Strength Isn't Everything!

Discussion in 'EC Downloading' started by Derek Reaban, Aug 22, 2005.

  1. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

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    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona
    Ed,

    I usually don't "repost" complete topics from other sites, but I know that there are different audiences between TM, TH and TPIN, and it's fun to see how the same topic can take completely different directions.

    I just submitted this to the TH site... Let's see how it develops here as well.

    I just wanted to share some random thoughts that I’ve been having concerning strength and balance. It seems like many posts talk about achieving a powerful sound, or the strength required to play in a certain register of the horn. Many posters will then offer suggestions to “strengthen” a particular aspect of the original poster’s playing set up. And then the original poster will respond sometime later that they have diligently taken this strengthening advice and shown some marginal improvement in that area of their playing.

    I even can’t count how many times I’ve read this type of topic over the years on these forums.

    In the last several months, my sons have all moved to a new gymnastics facility that recently opened in Chandler, Arizona. My boys are in different classes that are age appropriate (from 3 year olds to 6 year olds). In this brand new, fantastic facility, there are kids of all ages working out in the same area (up to high school, and maybe even a few college age gymnasts).

    I am amazed at some of the strength aspects that I see in many of these young athletes. My six-year-old is able to “climb the rope” about halfway to the top. This rope is attached to the ceiling of the two story high gym and is easily 30 feet high. He uses both his hands and feet and a technique that is quite common among the kids his age (my five-year-old can’t climb higher than his coach can help him – just like my six-year-old was last year).

    There are kids that are in the second grade that can climb the rope to the top (with no feet)! They keep their feet in a pike position and simply use their arms hand over hand to get to the top. Once they can do that, they climb up the rope upside down (I’m not making this up – these kids are just phenomenal with several years of “strength” training under their belts).

    They also do lots of pushups, sits-ups, leg lifts, etc.

    This strength work is only one aspect of being successful at gymnastics. The other major area of “technique” is of course balance.

    Balance is part of everything that my boys do at gymnastics. Even my 3-year-old will jump off a tall mat and be instructed to “stick” his landing. And he has lots of fun saying, “Tah Dah” and putting his arms up in the air when he lands with both feet together. You don’t need any specialized “strength” to begin working on this aspect of gymnastics.

    I was especially impressed at something that I saw last week. There was a class of boys that were probably in the 5th or 6th grade who had not been enrolled in classes before. They were all working on handstands with their instructor, and while they all had the physical strength to accomplish this task, strength is clearly not the most important element that is needed to perform a great handstand. They were all throwing their hands down at the mat and kicking their feet in the air and getting most of the way up to vertical, and it was the rare attempt that actually ended in a real hand stand for anything than more than a second or two.

    Looking across the gym, the high schools girls on the balance beam were doing back handstands with apparent ease, and “no wobbling”. There was a college student that demonstrated handstands for the boys, and he very slowly bent over, put his hands on the mat and lifted his legs to a vertical position. He demonstrated both great strength and balance.

    The point of this very long story is simply that the mindset of many young brass players these days, is that strength is the major aspect that needs to be pursued to achieve their goals. I know that I was of this mindset for the majority of my playing years!

    Balance should be a major component in everyone’s playing day with respect to sound production! In this metaphor, How many players fall down when executing a back handstand on the balance beam and then consider that they need to be stronger to accomplish their goal? In the reading that I have done here and at other sites, strength is the answer that is presented to help this player the majority of the time.

    Resonance is our balance! Learn about it! Apply it every day in your practice sessions! What was once unattainable, will suddenly come into focus, and become part of your regular accomplishments.
     
  2. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Deleted due to haze.

    (Edit: Original post, restored below)

    Derek, I don't want to jump on Ed's toes, but I think that this is a great topic and I wanted to jump in with an idea or comment or two.

    Pound for pound, gymnasts are some of the strongest athletes out there today in terms of strength vs. weight. Just food for thought on that.

    Another idea that I had in terms of relating strength and balance to trumpet playing and gymnastics is focus! Much of what a gymnast does to achieve the balance in handstands or whatever is due to focus and fine tuning. So many trumpet players, myself included, try to muscle it out through brute force, when a lighter touch, even in the stratosphere, is probably required.

    A player can be exremely resonant down low without having the proper focus or fine tuning to achieve the same result up high. More food for thought.

    I'd post more, but I'm out of time. More later!
     
  3. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

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    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona
    I’d like to share a quote that I thought was fantastic (I sent this to my Wife’s Dad several years ago with the comment that, “there’s a sermon in there somewhere). There was a poster on the TH site quite a while ago named Walter, and he came up with this great analogy (which I will borrow) and then move to a slightly different conclusion.

    When I read or hear the ideas of David Krauss, James Thompson, Dave Hickman, Emory Remington, Chris Gekker, Manny Laureano, Peter Bond, Pat Harbison, Bill Bergren, Bill Adam, Wilmer Wise, Jens Lindemann, James Pandolfi, Mark Gould, John Hagstrom, Charlie Vernon, Russ DeVuyst, Charles Schlueter, Vincent Cichowicz, Ed Carroll, and so many others that I’ve had the good fortune to meet or read about, I think about the above analogy.

    Great ideas are very often faint, and in the background when discussing topics in these forums. Ideas that are “minutes” old and come from every direction many times will shroud those brilliant ideas that are travelling toward us from across time. They are typically heard or understood by a very small percentage of the population, and dismissed by those that have not been exposed to them before.

    I know that the more I read, and the more that I am exposed to great players, the better I understand the ideas that I write about. There are still lots of areas where I fall short, and I hope to be able to express myself much better in these areas once I really get my arms around these topics.

    With the gymnastic example above I can clearly see that “visualization” should be tossed around in combination with strength and balance.

    My intent in posting this is simply to mention that I really like to weigh a person’s words against what I have read or heard in the past. I take what I can from these words and write about it myself. The more that I do this, the better I find I am able to express the really great ideas!

    This topic can clearly go in lots of directions! Have fun!
     
  4. ecarroll

    ecarroll Artist in Residence Staff Member

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    Jul 13, 2005
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    Derek,

    Thank you for a wonderful and well presented post. I'm well aware of the particular mind-set that you describe, and I submit to your "young brass players" my point of view that strength IS balance. . .

    I was very fortunate during the years that I was music director of the Lake Placid Institute to meet a number of coaches at the United States Olympic Training Center, and was very curious to observe their training methods. I was delighted to learn their viewpoint that pure strength (even for the "push athletes" who search for Olympic glory in the first few seconds of the bobsled run before settling back to enjoy the ride) wasn't nearly as important as speed, flexibility, explosiveness, and balance. Thus athletes such as Herschel Walker (former NFL running back) were sought after and trained by Team USA rather than power lifters. No surprise there.

    Our athletic role models might better be Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, and Pedro Martinez. None of the three are muscle-bound freaks like those found on pay per view TV (Pedro remains one of my favorites, in spite of leaving da Sox for the brighter lights of Gotham...a skinny Dominican kid with a wicked fastball), but all enjoy a single mindedness in preparation and perfect harmony in execution. Have you ever played with Allan Vizzutti? I toured Japan (Ten of the Best--lousy title) with Al a few years back and marveled nightly at a trumpet technique that is astonishingly similar to Tiger Woods' golf game: incredibly long off the tee, with soft hands and the imagination to pull off shots that others would never dream of trying. Al would be a mother in the Pyrenees as well, should he ever attempt Le Tour. One of the Best and Nine of the Rest?

    Basic trumpet technique has three basic components: flow, focus, and flexibility. I think of it as a equilateral triangle -- each side equal, and none more important than the other. Most of us favor one point of the triangle over the others (vainly focusing on attributes rather than liabilities) in our practice, and our technique remains unbalanced as a result. My own playing, at its peak, might have been described as flow/focus centric (I never enjoyed the flexibility of Bohumir Kryl; a resident of Lake Placid, strangely), and I suffered when playing certain repertoire as a consequence. Allan, bless his trumpet heart, enjoys equal access to each point of his personal triangle and, as many of us know, he wins most every game he plays. Game, set, and match.

    As you state, resonance is our balance. I can't agree more. Clean articulation is also part of our balance, as are high notes, low notes, and the ability to move between them with accuracy and agility across a wide range of dynamics.

    Music, naturally, is quite another thing and subject to another long-winded answer. ;-)

    Peace,
    EC
     
  5. ecarroll

    ecarroll Artist in Residence Staff Member

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    Patrick,

    Can you repost, please? Your reply came down before I had a chance to digest it.

    Thanks,
    EC
     
  6. Veldkamp

    Veldkamp Piano User

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    Mar 29, 2004
    the Netherlands
    You're right with the balance part. The more balance the better, but you if you play leadtrumpet you need a lot of strength too.

    Maynard compared his playing with a weightlifter, not with a golfer or athlete. He says in a clinic I have on video, he needs a lot of energie to push the notes out. The more energy demand, the more strength you need, not more balance.
     
  7. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Ed, I can repost it, but I'm not currently at the PC where I saved it.

    Basically I said that resonance is great, and is part of our balance, but that resonance isn't the only factor, nor is strength. I know guys who have big, fat, robust, resonant sounds down in the staff, but simply aren't capable of playing high due to other limiting factors, one of which is focus. Focus is tightly intertwined with resonance and strength.

    I also commented that pound for pound, referencing Dereks comment about gymnasts, that gymnasts are some of the strongest athletes out there in a strength vs. weight ratio.

    I'll repost when I get back to the PC where I saved the text of my post.
     
  8. ecarroll

    ecarroll Artist in Residence Staff Member

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    Jul 13, 2005
    NY/CA
    Erik,

    I'm treading lightly here as I'm not a lead player. Also, concepts are tricky when we try to explain them with language instead of demonstration.

    Perhaps what we're discussing is the difference between isometric (muscle working against muscle) strength and velocity. Great lead players (Thorsten Beckenstein comes quickly to mind) seem to find ways to move an enormous amount of concentrated air very quickly, with freedom and flexibility.

    I really enjoyed looking at your website, by the way. Very impressive. Please say hello to Wim Both for me if you see him.

    Best,
    EC
     
  9. brian moon

    brian moon Forte User

    That cracked me up man. Thanks.
     
  10. Veldkamp

    Veldkamp Piano User

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    Ed, nice to hear you know Wim and Torsten. You met Wim in Rotterdam I suppose ?

    I don't think we have a different view about the subject. I just wanted to stress the strength part. I also think strength is part of the perfect balance. This balance changes with different music styles.

    Thanx for looking at my website btw. It's a hobby of mine.
     

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