The value of comfort and famliarity

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by rjzeller, May 9, 2005.

  1. rjzeller

    rjzeller Forte User

    Mar 7, 2005
    Rochester, MN
    Mike's thread about playing with the big dogs kinda got me thinking. It seems that whenever I play in a "new" environment, I struggle, and mightily.

    I can play jazz and sound just fine. I can even sit-in with a group sight-reading lead charts and play like I've been jammin' with them forever. I sit in with the local college band and sight read concerts anytiem they need me in a pinch, and play just about any concert-band music flawlessly.

    Yet it always seems to take me several tries to get church gigs or orchestral gigs down right. Maybe they're "not my style", but I think otherwise. What it seems to me is, I do just fine once I've had time to get into my comfort zone.

    For instance, I recently had to play a church gig in a small group consisting of a violin, cello, French Horn, clrinet, and myself. I sucked. I felt like giving them their money back, in fact. The whole time they asked me to play under the clarinet and the hall was so 'live" that it sounded like I was screaming no matter how much I held back. I think most of this was just mental, becuase I've done simliar gigs just fine in the past. But this one I totally tanked it.

    But this last easter I played an easter gig, and with one exception (grabbing the wrong horn for the wrong part --C / Bb....ugh), I pretty much flat out nailed everything. We did three services up to a concert E and I felt rock solid during all three.

    So what was the difference?

    My comfort level. When I'm nervouse, my technique just falls apart and I struggle like crazy. But when I'm feeling good, when I'm "in my element", so to speak, I do just fine.

    Why? How can I teach a lesson and play with such confidence, but when I go to a lesson for myself I play as though I were in utter fear/ What is it that gives us that confidence? Some folks I know seem to have it all the time. How does one capture that confidence and make it a part of their permanent musicianship for all playing opportunities???

    Thoughts? ML? How do I tap that jazz player within and bring him out for orchestra and small ensemble or solo gigs?
  2. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    This is a rather interesting thread you've started, my friend. Coincdentally, it's something I've been pondering as a result of thinking of, of all things, athletics!

    I started thinking this weekend of the so-called "dumb jock", much maligned, in my opinion, and arrogantly so. If one can accept that everyone has a talent for something then my premise is that some are talented for music and some others for sports. Simple enough, right? Let's go further.

    There are athletes and musician who seemingly have a single-minded purpose in life and that is to do what "coach/teach tells them to do" and, like good soldiers. they do it.

    They "just do it".

    If you sit and have a conversation with these folks about aspects of the "game" (music or otherwise) they'll quote you chapter and verse about the best way to prepare and execute. They'll have an instinct for what they do that is seemingly flawless. Go to another subject and they seem to be dumb as rocks about the things that happen to interest YOU.Thus forms our opinions about the "intelligence" of the jock/musician. I was very much dumb as rocks about everything in the world except for music when I was in school. As I listened to the conversations of those around me, I was terribly intimidated by how the reasoned lofty subjects the held forth about were.

    It was also a time in my life where I rarely got nervous about anything having to do with music. I was eager to just play, no matter the style.

    I went through a period of civilization and great knowledge-gathering about the more intellectual side of music, the more academic side, if you will. My teaching load increased and I found myself having to explain what I knew rather than "just doing it".

    Well, thank goodness for people like Arnold Jacobs who taught me to wear different hats and reduce my teaching load for a while. Now, I teach as much as I used to but don't deal with the nerve issue because when I'm on stage I'm a singer and story teller. It's what I've always done best since I was a boy. In the lesson studio I can't be that. Instead, I'm the listener/analyst/motivator that you can't be on stage.

    Performer-story teller

    Those are the two hats I wear. The "dumb" jock tells his story everytime he goes to the plate and he only needs to be right about his story a third of the time for twenty years to get in the Hall of Fame! Yeah, I'd like to have a .333 batting average and still keep my job but it's not that way for us.

    We become very educated and very sensitive to everything about us. Rich, your acute awareness of being louder than the clarinetist was your downfall in that one gig. The "dumb jock" wouldn't have cared that much, just played beautifully and probably not suffered the nerves. The comment afterwards would have been "Well, it was a little loud but geez, it sure was pretty." The sun would have risen the next day.

    It's the price of knowledge for us the performers, this enhanced listening skill we develop. The wearing of a couple of hats is an important lesson. I think there's a reason Bud did not teach much. I think there's a reason Bud didn't record a wealth of solo CD's. He was the embodiment of focus and storytelling when he was active as everyone's All-American principal trumpet. And I'm sure he's the same but now he has a different job he's earned: legendary figure.

    So, my premise is simply this, Rich; we could all afford to be a little "dumber" out there, on stage. There are parameters but I bet they're bigger than we care to admit. When you feel the performance judges talking to you before an entrance, SHOUT THEM DOWN WITH SONG!!! Just like that. Performing is the time for the application of knowledge, not the time for further study. If you aren't as familiar with a style of music then you are forced to "just do" your best.

    That's something we can all do.

  3. rjzeller

    rjzeller Forte User

    Mar 7, 2005
    Rochester, MN
    You know, you bring up an excellent point. I'll have to work hard to instill that into my psyche as a player.

    I remember having a conversation with several members of a pit orchestra I played in recently. Me and one other guy split the trumpet duties -- he'd play 1/2 the shows, I'd play 1/2. Well, he's a real screamer, and makes no apologies for it.

    The pit and I got to discussing having me down there vs. him. Their consensus was that they loved his sound, but liked it better when I was down there becuase he was just too darn loud sometimes, and some of the octaves were real head-splitters.

    I should feel good about that, right?

    No. Ask the audience and you got a whole different story. The folks I know who went to the shows he played absolutely LOVED it. They were blown away by his performance on the trumpet. While I was worried about blending in and making sure my timing was perfect (something that can drive you to insanity when working with a predominately amatuer cast of vocalists), he was simply concerned with making sure he sounded great.

    And he did.

    And I know it's valid, becuase when I play lead in jazz I do the same thing. During a dance gig where I have to push to double-F or some other crazy note, the directors are always telling us "Play soft, keep it down" I and the second player invariably look at each other and say "Yeah, right. We'll play it our way and you can tell us to play quieter next time."

    And the funny thing is, they almost never complain. I'm guessing they're so caught up with their own music they don't even notice. I just blow and everything comes out roses.

    ...though it's still hard to get the image of the director, literally two feet in front of me, cringing like a frightened child everytime I had to play that high-D for that church gig last weekend (and NO it wasn't flat). It almost makes me want to stuff a mute into the bell of my horn....

    Anyway, I appreciate the feedback. It all goes back to what you told me a month or two ago -- there's two different players in me. I need to stop trying to be the one and just let the other come out all the time. Be the performer, not the listener.

    Or as Warren likes to say, Just Blow!

    After all...the two dynamics a trumpet player uses are on and off, right??

    But that is truly excellent advice, ML -- Perform when it's time and don't try to out "think" the part. Play what you know and leave it at that.
  4. wiseone2

    wiseone2 Artitst in Residence Staff Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    I let the trumpet in my head dictate to the trumpet in my hand.

    I sing mentally everything I play. I don't change anything physically.

    I phrase according to the place I am, try it. Try singing Basie, then immediately go to Mahler. It's easier than you think.
    Playing Bernstein is a perfect example of switching gears instantly.


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