No Motivation for trumpet/Is there something wrong with me?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trickg, Oct 3, 2004.

  1. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Guys and gals, I don't know what the deal is, but where trumpet is concerned, lately I have almost no motivation to play or practice.

    I've been playing trumpet working on 24 years, but as of late, it just seems to be a chore to play. Part of this is because after all of this time, I have seemingly unbreakable bad chops habits that totally limit what I'm able to do with the horn, and when I go to a gig, the music is such that I'm almost always struggling at the end of the night, thanks to a general lack of range and endurance due to the aforementioned bad chops habits.

    However, on the flip side of things, I have been playing a lot of drums lately, mainly for my church's praise team. I really get a kick out of this and I have no problems getting motivated to practice drums since my learning curve is such that I'm continually learning new things and I'm constantly finding that I am now able to do things and play grooves that I wouldn't have thought possible just one year ago.

    Then I look at my "learning curve" for trumpet and it's totally disappointing. Chops wise, I'm way lower than I was at my best and I get frustrated because these days I just don't seem to have the time to put toward the trumpet that I need to in order to get back to where I was. With trumpet, it is such as struggle to keep my chops in order. So much so that I have thought seriously about ending my days as a trumpet player and focusing soley on working on my craft as a drummer.

    I still have fun at the gig though, but it is mainly due to inter-personal interaction between myself and other band members, and due to the fact that I also sing lead vocals on a number of tunes, and has very little to do with playing trumpet.

    Is this normal? Has anyone else ever experienced this?
  2. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

    Nov 2, 2003

    I have read many of your post here and I feel a big thing to think about would be getting a private teacher. I get the idea that you want to remain self taught but at some point it just becomes much more sensible to have someone show you the way.

    When I finished my masters degree I was feeling pretty much how you describe, I began studying with a new teacher that totally changed my approach to the horn and to music. I practice more now than I ever did before and my enjoyment of music has increased more than I ever thought possible. Some people have to have someone challenge them in the right ways or they will never make progress.

    It could be the music doesn’t challenge you or it could be that you are hitting that brick wall in your playing and you need to have someone show you the way over it. I remember having a conversation with my teacher shortly after I began studying with him when I felt like I was hitting that brick wall. I didn’t doubt him or his methods but it seemed to me that I was hitting a brick wall and not going to get past it any time soon. His words were straight forward and to the point: he told me I can either keep going and some day soon I would make it past it or I could just quit in which case no matter how much I practice I would never get much better than I was then. I trust in him and his methods and kept at it, and the results can be seen.

    From what I have read on here I have every reason to think that you can beat this problem, but I think the first step is getting with a good private teacher.

    I hope that helps,

  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Diz, thanks for the reply. You did hit the nail on the head that I am self taught and that I am pretty proud of that fact. You also had a nice idea about getting a good teacher. The problem that I'm facing now is that I would almost rather get a private teacher for drums than for trumpet.

    I have thought about taking steps to get over that seemingly insurmountable hurdle of "fixing" my chops, but I'm afraid that I'm going to head down that road, only to bottom out and completely lose the ability that I already have. It's an interesting dilema. I only have so much time, and right now, my priority seems to be falling more and more toward playing drums where music and practice is concerned. Also, as a 34 year old married father of two with non-musical professional career, there is a limited amount of time that I will be able to get in the practice room anyway.

    I had mentioned to several close friends of mine a couple of months ago that I was thinking of hanging up the horn for good, and they all thought I was crazy. They seemed to think that I should continue to play and perform on trumpet.

    I'll think about what you wrote and see if I can't find some motivation to get back in the practice room. I'm currently going through some other changes in some areas in my life that I think might add a little motivation and spark to the rest of me. I'm finally, after many years, getting out of that life sucking, 3+ hour a day commute through Washington DC traffic because I took a position much closer to home. To say that I had lost my motivation in my current position would be gross understatement and it wasn't only because of the commute. Hopefully less time on the road on top of a position that should be much more challenging and interesting will help give me the motivational kick start that I need.
  4. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

    Nov 2, 2003
    For me motivation/inspiration isn’t hard to find when you want to: Just last night my girl friend surprised me with tickets to see the ASO do Don Juan and Beethoven 3.
    I just think of people like Chris Martin and Mark Hughes and I am set for motivation. When I don’t have a live performance at hand I can easily put in a CD that gets me fired up. It could be Manny Laureano playing lead on Mahler 2( as it was this week) or even plenty of non brass stuff that gets that fire going and makes me get the horn out. Also I find that sounding good can be very addicting and is a great motivation in and of itself.

    Maybe take some time off, if you have a lot of bad habits you will not really lose much to walk away for a while. After a little time off go see your favorite group or favorite piece performed, I bet by the end of it you will know what to do.


    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana
    One of my all time favorite books is:

    For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals by Wayne Booth.

    He writes about being an amateur musician (or anything else, for that matter) is really a love for something. We love music. That love can be shaken at times.

    Why do amateurs practice for an hour or more each day? If you spent an hour a day reading on almost any subject, in 20 years you would be an expert -- probably a renown one!

    But practice an hour a day on a musical instrument and you are just part of the masses that love to play too. It can be defeating. You practice, you play, and yet you miss that passage -- or your tone suffers. Something goes wrong. Motivation is low.

    I agree ... listen to something that motivates you. It would be difficult to play two instruments as an amateur. You may have to pick one. But do it because you love it -- otherwise you will hit the wall.

    I am an amateur composer and arranger. There are times I find spending two hours to write 10 bars ridiculous. But then I hear something that motivates me. Then, I want to get my inspiration on paper.

    Rambling a bit here, but the point is we all hit a spot. My horn collected dust for several years when in graduate school after majoring in music (then going to theology, and on to Ed Psych). When the dissertation was done, my horn was waiting. It took time, but I have come full circle and then some. I might play better today than I did when I was in college -- mostly due to the love of it.

    Music is obviously in you. What is it that moves you to make it? Ahh, the ultimate question.

  6. bigaggietrumpet

    bigaggietrumpet Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 23, 2004
    Nazareth, PA
    Excellent advice, man.

    Trickg, I know where you're coming from, partially because my technique and embrochure have some flaws as well, and I'm not where I think I should be. What I found that usually helps is to just quit worrying about it so much. Why do we play music? To have fun. If we lose sight of that, then what's the point?

    I think Diz gave some great advice. You can afford to walk away for a period of time. Listen to music you like. It could be Dizzy, Doc, or Chris Botti. Remember why you picked up the horn in the first place. I usually come in and listen to Arturo or Glenn Miller. After a few rounds of "In the Mood" I'm running for my case!

    Just do what you think will make you enjoy music more. If that means leaving the trumpet, so be it, don't be a stranger around here, as you put in some valuable input.
  7. Youri le god

    Youri le god Pianissimo User

    Jan 23, 2004
    London, UK
    I encounter the same problem as well. I play guitar as well as trumpet and I seem to go through phases where I'm only interested in playing one or the other.
    When I'm going through a guitar phase I make sure that I do at least 20 mins on trumpet a day just to keep the strength up. I use some excercises from John Lynch's book "a new approach to Altissimo trumpet playing" and it keeps me in pretty good shape.
  8. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Thanks for the replies.

    I won't ever walk away from music; I've been at it far too long and have such an intense love for it that I could never do that. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I find myself in the position where musically my "talent" is multi-faceted and from time to time I will pursue other musical goals, to the exclusion of all others. Right now, strangely enough, that pursuit comes in the form of listening to rock/Christian Rock music and learning to become a better rock drummer. Also, I recently came into possesion of my late Father's guitars (a Martin D-18 and an Ibanez Lonestar Series) and I have been learning to play guitar as well.

    Time is another factor. I perform with the Praise band every Sunday in church and much of the time that requires learing new music, so the little bit of time I have in the course of the week is spent sitting behind the drum kit, learning the grooves, format and transitions of the music for the following Sunday, or brushing up on the tunes that I already know.

    And then, there is the vicious cycle that hits you when your chops are at a low point. It's a struggle to play, therefore you don't enjoy practice, so because of that, you don't practice. Because you don't practice, it becomes a struggle to play, and so on.

    I took yesterday off because the gig Saturday night was pretty hard on my chops, but I have vowed that I am going to do several things this week:

    First and foremost - clean my horn. It really needs it! :D

    Work on technique and endurance - normal practice for me

    Brush up on some of the rock band music - we played "Give it to Me" Saturday, and I ate it pretty bad, but I could stand to brush up on quite a few of the tunes in the book.

    I'll take into account the advice that you have been so kind to pass my way, and I'll keep you posted (no pun intended) on how my chops and attitude toward my horn are progressing.

    Oh yeah, one last thing. I can't really take a break and then come back to work on my bad habits because if I do, I'll lose this gig that I have and for me, there is no point to playing at all if I'm not gigging.
  9. stewmuse

    stewmuse Pianissimo User

    Apr 28, 2004
    NW Chicago
    Trick -
    Realize that just because some part of your interest in trumpet is waning, it only is a symptom of your personal interests changing (for you, the church drum gig). You are not, I think you've made clear, a pro who who looks at his horn as his job or, now, even have a huge desire to play, for all the reasons you stated. What if you DID give up trumpet, even just for awhile? It seems like you've filled that emotional space already with the church gig.
    It's just another facet of your life. Sometimes interests, hobbies, and even friends pass along as we get older and change. It kinda sounds like you're chastising yourself for not practicing, like your mother or band director is standing watch over you. Don't worry about it. Do the things that make you happy. If that turns out to be a return trumpet, cool. If not, well, you still have all of the learning gained from your trumpet days, as well as memories and experience.
    Just keep being a musician.
  10. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I never really looked at it as chastising myself for not practicing, but yeah, that pretty much sums it up. But even though I'm not a "pro" now, as a perfectionist, that doesn't stop me from expecting a high level of performance out of myself.

    I used to be a "pro", so to speak. I was an Army bandsman for 10 years so in a way, I did make my living performing, if not so much playing music. In order to understand what I mean by that, being in the Old Guard Fife and Drum corps is more about marching and putting on a show as a part of a larger unit than about being musical.

    I've always been a perfectionist and I expect a high level of performance out of myself. If I am not playing well, it is very frustrating for me. Frustrating because I know I can do better, and have done better.

    Another part of all of this is my propensity for taking the path of least resistance. When I was in middle school and early high school, learning and improving came so quickly and so naturally, that spending time on the horn was easy. I didn't really practice, I just played a lot because it was fun, and at that time in my life, that was all that was necessary for my technique to improve to the point that I was better than my classmates. Then later, in my first couple of years as an Army bandsman, although I was doing some practicing of technique, much of the music was challenging to the point where simply learning and playing what was required was enough to bring my level of playing proficiency up to a pretty high level. On top of that was the fact that I was playing challenging music for hours almost every day as my JOB. That made it easy to keep my chops up. At that point in time, I had nothing else to distract me from being a trumpet player. (In retrospect, I wish that I had done some serious practing of technical studies.) Then came a girlfriend/fiance, marriage, kids, and getting out of the Army to become a computer geek.

    When I first got out of the Army, I took the better part of two years witout even touching the horn, and had an old friend not called me out of the blue to sub a job, I may not be playing now. That sub job was the tip of the iceberg of multiple bands and playing opportunities. So much so that it got to the point where I had so much going on that I actually had to quit doing some things becaues I just couldn't keep up with the multiple, and sometimes conflicting, playing opportunities.

    Maybe I'm just burned out. Maybe I do need a break from it, but at what cost? If I quit playing, I will be replaced in a band where I have been a member for 3 years. It's not like I can just come and go at will. And it isn't that don't enjoy being in that band, because I do, but it has nothing to do with playing horn anymore.

    Sorry for dredging up all of the history, but in trying to figure out what makes me tick as a trumpet player, the primary reason for this post, it's important for me to put it out there. You guys might see some things in my situation that I don't. Actually, the mere fact that I have put this out there has sort of sparked an interest in practicing. I'll practice tonight, and then clean my horn! :)

    Thanks for the replies. You have passed along some great advice and words of wisdom.

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