What's Good Enough?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by john7401, Jul 18, 2010.

  1. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    In addition to what I wrote above, I would DEFINITELY listen long and hard to what my parents have to say.

    Solar Bell is right on.

    I remember being the best in high school also. That meant I was a big fish in an extremely small pond...
  2. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Lots of interesting and great advice in this thread so far. I'd like to relate my own experiences because in a technical sense, I kind of made my living as a musician for my first 10 years out of high school.

    First things first though, your parents are concerned, and like my parents, they are worried about the idea of trying to bank a solid living on skill such as being a musician. Parents have the thankless task of trying to impart wisdom to their dreamer children and inject a heavy dose of reality into the mix.

    As I see it, there are only a couple of ways you can make a living in music that have any kind of stability and has a decent job market that pays well:

    1.) Become a music educator
    2.) Become a military bandsman

    I chose the latter and became a military musician. So, to bring this back to the question of "what's good enough," in order to be an Army bandsman in a basic Army band (not one of the Premier groups like Pershing's Own or the US Army Field Band) I had to have solid basic chops and range (solid up to high C) I had to be able to play in a section and I had to be able to play a lot of different styles. I've got some weaknesses in my playing - I've never had awesome range, I've never had fantastic technique, and my ability to improvise jazz has never been great. However, I was good enough that I somehow managed to find myself in the best ensembles in the band (the Big Band and the brass quintet) and I never felt like I was struggling to keep up.

    And then you could teach, in which case it's not really about playing. I've come across some band directors who were not great players at all, but were good at teaching their students and putting together solid ensembles for the grade levels they were teaching.

    If you want to make it as a working musician, I would tend to think that you would need to be right on the edge of awesome, and there can't be many things that you can't do. You should have better than average range, you should have really solid technique, you'll have to be able to play virtually any style, and you'll have to be able to sight read almost anything.

    All of that, and it never hurts to know people. In the last 15 years or so, virtually any gig I have played has been gotten due to who I knew added with a reputation that I could get the job done.

    Keep in mind, I'm not a great player - I'm solid all around and can adapt quickly and easily, but there are better cats all over this area.

    Someone talked about needing to reliable and responsible - I think that's part of why I have worked so much. I show up on time and as prepared as I can be given the circumstances - if I get the music in advance, I know it - period - and I show up with the right tools to get the job done - that means stands, mutes, stand lights, etc.
  3. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    John sez:
    What level of musicianship and playing does it take to survive in the real world? I'd love to go for a career playing the trumpet but I don't know what it is like out there. I keep getting it from the parents that it is so hard to make a living off of it.
    There are levels.
    Studio musician:
    You have to be able to sight read like a fish goes through water if you're looking at studio work.
    As a soloist:
    You have to develop a unique ability to sing through your horn and either have an acute knowledge in marketing yourself or hire a marketing firm to market your brand.
    With that said:
    Practice, Practice, Practice, and network like crazy and mind your manners. Don't underestimate networking and being honestly nice!
    If someone comes up to you and says"Wow that kinda sucked" Smile and tell them you're a work in progress and the next time you promise to have it better.
    Never get nasty with someone who's listening. There's nothing to gain and possibly quite a bit to lose.
    Always take the time to meet your audience.
    Look people in the eye who come up to you to thank you for playing and say:
    "Thank you so much for coming out to hear me play. Its not often in today's electronic world that I get the opportunity to blow through this silly horn"
    Every time you play your horn in front of people, you are marketing yourself. Always look like you're having a great time (even if you're not).
    Possibly the only job that's harder than playing as a soloist is a stand up comedian.
    One last thing:
    I read Solar Bell's advice on "Listen to your parents"
    That's great advice.
    Now, if after listening to your parents you find yourself staying awake at night thinking about how you're going to achieve your goal,
    if you find that regardless of what anybody says, you continue to persue your goal,
    if the world can wait because your goal is consuming you so much it becomes an obsession,
    if you love your music more than anything(and I mean anything)
    I'd say you might have what it takes.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2010
  4. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    Let me offer a case in point scenario...just as a FWIW and FYI situation...

    Many years ago, I took private lessons from a trumpet teacher who was considered to be the #1 teacher/player in this area that I live. Mind you, I live in a medium size metropolitan area in Northeast Ohio...not an area known as a music or entertainment area, but at that time, as an industrial/manufacturing town.

    This person began his career as a music teacher in a local public school, gave trumpet lessons based on the strength of his ability as a good player and good teacher (he was considered the teacher of choice if you were a serious student), and somewhere along the way, landed the first chair position in the local symphony (mind you, this was not one of the major, full time, big name orchestras - rather, a part time position in a part time organization). Later on, this individual left the public school and became a professor of brass at the state university located in this city. After a period of time, he advanced to become the head of the music department there. He taught privately and played in the local symphony, and would be called to play first trumpet in the musicians' union orchestra that might play an an occasional pit band or show job - something that I haven't seen done around this area for years. I remember he came out one evening and played a solo at a public program at a local school to demonstrate what a really good trumpet player was like.

    I consider his career to be very successful as a musician. I do not know if you agree or not. However, this kind of thing might be attainable if you are very good at what you do (the biggest fish in the medium size pond) - which my person in my story was. He was the best in the area; both as a matter of fact and of reputation. However, I think that competitive pressure is much higher today than when this individual achieved these activities many years ago, so what he did would no doubt be harder to duplicate today, given the same circumstances.

    I'm not sure whether he was good enough to move beyond what he did - and in all fairness, he may not have had any higher goals - I do not know. But, I have a feeling that had he aspired to more, he may not have been "good enough." Because, even as good as he was...there are those who were, and are today, I am quite sure, much better...
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2010
  5. RichJ

    RichJ Piano User

    Jan 16, 2008
    Northern Virginia
    I would carefully consider whether music is enough to make you happy, because there is a large financial sacrifice even if you are moderately successful. Keep in mind also that 20 years from now when you may have a family that a steady and sizable paycheck lets you live in a nice home, take vacations, live in an area with good schools, pay for your kids' music lessons, travel sports, etc. Your parents may have more ability to look all the way down the road than you do. Talk to them and get past the battle of the wills.
  6. Darten

    Darten Mezzo Piano User

    Dec 21, 2009
    New York City
    There is nothing stopping you from working towards a career in music, and having the training and education in another field. The best bet to saitsfy your parents fars for you and your own desires. Double major over five years in college. Better on extra year with summer school up the ying yang, clepping (CLEP) out of classes that you can and busting your butt in the music rooms. If you reallllllllllllllly want it, listen to your parents and your heart. Find that compromise, or work twice as hard as everyone else. By the time you graduate, you will know if you can make it skillwise, and if not, then your "other" is in place. There are always community symphonies as well. Just my 2 cents.

    The reason I sound so strong about this is that... well... I was offered a scholarship some 20 years ago to Berklee and my father scared the living @#$%#$ out of me, so I turned them down. It is something I regret every day.
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    There are enough crappy players making a living with the trumpet too. The best players don't always have what it takes because they STARVE for the art. It takes personality, common sense, business sense, marketing sense and finally a bit of talent.

    There is no formula for success. It is getting tougher to find playing jobs that pay enough to call them "full time". A better business model for many is to get a real job and play "part time".

    My experience shows that those that ask the question generally don't have a chance. Those that make it accepted no other options.
  8. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    The above post is quite true, because if you are not the very best, then you need to be in the right place at the right time and be a good "salesman." You will need to have something original and unique that is commercial and marketable that the general pubic is willing to buy.

    I do not believe the Beatles were the best singers and guitar players, but they were in the right place at the right time with something unique and original and commercially successful.
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Something else to consider is that playing horn for a living might not always be as great as you think it will be.

    In my first summer as an Army Bandsman, I felt like I was living a dream life! I was playing my trumpet every day and that was the most important thing I did throughout the course of the day. No classes. No parents. No Homework. All I had to do was keep my uniforms looking good, keep my music prepared, and show up on time. And I LOVED getting on the bus to go do a gig. Half time time we'd get back from a job somewhere in MD, VA, PA or DE, and I'd have no idea about where it was that I had been that day unless we played at some historically significant place and it was mentioned as part of the job we had played. At that point I didn't care - I was learning a bunch of new music, learning for the first time what it really meant to be a section player, and my playing was continuing to improve every day.

    Eventually it became a job, just like anything else. I got tired of playing certain marches, and I got to where I seriously disliked standing ceremonies and marching street parades. There were still bright spots though - I always liked playing concerts and shows, but it was like any other job - I got up, went to work, and my job was to play my part and march my slot.

    These days I'm very thankful for the life I lead that allows me to provide well for my family and still play music on the side. I get my fill of playing both trumpet and drums, even though I'm not making a living doing either one and I'm not doing it full time. That's ok though, and it keeps it fairly low pressure.

    Just keep in mind that just because you don't choose to make a living playing music, it doesn't mean that you can't still play music. Most of the cats I know gigging around this area don't do music full time. If there is a will, there is a way and there are always going to be playing opportunities you can find or make, even if it's not what you do for a living.
  10. john7401

    john7401 Pianissimo User

    Jul 3, 2009
    Which is why I almost didn't post this. I figured it might be proof that I don't have enough confidence to make it.

    There is nothing I've ever enjoyed more than music. (Other than video games but that was because of an addiction I rid myself of.) I wouldn't want to do anything else for a career. However, when I say that I see many people on shows like Americain Idol that will say the exact same thing. Some are really bad singers that you can see don't have a shot at it and disregared anyones opinion because of their narrow mindedness at achieving their dream. I don't want to be an ignorant teen pushing for something that I shouldn't be going after. However, I don't want to waste the oppritunity if I have it.

    Some time next year in my senior year I will go to the college and see if I can get an opinion. For now I'll keep up practicing as much as I can and doing some more career searching. I get almost all A's so I could have a decent shot at making good money whichever way I go (outside of music), but music has been the only thing that I really enjoyed.

    I do like the post regarding the statement of "good enough". That should never be the mindset for achieving something and I regret having used it.

    Thank you for all of your opinions.

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