Swollen Lips...Endurance...Advice

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by F.E.Olds, Aug 28, 2010.

  1. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    I often wonder what makes directors of marching bands tick. This has to be the 5 thousandth post here with this type of content: high school kid gets dumped into a position and there is obviously NO local support.

    Scatman has done an admirable job of shedding light on a working path, we still don't get many posts from players that have been able to turn their playing around - rather tons on beaten up swollen chops.
     
  2. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

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    I wish I knew myself. I was fortunate enough to be in a really high quality program where we learned how to make music first, to march correctly second, and only then to put the two together. We spent at least 30 minutes a day on marching fundamentals and also had stretching, warm-up, and cool-down exercises as part of every rehearsal. It was a total-body approach to marching performance. Ultimately, marching band is more like a sporting event than a concert, and the physical demands to do it well require a training regimen similar to a cardiovascular-intensive sport like soccer or tennis, especially for brass instruments.

    I suspect the problems come down to two things: a lack of preparation on the part of university programs teaching future band directors and a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of the students, parents, and directors about the importance of physical fitness to march and play well.

    Too few university programs (none that I knew about 10 years ago) had a formal class on how to teach marching fundamentals, and many band directors are put in a position where they have to teach marching band with virtually no experience of their own to draw upon. In my university's program you only had to play in the marching band (and not a good one for fundamentals) for two years if you were a music ed major, and a good number of majors only did that minimum. If they came from a small town (and many did) that was often the only experience they had of any kind of marching band. Then they took jobs where they suddenly had a 50 or 60 person marching band, and the only thing they knew to do was put the best musicians in the top spots without realizing that in marching band, that may not be the best approach. A poor player on third part may not even notice the impact of marching, but a strong player playing a demanding part like a lead soloist MUST develop marching chops or they risk either injury or developing bad habits.

    Also, too many people seem to think marching band is something "anyone can do" regardless of fitness level and therefore assume that no physical work is necessary to keep the students safe and successful. Just because its not as physically demanding as football doesn't mean that students don't require a certain level of flexibility, core strength, and cardiovascular fitness to be able to march without risking injuries to backs, knees, ankles, and faces. I've seen too many directors cut the stretching, marching, or running short whenever the "music" needed more work without realizing they were shooting themselves in the foot by ensuring that even the music mastered while sitting still would be worse off if the students were not in the best shape.

    Those two things only get worse when the students come into the picture thinking they need to "scream" all the time and not understanding the basics of how their sound projects in a marching environment. I suspect no one has ever told them about the difference in what you hear of your own sound inside versus outside, and that you can be playing loudly and in tune outside and it will still "sound" to your ear like you are barely blowing. I wish more directors would spend more time letting students stand in front of the band and learn how it sounds out front.

    Oh well, the best I can do at this stage in my life is try to at least get people thinking about the physical side of marching band and to help them see that they have work to do in multiple areas if they want to progress.

    Scatmanblues
     
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    We are very geatful to have you posting here!

    I learned how to march at the military school for Music in Norfolk, Virginia. We had an excellent instructor in the mid 70's.
     
  4. stevesf

    stevesf Piano User

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    I have many fond memories from my H.S. marching band and drum corps days but I payed for it later in college and early playing career as I picked up some nasty bad playing habits whilst trying to meet the demands of over zealous directors wanting more sound. Add to that the constant pounding of your chops be it from marching or daily extremely intense playing it is no wonder we get so many kids here posting about chop problems. Sure marching band has many good qualities too as in building espirit de corps and discipline plus good physical exercise but I have seen too many potentialy fine brass players ruined or frusterated with the experience. I've also seen many strong players emerge from the experience too and go on to become very fine professional players.
    So you might say I have a love/hate relationship with the whole marching band/drum corps thing.
     
  5. F.E.Olds

    F.E.Olds Pianissimo User

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    I do appologize for being yet another person in my situation to post. It has now been 4 days since marching band camp and my lips are just starting to return to what they were. This does make me nervous but atleast they are starting to come back.
     
  6. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

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    No need to apologize at all. You're doing it right by seeking out ideas and guidance. I'm glad to hear your chops are coming back. After a really tough workout, it can take a bit.

    I recommend you back off in rehearsal even more and just really focus on a pretty, in tune sound. That can never hurt, and if you get grief, I suggest just explaining that you want to "lock in" your part in your ear and fingers so that when you play louder it will sound that much better. A director should get that, and if your peers don't, then you don't need to worry about their criticism.

    Just a question/idea for you. How many trumpet players are on the lead book in your band? I'm guessing all of you are feeling a bit gassed at this point. If your director insists on "hearing" the lead part every time, you might get together and trade off playing either louder or up the octave. If one of you is loud/up the octave and the rest of you focus on providing a solid mf lower octave that is in tune, it will still sound good, each of you gets some rest, and the part is covered. You can do that anytime to conserve chops. If your director want multiple run-throughs, you are inside on a rainy day into hour three of a marathon session, or you get to play your show before, at the half, and after every football game you can really save yourself some wear and tear by laying out occasionally. There's no shame at all in being smart. Even pros trade parts regularly in ensemble settings.

    Scatmanblues
     
  7. F.E.Olds

    F.E.Olds Pianissimo User

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    My director is silly...and there is just me and another player on lead. The trumpets in the band are pretty much un-dedicated players that seem to take the class just for the heck of it. I'll talk to him. He won't be happy as he as already talked to me about needing to player harder/louder.
     
  8. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

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    Well, it does sound like the two of you need to have a talk. Go in willing to listen and to negotiate. He may not realize he's pushed you so far towards exhaustion, and just needs to know why you're suddenly backing off. He may also have perfectly good reasons for asking for more or louder that you are misinterpreting to mean that you have to blow yourself out every time.

    Approach him in private, and talk about what you want to accomplish and why you are worried. Don't spend time talking about what you "can't" do, but instead what you feel you need to do to be successful. And be willing to accept any feedback you get. Most teachers I know (and I've been in the schools for almost 10 years in various capacities) welcome a concerned student coming to them for help.

    The key is in tone and attitude. Stay positive, make clear you want what's best for the band, and state your concerns in a clear, non-accusatory way (e.g., say "I'm worried that my playing is really starting to slip because I'm so tired" rather than "Why did you have to make me play so loud? Now I can't play worth crap anymore and its your fault!"). Look for solutions you can both live with ("I'll play everything loud and up the octave on the last run-through of each rehearsal and every public performance, but I'd like to play softer or down the octave during early run-throughs and marching practices. I'll be working on tuning and musicality during those times.") and be willing to compromise as long as he's not demanding something you know will hurt you in the long run.

    Just a quick note about your last comment. You should never play "harder" as that's just asking for trouble. Louder is more in the air support and focus than anything else, and tensing up and "pushing" the air harder and harder only makes things worse. Even if you are trying to wail, you should stay relaxed while you do it.

    Scatmanblues
     

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