Steps Towards an Ecology of Trumpet Playing—Part I

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Vulgano Brother, Feb 28, 2014.

  1. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    I know, it’s a blatant rip-off of Gregory Bateson’s Steps Towards an Ecology of Mind. One of my favorite Gregory Bateson quotes is "The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way people think." On a micro-level we can apply this and other or Bateson's concepts to trumpet playing.

    I like the Middle English meaning of discipline--"mortification by scourging oneself." When learning a discipline, there is usually some sort of rite involved, whether it be in following the liturgy of celebrating the Catholic Mass, practicing one of the Zen arts or trumpet playing, having a routine can help to focus us on the task at hand.

    Proper breathing is a great place to start. Rowuk's circle of breath is much easier if we vocalize "how to." "How" being inhalation, and "to" exhalation. We can expand this by taking increasingly larger breaths, sort of like bouncing a ball higher and higher. I find it important to allow the transition from "how" to "to" be free of tension by not holding the breath and proper posture—holding our head as far away from the bottom of our spine as possible. If truly following the Zen model, this would be practiced to the point of being automatic before even touching the trumpet. This is the way nature works. The way people think is “you have to crawl before you can walk” or “any building needs a good foundation” or “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and the way they act is to ignore their own good intentions and blow willy-nilly into the instrument.

    Once we get used to proper breathing and posture (over time a simple reminder will suffice and later it will become automatic) we can proceed to long tones.

    Players complain that long tones are boring. They are boring. So?

    If we work through the boredom, we’ll start noticing the way the room fills itself with sound and resonates with us. At this point, it becomes not boring at all, but a sort of transcendental experience. To gain further benefits we can start incorporating a diminuendo down to whisper quiet—it will seem as if the note is trapped in the throat of the bell. Once we get good at that, we can work on starting the note as such a ghost tone, crescendo to just below the point that the sound breaks up and back to whisper quiet.

    I prefer expanding the long tones based on the Heimatton, the individual note that we cause the mouthpiece to buzz when playing medium high, medium low, medium soft and medium loud. Assuming a c in the staff as our home tone we would play c, c[SUP]#[/SUP], b, d, b[SUP]b[/SUP], etc. until we miss the highest note three times in a row. At this point we end the long tones.....
    rowuk and neal085 like this.
  2. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    We initiate,
    The trumpet responds,
    We react to the response,
    The trumpet adjusts to suit...

    Who is playing whom?

    It's built into our make-up that we assume that we are calling all the shots, and the instrument is just some dumb lump of brass that must passively submit to our authority. Maybe some of you out there truly are the masters in the relationship. But I suspect many more of us are mere slaves, and the sooner that we realise that we should bury our pride and allow the trumpet to play us the better ;-)
  3. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    I'll address this at a later time with a bit of Zen and more Bateson....
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006

    great start for a thread. I haven't read Bateson. My Circle of Breath starts without any articulation at all. HowTo comes later when we have a relaxed inhale/exhale with no intellectual energy necessary for the switch.

    Those that think longtones are boring aren't ready for the magic yet. To me they are a breath of life.
  5. neal085

    neal085 Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 6, 2012
    Ft. Worth, TX
    Any time I start thinking of how boring long tones are, I just remind myself of how many boring hours of leg strengthening exercises Michael Jordan did. How many boring hours of shooting free throws.

    Greatness doesn't happen by accident. You gotta want it.

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