After I finished practicing last night, I started wondering about the role self-awareness and concentration in improving as a musician, both in technique and musicality. I have been making a shift in my practicing lately and have been slowly moving out of a maintenance routine, and am now striving toward actually improving as a player for the first time in about 10 years. Due to the fact that some of my fundamentals and technique have slowly deteriorated over time, I have been doing very basic exercises: Long tones (with a focus on sound and clean attacks) Basic single, double and triple tonguing articulation exercises Basic articulation/finger coordination exercises (major scales in all keys and Clarke #2 from memory) Basic flexibility exercises (partial lip slurs in the staff and arpegios) At the moment, I am not using anything printed on a page for material to practice. All of my exercises are things that have either been memorized for years, or are things that I make up on the spot, and perfecting things through focused repitition is key. On the surface, none of this sounds very difficult, but my goal is to get the most basic of basics back to where I feel they should be before I allow myself to be distracted by trying to read exercises from a method book off of the page. This brings me back to the subject of the thread. Because I am not using any printed materials, I discovered last night that I am doing most of my practice with my eyes closed and I find myself in a "zone" so to speak. Over the last couple of weeks, it has gotten easier and easier to get into the zone and while I am there, my focus (concentration) and self-awareness of what is happening with my fingers, sound, tongue, chops is becoming more refined. This is not a new sensation to me, but something that I have rediscovered. Also, when I'm refering to the different parts of playing, they meld together to become one thing - the sum of the parts working in synchronicity to produce the whole. When looking at any trumpet player who has "made it" in terms of success as a musician, often times their success is partially credited to the instructors that they had, but when you get right down to it, who really did the work? The instructor could only give direction, but the self-awareness required to transcend simply playing notes and rhythms to make beautiful music has to come from within the player themselves. Some instructors might be better than others at directing the student and dictating the practice materials, but fundamentally, the improvement is made by the student alone, right? What role did the student's self-awareness take in helping the student to improve because in all seriousness, exercises only really help when done correctly with good focus and concentration, and a real awareness of what is actually coming from the bell of the trumpet. You could practice things for years and until you really became aware of how the pieces fit together to make the whole, eventually the time spent in practice comes to a point of diminishing returns, or at least that is a theory that I'm bumping around in my head. I just thought that this would be an interesting subject to chew on and discuss.