Physical Chops, Mental Chops, and Concentration

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trickg, Jun 2, 2005.

  1. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I have posted that recently I have been working pretty hard at restoring my playing to a level of proficiency and consistency that I am happy with. Last night in the practice room I got a reminder that getting my playing back together is a lot more difficult than just working on physical chops and coordination.

    My mental chops really need some work. I scrounged around and came up with some of the things that I have performed in the past and started hitting those as a barometer to measure my playing. :shock: This stuff is A LOT different than my party band book!

    Maybe I was trying too hard and maybe I was making things a lot more complicated than necessary and I was thinking about it way too much. All I know is that I should have been able to breeze through some of that stuff but I kept making small mistakes, and this was even on some of the solo repertoire I played in High School! :x

    Physically, my chops are mostly back (or at least I think they are) and that happened fairly quickly - just a few weeks of steady, regular practice of fundamentals. I figured that I would be able to play some of these things much better than I did. At times, I thought I sounded pretty good, but other times....well, lets focus on the positive.

    Does anyone have any tips to help me get my mental act back together so that I can re-synch my physical ability on the horn with hightened concentration?
  2. FlugelFlyer

    FlugelFlyer Piano User

    Dec 15, 2003
    Palos Park, IL
    Take a tennis ball and throw it as far as you can.


    Take a tennis ball, throw it as far as you can, and try to throw it into a small sand bucket, maintaining at least the origional distance.

    That's the difference in my opinion between those who reach the distant goal and those who go the distance and end up in the desert. Everybody's willing to go the distance, but nobody's willing to do the navigation.

    Imagine a person taking off in a spaceship and saying, "I want to go as far as I can!" He takes off, goes further than anyone else has gone, and ends up somewhere in the abyss with no food, oxygen, fuel, and is isolated from any known civilization beyond the point of rescue. Me, I'd point somewhere on a three dimensional star map and say, "Take me to this planet." Thus, my crew has both the distance and the correct azimuth to determine.

    Moral of the story, don't fire yourself into outer space without an intended destination, you'll only hurt yourself. Go to the outer edges of the trumpet universe, find your specific goal, and commence on your journey.

    That usually works for me with anything. :soap:
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Interesting comments. Part of my problem with practicing has always been defining goals. I'm a performer at heart and I have always had a hard time practicing for the sake of practicing - becoming a fantastic player with no plans to perform just doesn't work for me. Currently my only performance outlet is with the party band, which makes it tough for me to find a reason to work on my finesse, legit playing.

    I had hoped to compete in the National Trumpet Competition coming up next February or March. That would have given me time to structure a practice routine toward a specific goal. On top of that, I have always been competitive - I think it goes with the territory of being a trumpet player - and I would have wanted to have worked hard to really put my best foot forward.

    Sadly, the only division that the contest has that I could have competed in is the Pro Am division, and there is a cutoff for how much money you can make as a musician on the side, so that pretty much eliminated that idea.

    So for now, I'll just keep plugging away - the biggest plus so far is that the party band gig has become a lot more fun - I'm not working nearly as hard as I used to. :-)
  4. Heavens2kadonka

    Heavens2kadonka Forte User

    Jun 17, 2004
    Lebanon, TN
    Heres a good way to think about your playing.

    Get a Manhasset stand in front of you. Now stand in front of it.

    Pick up the stand.

    NOW, put the stand down, close your eyes, and imagine the stand is a 100 lbs. weight. Pick it up again.

    Notice you CLENCH UP your arm a lot more, even though you are only visualizing!

    I bet you also noticed you didn't grasp the stand as easily as you did the first time, either. I bet you picked it up clumsily, shakily. Braced yourself with your sides, your legs. You also slowly picked the stand up.


    Think of playing trumpet like that. We see a high C, and go "HOLY ****!" We then clench up, forcing out a very unflattering sound. Its also why we look at old pieces we've played, and play them horribly! We remember how hard the piece was, and then suck it up playing it later on, when we KNOW we are much more proficient players!

    Old habits never die, they just have to be replaced with new, better habits!

    My practicing this summer is focusing on that. Keeping the air flow constant, from top to bottom. Thinking of everything like a long tone, visualizing the stand-weight. CONSISTENCY, I guess is the big idea I'm trying to teach myself. Playing a piece, and everything feeling, and sounding alike. Its been very, very, veryveryveryveryveryveryveryveryveryvery.....

    VERY DIFFICULT, :lol: but once I can finally grasp it, I think I will end up being a MUCH better player than I am right now (I may actually become a decent hack job!).

  5. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003

    Last night my practice was MUCH better - Everything about my playing was better last night. I'm still trying to figure out what factors weigh in to having a good day and a bad day, but the goal is to get to where bad days are good enough that I'm the only one that notices! :D
  6. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    I'll make a bet.

    I'll bet that the days you get off to a less than stellar start are the days you forget to sing as you play each and every note.

    Any takers?

  7. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    What ML said!!

    The concept of singing in my head is the real secret in my playing. I don't play a note without imagining I'm singing really does nail down the mental side of this art...

    If you can reconcile what's going on in your head with what's coming out of the bell you've also got a good handle on technique.

    helps me.


  8. PH

    PH Mezzo Piano User

    Dec 2, 2003
    Bloomington, Indiana
    Mr. Adam has his students sing everything in practice before they play it. This means everything from long tones, to Clarkes, to articulation exercises, to music. Sing a phrase, then play it keeping the singing going in your mind.

    This also improves your use of the breath, improves articulation by thinking of it as diction, and forces you to insert adequate rest for the chops throughout the practice session.
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Although I haven't really thought about it this way, that's probably a pretty accurate statement!

    Thinking back to my formative years as a trumpet player, I have always been one to "sing" it in my head as I play. Part of the reason for this is that early on, I was an atrocious reader when it came to rhythm so I would quickly learn the "song" and use the music on the page only as a fingering reference.

    I would be lying if I said I had never heard it said that most of the time when it comes to playing this instrument, we have troubles because we can't get out of our own way and just let the music talk. We tend to get too caught up in the technical aspect of playing the horn. The centipede/ant story is a story that comes to mind that illustrates this point.

    Here is a funny little anecdote that is sort of related. A friend of mine loves to golf and is a decent golfer, although you won't ever see him on the circuit. He told me that there have been times when he is playing someone that is having a really good day, and just to mess with them, like right before they tee off, he'll ask them "say, do you breath in or out right before you swing?" :-? It ruins their game for the rest of the day! :lol:

    It's interesting that last night, on some of my old solo repertoire, I was simply trying to be expressive and I wasn't thinking about the physical side of playing that much.
  10. Billy B

    Billy B Pianissimo User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Des Moines, IA
    <...I was an atrocious reader when it came to rhythm so I would quickly learn the "song" and use the music on the page only as a fingering reference.>

    Often during lessons with youngsters they will be hunting for the fingering of a particular note. When I loudly sing the pitch, they almost always immediately put down the correct fingers. The mental image of the sound will control all aspects of your playing if you let it. Singing is a great way to build that mental image.

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