didn't have a gig? I know that when the band takes big breaks, I'll often take a week or more off of the horn completely before I get it back together in the practice room a week or so prior to when we start up gigging again.

    The point I'm trying to make with that is that I think you might actually appreciate it more than I do - sometimes I lose perspective on how blessed I've been to be able to do what I do and employ it in a way where I get to go make music with others in a band and get paid for my efforts.

    So keep plugging away at it my friend! Keep setting up those goals and checking them off, and never lose the appreciation that you are among the lucky ones - one of the people who can grasp what it takes to make music with this hunk of brass, and take pride in the fact that you are disciplined enough to work hard at it. Just talking to you about playing trumpet has been an inspiration to me with my own continued efforts with it.
     

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