Tips for teaching...and more

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by iainmcl, Mar 23, 2008.

  1. iainmcl

    iainmcl Pianissimo User

    Nov 4, 2006
    New Zealand
    Ok, I'll preface this post with a little info on myself and my playing. I'm new here and don't want to sound too much like the teaching-beginner that I am.
    I'm 32 and have been playing somewhat professionally for 12 years - shows, jazz gigs, lead & solo in big bands, cruise ships (lead and 2nd chair), plus a couple of years in the New Zealand Navy Band as well.
    So, that all said and done, I'm back home in New Zealand now with a part-time position teaching 2 Trumpet players that are part way through a degree in performance music at a Jazz Conservatory.
    I was lucky enough (when I was studying) to get lessons for year with a friend of mine taking a year off from his Masters at UNT. He was also one of Don Jacoby's last students, so I was in good hands. 5 years ago I was also lucky enough to visit and get a lesson with the much esteemed Mr William Adams. All the time in between, though, has had me mostly self-taught using several different methods.

    So, I guess what I'm getting to is the fact that both my students have very different playing needs, but I only seem to be getting limited results with them both. Neither has really worked with long-tones before, and flexibilities were also a bit of a mystery. I've introduced both these concepts and tried my best to explain the concepts behind them, but it seems to me that they're not quite getting it.
    Am I trying too hard? Am I expecting results too fast?
    My teaching experience is very limited and I'm the first to admit I'm not 100% sure how to go. Tutor numbers are very limited here, and most of their ideas and methods are "not good" IMHO.

    I know this is a very long-winded post, and regardless of comments/input I'm still going to go ahead and do what I'm doing to my utmost, but I figured a few outside pointers might spark something I can work with.

    Many thanks.

    Iain >-iii-:cool:
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    you probably are better qualified than many other teachers because you have played for a living and know that theory does not get you a gig, or give you what it takes to keep it!

    By the time someone has made a decision to major in trumpet performance, a sound routine should have been in place. Anything less means that whoever has previously just been taking the money and has not delivered the prerequisite tools for stable performance. This is sick and serious!

    You are there not as a club robinson animateur, rather as the teacher. You are absolutely correct in trying to get some order into their playing. I believe that you also have the RIGHT to stop all of their additional playing activities until that solid foundation is there. This is not baby sitting, being a performance major is serious stuff - as serious as a doctor learning how to do surgery correctly! Just imagine if the medical profs were worried about hurting some poor students feelings - what results could be expected.

    If these kids have gotten this far WITHOUT a structured approach, it needs to stop TODAY. You have a responsibility and they have a commitment.

    I am sure that you will do the right thing!

    P.S. before the critics get on my case, think about what education costs, think about the chances of success in being a professional musician, and then talk to the thousands that have a degree and didn't make it about why. To succeed you need to want to do whatever it takes more than anything else - otherwise you are just wasting everybodies time and money. We are talking about a performance MAJOR here. That course of study is a commitment to the art form and should NEVER be a choice because one is indecisive about the future. There are other degrees that better cover things like that............
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2008
  3. bigtiny

    bigtiny Mezzo Forte User

    Aug 14, 2005


    What do you mean when you say "...they're not quite getting it....". Do you mean that you don't think they are able to correctly practice these techniques? That they AREN'T practicing these techniques? They're practicing, in lessons they can properly demonstrate the techniques, but they don't seem to be improving?

  4. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Teaching usually consists of saying the same things over and over again in a different way until the student "gets it." One technique (that is fun as heck) is to imitate the student. By doing so, we can pinpoint what they are doing wrong, and what needs to be changed in their playing. Please remeber that a good habit takes about three weeks to get started, and can be lost quickly when tired, hence Robin's suggestion to curtail their outside playing.

    Good luck, and don't worry--you are not overpaid!
  5. iainmcl

    iainmcl Pianissimo User

    Nov 4, 2006
    New Zealand
    Hi. Many thanks for the prompt input.

    The "...not quite getting it..." part is meaning that yes, they can (somewhat) demonstrate these techniques, but no, I don't think they're practicing them as they should be. I'm trying to give them both a variety of approaches to long-tones and lipslurs, and have even got them to keep a practice log.

    I guess I'm just a bit frustrated with their progress (or lack of). The lesson is 1 hour/week/person and the rate is tragically low because I myself haven't finished my degree (Note: This is something I'm currently working on).

    I do imitate their playing in lessons at times to demonstrate what was going wrong/bad and how it can be fixed, but I don't want to look like I'm poking fun at their playing since Trumpet itself is a difficult beast to handle. Confidence is a big key to playing and practicing, so I have to tread carefully.

    They both have their lessons tomorrow afternoon. I'll revamp my mindset a little and let you know how I go.
    Thanks again
  6. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

    Oct 18, 2007
    The Wide Brown Land
    As a teacher, albeit not a music teacher, the three "methods of learning" need to be realised by you, the teacher. We all learn in different ways some by seeing, some by hearing, some by doing - sometimes a combination. Ok, so now put this to the Trumpet tutorial, I have found that many of the problems I have as a player can be well worked through when my trumpet tutor plays along with me. This gives me the timing and pitch whilst watching the score - hear, see, do. Let the student know that this will be the pattern next time, but the student should be unaccompanied then. You only need to pick the phrases that create problems - so maybe only a couple of bars - this then reinforces the notion that practice will be necessary. Playing along with your student allows the student to be instantly aware of the differences between you and him/her.

    This is not a precis of the entire teaching art - just one of the many tools. Don't forget positive reinforcement and honesty - a student will know if you are giving false praise, for example. Treat students as you expect to be treated (goes without saying of course), do YOUR preparation too - tell the student what you expect - precisely. Both of you should have fun, above all. If even one of you is not having fun then learning is much more difficult.
  7. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

    Oct 18, 2007
    The Wide Brown Land

    Just another thought - ask your students to explain to you what they understand of your requirements of them - the process of having to consider how best to explain a notion often leads to a realisation that the knowledge has already been learnt - you get direct, very specific, feedback and are then able to work out what part of your lesson is not getting through - it may be a perception rather than functional/operational/mechanical problem. All teachers have problems getting the message across at times, the good ones find ways to circumvent the barriers to learning (might be caused by you, or by the student) it may mean you use different language (no I don't mean French) - or a demo rather than a discussion - experiment, teaching is much more instinctive than you may think - it is all common sense. You know the answer to the problem - you just don't know you know that answer, yet.
  8. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 24, 2005
    I think what Rowuk said is right on. In the long run, you won't do a student any favors by allowing them to skate through and recieve a degree without doing what's required to succeed outside of school. Fortunately, you've BEEN succeeding for quite awhile, so you're in a great position to get them on the right track. Whether they choose to take that message and run with it is largly up to them.

    That said, we've all had students that aren't where they should be. Even if that's true, in my opinion, the best way get a student on track is to make sure you're starting where they ARE at and moving forward. It's tempting to teach over a student's head when you think they're behind, but that's awfully frustrating for both of you!

    Some students are behind because they ignore instructions and advice and lack the iniative or dedication to catch up. Sadly though, others are behind because they haven't been taught well and are simply ingorant of what's required in terms of practicing, listening, sound concept, fundamentals, etc. The good news is that even though that may be frustrating at first, sometimes those ignorant students, once they get a clue (from you!), can really dig in and be the most fun to teach and have great success!

  9. oldlou

    oldlou Forte User

    Aug 28, 2005
    Grand Rapids, Mi.

    I can't help but to agree with this poster. In addition, if you have your students record their entire lesson with you on a simple, inexpensive pocket size tape recorder, they can be reminded during the following week of what and how you taught them at their last session. In addition to the three methods of teaching denoted by a previous poster, repetition is a major teaching tool.

  10. iainmcl

    iainmcl Pianissimo User

    Nov 4, 2006
    New Zealand
    Thanks again for the input and suggestions.
    They both had their lessons today, and managed to surprise me. Even though both of them hadn't done much practice over the Easter holiday weekend, they both managed to show some definite improvement. Maybe they heard me thinking.

    I did sit them both down and ask them: what they wanted out of the year, their degree, and what they wanted to do with themselves post-graduation. Both answered that they wanted to do more playing, possibly teach, and possibly do studio work (not much call for that here in New Zealand). In a nut-shell I simply told them that if that was true, then they needed to "Get in the shed" and get stuck into some serious practice. I include myself in this statment as well, as I also have found myself growing a little lazy.

    But, I have taken some of the comments offer to me onboard and will endeavour to mold my 2 students into a couple of workable Trumpet players over the next year or so.
    Funnily enough, I'll be a full-time student also next year and one of them already wants to continue lessons with me...even though I would no longer be faculty. [I'm subbing for a friend on leave, you see].
    Maybe I am doing something right afterall.
    Time will tell I s'pose.

    Cheers >-iii-

Share This Page