Lara, the biggest improvement to my consistency in playing came from the kind of practice that I have mentioned in this thread, and while I was playing with a very good brass quintet while at the First US Army Band. I got into the quintet kind of by a fluke - the guy who was playing the second trumpet book went to a military school and was going to be gone for several months, and I was asked to sub for him...and I never left until I left the unit. By the time the other trumpet player came back from the school, I had earned my right to keep the spot. Anyway, I think that my consistency improved because of what a brass quintet is, and how good the other players were. In a quintet, you can't hedge and you can't hide and every bobble and mistake is heard, so you strive to minimize your mistakes. On top of that, the other players in that ensemble were GOOD! At first I was a bit rough around the edges, but I adapted quickly and my playing came up to their level. Being in a good quintet can do so much for your playing - you have to really focus and be consistent, and you really have to listen and lock in to everyone else for everything - intonation, dynamics, style, nuance, time, articulation, ensemble...for me it was the ultimate in "section" playing. It was almost Zen like how locked in to each other we were and it got to the point where we were so used to how we played with one another that even when we were sight reading new material, we were still locked in to each other. I don't think I was ever a better trumpet player than I was during that time. I was practicing the right things, playing in the right ensembles, and I had very few distractions to pull my focus from music and my playing. Relating that back to playing duets, you can accomplish much the same thing by playing duets with someone you know is better than you, and it's why I've started to play duets with my son - I figure it's the fastest way to bring his playing level up so that as a 6th grader he can be a contributing member of the extracurricular band that he'll start playing with this Wednesday.