The trumpet player's psychological profile.

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Wildfox, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. Wildfox

    Wildfox New Friend

    Jul 18, 2008
    Somewhere I remember a university study which proved that a sizable percentage of people were more afraid of public speaking than death. Maybe someone else can help me out with the specifics/link.

    Anyway, as I recall a large group, maybe even a majority were significantly more afraid of speaking before an audience than they were of their own death. And if this is true it would follow that had this group known how to play the trumpet I conclude they would be substantially more worried about playing a solo in front of a musical ensemble than public speaking. Seems to stand to reason from my own experience.

    So I figure that the average trumpet player who performs at a decent level and used to playing solo in public often is either wired differently than the average bear or... Or he has sustained some kind of psychological adjustment along the way.

    We know that people in life or death experiences are getting more Adrenalin sent to the brain. And if a public speaker or trumpet player is continually exposed to the same or worse psychological trauma then it would appear that his mind and body has shifted to accomodate this stress. It might be that the trumpet player's mind and body has changed to secrete more Adrenalin or other hormones than that found in the body of someone in the general public. A possible reason for anxiety atttacks, neurosis and other maladies that humans seem to face more often these days: The body's reaction to stress is to develop the ability to send more Adrenalin or other chemicals to the bloodstream.

    In some cases the stress gets channeled to help the performer play stronger and better. I've seen this in my own playing. When in my younger days I might have been feeling knock kneed in perfomance. Now my mind has now long since grown to receive the physical jolt the Adrenalin gives. It's usually a welcome condition. the extra boost to get in to the music and deliver the sound in an aggresive manner. Always important to be noticed in modern commericial jazz or rock.

    So in a way I am much more likely to perform better in concert than in rehearsal. Certainly better than just mere practice.

    Then on the other hand the stress the mind takes from playing the trumpet publicly could result in certain unpleasant reactions. Heavy drinking, prescription and recreational to excessive drug and pill usage etc. Or maybe after years and years of stress related playing the trumpet player finds he must use blood pressure lowering meds or anti depressants in order to perfrom.

    Speculation on my part but probably true. I think we'd all agree to some extent that good trumpet players are different than the general masses.

    It also follows in my mind that the trumpet player doesn't leave his personality behind after leaving the bandstand. After enduring these metaphorical "life & death" scenarios on a regular basis for years and years he most likely has a far different perspective on ordinary living concerns than your average Joe.

    Ordinary people do not thrive on risky situations. They avoid making embarassing scenes and try to keep a firm grip on things. Trumpet players, on the other hand, have lived their whole teen and adult lives sitting next to a fifteen story verticle drop with no handrail and a significant breeze blowing out.

    So under these stressful conditions a specific psychological profile is developed.

    My hypothesis? Trumpet players are among the social rule breakers of our world.

    I mean why not? They've lived in the same combat level experience (in their own minds) for decades while the person from general public's worst concern might be to run a little late on the home electric bill.

    So I can always pick a trumpet player out of a crowd. Even when his horn is in the trunk of the car. Sets my antennae off. He has a certain edge in his personality. I can't describe it exactly but just know it's there.

    A trumpet player can get away with social struggles like arguments, disputes, problems with authority and what not better than the average man or woman. The person from the general public has always avoided messy scenes, and conflicts. But for the trumpet players?

    Well that's his daily routine.

    I had a friend from high school who was a decent lead trumpet player. Especially for his age. And yet he was egotistical, wild and loved to stir up controversy and get attention. One time after a football game he used some very inappropriate language directly to the band leader of the other school in full witness of his own director and all the rest of us kids... Incredible! Unheard of words from back in those days. I've always wondered if he was taking analbolic steroids but that's another story.

    So I say that the good lead trumpet player is like a high wire aerial gymnast. He not only walks the edge of the skyscraper fifteen floors up, but he jumps up and down on the flagpole and rolls himself in the cloth of Old Glory.

    And this is so even when the horn is in his case. He can be a problem for others who don't relate to his life experience. The trumpet player scares the hell out of them.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2008
  2. cobragamer

    cobragamer Pianissimo User

    Jan 26, 2008
    yeah I have seen this throughout my life also. In fact sometimes you can profile others who play a different instrument just by how they act or with me even how they look like.
  3. Firestas'1

    Firestas'1 Piano User

    Dec 21, 2006
    New Jersey
    Very interesting concept.
    There must be some difference between the trumpet playing and the public speaking though, at least in my experience.
    A good example comes to mind from when I was in 8th grade (a long time ago), you couldn't get me to give a speech in front of a group for any amount of money or threat of physical harm yet I stood alone on a stage in front of over 150 people and performed the Haydn concerto.
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I take University studies with a grain of salt. You can program your answers by asking the questions correctly.

    If somebody holds a loaded gun to your head, you start orating. In real life, the bullet is stronger regardless of what some educator phantasizes!

    Trumpet players have mixed backgrounds and life goals. That does play a part in how well a solo for instance will go.

    There are techniques for building confidence and controlling nervousness. I am not sure that all humans are born equal in their capability to learn and practice this stuff in real life. That is why there are only a handful of "world Class" players.
  5. note360

    note360 Piano User

    Oct 16, 2006
    In a room in a house
    I know plenty of killer players who are rather quiet and shy, but we do have a tendency towards recklessness still. A lot of it has to do with being at the forefront in sound of the orchestra. We are hands down one of the loudest instruments and any mistake gets heard.

    PS. The cure for all of these woes of not wanting to perform are actually in the arbans . THE ARBAN'S KNOWS ALL (teasing of course, but alas it is true the better and more confident you are at the fundamentals the better off your going to be)
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2008
  6. Wildfox

    Wildfox New Friend

    Jul 18, 2008
    True. Practice of fundamentals makes playing in public easier. Reduces some stresses. And yet the one thing I often fear more than tired chops or even lack of practice is losing my nerve.

    I can be in great shape chopwise but if for some reason I start laying back and playing defensively the concert or rehearsal can go to hell.

    Then again caring aggressive playing too far is another demon. Could waste all my strength too early and pay a heavy penalty later.

    Where aggressive playing helps is a song like "Still a Young Man" by Tower Of Power. I can play this song well at just about any time of the night but it seems to draw from my reserve energy more than any other song in the book. No matter what time of the night it gets called. It isn't just the high register but how exposed it is. Only the two trumpets play the intro and finish together.

    So when doing this song it always creates a "Do Or Die" mentality.

    "It's up to you Fox. Ain't nobody gonna do it for ya. Reach into your gut and give it all ya got. Now or never".

    That's what my inner voice says. Hear it in critical out choruses too. The times when my upper lip feels like a flat tire. Scary but a real reward when you finish. Walking the high wire for sure.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2008
  7. oldlou

    oldlou Forte User

    Aug 28, 2005
    Grand Rapids, Mi.
    Not to start an argument, but, I have and have had students who played in ensemble very well and with no hesitation. These same students were absolutely adamant that they would NOT take any solos. I have a difficult time understanding this, but, the same is commonly found in chorale singers that refuse to solo. This can probably be explained by the idea that these people feel secure in numbers, but, are afraid that they will not perform perfectly in a solo setting.

  8. Forte User

    Jan 27, 2008
    Brisbane, Australia
    I certainly don't think that the love of the spotlight has anything to do with playing the trumpet specifically. I think that anyone who performs at all (public speaking, teaching, performance art, etc) is a different type of person than those who never perform. To be up on a stage you have to first believe that you belong there. That takes some gumption and some self-knowledge. I also think that performing can GIVE a person confidence and self-assurance that they never knew they had. So I think it works both ways. I also don't think that anything exists in a vacuum. If you develop confidence in your playing, you will develop confidence in other areas of your life. If you cultivate peace in your life, your trumpet playing probably won't be chaotic.
  9. mb25

    mb25 New Friend

    Jun 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    could a life or death situation alter someone's ability to perform with confidence? I used to love to perform back in high school, taking every solo I could, playing in front of any crowd. I ended up getting into a bad car accident and ever since then I want to bolt before every performance. My professor has to literally sit down next to me to make sure I don't run off.
  10. iainmcl

    iainmcl Pianissimo User

    Nov 4, 2006
    New Zealand
    Hi. I find this thread really interesting. I think it it does ring true in regards to all musicians, but in particular, Trumpet players.
    You just have to look at a list of jazz players through the years and check out a little of their background personalities to see that there is often just a small "something" slightly out of whack with the rest of the world.

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