Playing "too cozy"...

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Local 357, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011
    Avoidance of playing "too cozy". Or perhaps playing "cozily" the proper English.

    My junior high music director Mr. Allen's words circa 1969. Well respected man/genius he applied it to timid, young wind instrumentalists who don't put much air behind their ax. But it is a problem that can affect any wind player from raw beginner to seasoned pro. Happens when you start to merely cover your part. Getting just a piece of note instead of DOMINATING the band like you're supposed to.

    There are certain players who play this way and yet still contribute to a band. We call them "sidemen" at times and there's probably nothing wrong with their playing. They just don't have the lead/BIG sound.

    However in a beginner, intermediate or advanced player (an advanced player that is who is required to LEAD the section) it is a problem.

    Beginners and intermediate players who make the bad habit of cozy playing will inevitably stymie. Developing an overly cautious and timid playing tendency. Advanced players too may fall into bad breathing habits. Descending further into a state of a lack of confidence and even rely on too much arm pressure to do the job. They forgetting their biggest asset: Solid air support.

    I worked with a young trombone player last Mon. night in a big band rehearsal. He's a young adult beginner who was looking very intimidated while playing the second trombone part. During the break politely asked him if I could give him my famous (lol) lecture on aggressive playing and air support. He agreed and I gave him the typical "Sargent Hartman" speech/pep talk (slight exaggeration)

    lol: Full Metal Jacket - Motivational Speech - YouTube "I CAN'T HEAR YOU"!

    After the break this young cat played perhaps some 300% percent better! You could see him concentrating on BLOWING that air through the bone. His whole demeanor and physical approached had changed for the better. It was like he had turned from the 90 lb weakling who got sand kicked in his face to the guy bench pressing four hundred pounds. I even started to dig the sound he was getting! He had turned from a scared, intimidated trombonist with a nauseating tone to a real contributor to the band. Within one fifteen minute period!

    However this was only half my whole reward. Not just that I observed the young fellow come around the bend with his sound but more. Last night at my professional band rehearsal and towards the end of the evening i caught myself playing a series of High D's without using a dominating tone. Got the notes as I always do but that was about it. Couple reasons. 1. It was one of my less favorite charts ("Souled out" by TOP) and 2. Was near the end of a rehearsal with some otherwise very demanding tunes.

    Again these weren't bad tones. the second ledger line D's were accurate, in time, in tune and probably fit well enough the intent of the arranger's sound concept. Unfortunately they didn't sound like "Local" was behind the horn.

    So I even caught my own self playing too cozily... Fixed that in a jiffy. So during the next two charts i pushed the pedal to the floor and drove every tone out at near peak volume. Well that just what you're supposed do in an R & B band. BINGO! The missing element to the band was restored. I'll not fall into that bad habit again for a while.

    Conclusion: There surely are times to play a little softer. As when the music is written soft or during selected parts of the third set on a very strenuous gig that tests endurance to the limit. In the later example I might take a little off the note. Or "suction" the microphone (if I even have one) to save energy. Under those cases it is acceptable. No one has endless energy or chops.

    But playing cozy can easily become a habit. Break it and nicely point it out to your friends in the brass section when they do it.

    All said and done? After listening to TOP play their own chart on youtube

    here: Tower of Power - Souled Out - YouTube)

    I kind of felt that even they weren't quite blowing the horn lines loud enough. But then again that could just be their sound engineer had capped the volume. Seen that happen watching tower last summer. Whomever was working the board had the horns too soft and the singer too loud. Sad because they do that often.

    And in the final analysis I suppose my own playing of the lead with my R & B band really wasn't all that weak last night. It just wasn't my traditional BIG sound. Won't let that happen again. Neither should you.
    kingtrumpet likes this.
  2. Mark_Kindy

    Mark_Kindy Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 11, 2010
    Gainesville, FL
    Great post, as usual!
    I feel this can apply to not just volume, but the energy and intensity of the sound as a whole -- does this match your thinking?
    Definitely plan to keep this in mind in my playing.
  3. Jfrancis

    Jfrancis Pianissimo User

    Jul 19, 2008
    Hannibal, MO
    Very well written! One of my favorite quotes about this is from W. Marsalis, "The trumpet, trumpets." (Sweet Swing Blues on the Road)
  4. oldlou

    oldlou Forte User

    Aug 28, 2005
    Grand Rapids, Mi.
    A classic example of this syndrome was displayed to me last year when I was playing principal trumpet at age 75 with a large college concert band. We had a very shy freshman girl who I admonished to take private lessons and then did my best to encourage. At the second semester concert she played a duet very confidently with anothe student. I was thrilled for her.

  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I guess if lead is your only target, being the loudest can be OK. The best lead players that I have worked with never wiped out the respective sections. They kept the leading (bleeding) edge within the sections capabilities - inspiring them to greater heights instead of digging deeper graves.

    I think that the sign of a real pro is knowing the difference between ego and ambition.
  6. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    You can always tell if it's ego talking, when a poster has to start every post telling you how great they are. How nobody else comes up to their level, and how they helped all these players in their "pro" band. Their advice should be able to stand on it's own merit,without trying to impress everybody.
  7. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    it is very interesting how we all percieve different perspectives on posters --- you take local357 for example --- some people might think he is a little ego-centric, perhaps a bit "too full of himself" or whatever their perspective may actually be. I don't always agree with the guy. I think he may have some rough edges on the personality side.

    Then again --- in many PM's local357 has given me some very excellent and effective methods to use the trombone as a "learning" tool to improve my "fullness" of sound, and improved upper register playing on the trumpet. I am NOT sure that I would have even attempted to double on the trombone -- or actually thought it would improve my trumpet playing without many very nice, PM's from Local357. So I am thankful that even on TM -- ones perception of another --- is not always true of the character that they possess in actual -- "real life"!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    King, I think that you understand what we mean. Local obviously is functional on stage. What works is based on the chemistry between people. Locals approach does NOT work for all and certainly loud and uncosy is a recipe to get thrown out of normal symphonic bands or orchestras.
  9. Brad-K

    Brad-K Piano User

    Jun 18, 2011
    Anyways, to stay on topic, I have to say I agree most with Mr. Kindy.

    One thing I've noticed about true pro's, regardless of instrument, regardless of genre, regardless of ego, and especially regardless of volume/dynamics, is the difference between the great ones and everyone else, is overall 'Presence' Mark said, "Intensity," even if it's super-duper pianissimo.
  10. X3Lb

    X3Lb Pianissimo User

    Aug 15, 2010
    Shrewsbury UK & Lanzarote
    I agree.

    Have you ever listened to recordings of your own band/orchestra with this type of dominant playing. It spoils the effect of what the writer/arranger intended, emphasis on certain parts of the music are incorrect, others solo's get drowned and don't come through etc.

    Be confident -yes. BUT - Surely its more about LISTENING to others and applying the CORRECT amount of volume and balance to ones playing.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2012

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