Shake it but don't break it

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by neal085, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. neal085

    neal085 Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 6, 2012
    Ft. Worth, TX
    I've ramped up my practice time and so have taken opportunity to play publicly 3 times in the last several weeks, most recently at a memorial service this last Saturday.

    Saturday I was playing a pretty easy song with a very good piano accompaniment, and everything was working perfectly - air, embouchure, tongue, flexibility. Felt as comfortable as I've ever felt playing a trumpet. However, during the last part of the song, I suddenly started feeling nervous, and I swear that my trumpet got shake-voice. I always feel a bit nervous when I first get up in front of a lot of people but I usually get over it once I start playing, and any gaffs are more likely to be on the front end than the back end. This time it was like I was softly flutter tonguing the entire second verse, or at least that's what it seemed like to me. In my head it sounded like a soft vibrato that was completely unintentional that I couldn't control, but I know that these things can seem very obvious to the performer while going practically unnoticed in the audience.

    Several people told me afterwards that it sounded great, including a professional trumpet player that was present. However, I'd known the guy for all of 2 hours at that point, so I really wouldn't have expected him to say much anything else to a relative stranger at a memorial service.

    I later asked both my sisters, both of whom were present, both of whom are pretty musical people, and both of whom tend to be very, very (brutally, truncated even) honest with their brother. They said they didn't notice. Thought it sounded great.


    What are other people's experiences with this type of thing?
    Is it likely more in my head than it was in the actual sound?
    If it happens again, is there anything I can or should do in real-time to fix it?
  2. WannaScream

    WannaScream Pianissimo User

    Nov 27, 2013
    This is a good topic, because the trumpet is very unforgiving if you're not confident, but we don't talk about it much.

    I know I'm always my own worst critic, and beat myself up when I don't feel like I played well. I don't consciously get nervous, but I do informal things like opens mics, parties, a local bar gig. People usually tell me "Good Job", etc., even when I think I played wonky notes in a solo.

    My best remedy is practice, lots of repetition helps. In real time, take a deep breath and focus.
  3. BigDub

    BigDub Fortissimo User

    Dec 19, 2009
    Hillsborough, NJ
    Never turn away a compliment. That being said, you have to move on immediately and work on improving. We're never finished with the fine tuning of our playing.
    People who don't think they do anything wrong will never improve. You're well on your way to improving, so stay the course. :thumbsup:
  4. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

    Oct 16, 2008
    You made it all the way through the performance, and there's no recording to obsess over, so don't worry about it.

    I'd believe your sisters. If they said they thought it sounded nice then it probably did. The trumpet player probably heard the "nervous" fluttering, but the event wasn't about you it was a memorial service, so he didn't care.

    I've been playing in public since high school but I still get nervous from time to time in different venues. The more exposed I am, the more I have to focus on just playing the stupid horn and not worrying about anything else.

    It's usually MUCH easier to for me to control nerves if I'm sitting down, so I look for that opportunity whenever possible.

    Outside of that I think being well-prepared and getting lots of public performance under your belt will be the best things for you.
  5. Dave Mickley

    Dave Mickley Forte User

    Nov 11, 2005
    I get very nervous when playing solos in public, didn't use to. One thing that helps me to through the solo is to concentrate on my blow like I'm cooling off a bowl of soup. Maybe this will help.
  6. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown

    Baseball players usually know what their batting average is, say .289. Sometimes they'll go on a wild hitting streak and at some point it seems as if a little voice tells them, "Wait! You're not that good!" and they'll go into a slump until their average averages out.

    The same thing can happen to us during a performance: "Wait! You're not that good!" and nerves will set in.

    Give yourself permission to have great performances, and (provided you practice and prepare) allow yourself to enjoy your own playing.
  7. neal085

    neal085 Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 6, 2012
    Ft. Worth, TX
    Thank you for working in a baseball analogy. (Polite golf clap ensues).

    I figure the more often I play a loud brass instrument in public, the more comfortable I'll be.

    'Nother question.

    In public performance, my eyes close involuntarily as soon as I start playing. I don't mean to or try to, and I have to make a conscious effort to open them again, so I normally just leave them closed. It seems like I can focus more on the music and also I don't have to look at the audience - like an ostrich in the sand.

    Anyone else relate to that?
  8. BigDub

    BigDub Fortissimo User

    Dec 19, 2009
    Hillsborough, NJ
    I think it's better to look at an object just above the back row people. No one will know you're not looking at anyone. It's what I was taught to do and I think a lot of soloists do- the closing of eyes can be off-putting to some. It's your choice, so I'm not telling you not to do it.

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