"A tool good enough to be so used and not too good"C.S. Lewis That Hideous Strength
This is, in my opinion, a crucial insight. I suspect the trumpet is not so much a difficult instrument to play than it is a difficult instrument to practice. It's so tempting, after failing (even slightly so) a phrase, lick, note , to try to go right back and try it again; the belief that we will get it right is almost as automatic as a spinal reflex.When we start chipping notes it is all too easy to say to ourselves "I'll get it right the next time." It is much more difficult to ask ourselves "Why didn't I get it right this time?"
Yet, we should always stop and think before trying again. Why did it not work? It could be that we don't have it in our ear, or under our fingers, or that the intervals involved require an unusual change of shape/air column, or the harmony is weird, the succession of notes unfamiliar. But in many cases, the answer will be that the whole embouchure apparatus is a little strained, and thus not optimally responding. If that is the case, further efforts will be counterproductive, no matter what else is at play. But we just know that we can play that lick/note (and, ironically, chances are that we are right), so we try again, before the conditions to succeed are gathered, and we fail again. Multiple attempts like this can lead to all the damage described by Gary, and the formation of very bad habits. It is quite possible to learn, simply by repetition, to do it wrong. Then we may be tempted to resort to gimmicks, mouthpieces, exotic methods, whatever.
Just like an airliner cruising at high altitude has actually a narrow range of safe airspeed, productive practice has a narrow window. It is quite possible to thread the line in the middle for years and make very little progress. On the wrong side of that line, worsening will happen. The traditional methods all emphasize the importance of proper rest periods between the sound production time. They probably did so in the hope that proper attention to strain warning signs would be skill mastered early on and would remain a fundamental aspect of all practice afterward. That's another interesting aspect of this instrument: a good practice session representing a full 1 hour of sound production will take at least 2.5 hours, it should take that much, except perhaps for these exceptionally gifted types...
Selmer Radial, Bb.
Yamaha YTR4420E, C.
1930 Couesnon cornet
A mind that masters the breath
Creates strength (Lao-Tzu).
On days like this, and I'm obviously not the only one this happens too.... I have a handful of excersizes that I almost always can play. Simple songs, or Koprasch study. I try to muscle memory take over and just PLAY. A vast majority of the time, this lets me get a good practice in, if it doesn't "fix" how I'm feeling - I put the horn away.
I pick up bad habits easily, and for me, keeping things working "correctly" is far better than forcing myself through it.
I hope that makes sense.
1973? Bach 37
2013 Bach New York 7
2012 Bach Chicago C
1987-ish Yamaha YTR-6810S Piccolo
19XX Bach International FHR100 Flugelhorn
19XX Getzen E-flat / D
19XX Rotary valve "JE" Bb/A Trumpet
When I use to practice and play over 5 hours a day these days were rare. Maybe in those days I only needed to run my chops at 80% to accomplish what I had on my playing agenda ... so that gave me 20% of skill level to give up on a "bad day" and still not see much of an affect. Nowdays I needed everything I have available as my practice routine can vary between 30 minutes to a little over a couple of hours. IF I dip 20% now... it's a very frustrating day.
So perhaps the answer isn't so much what to do on a "bad day" but more about horn time before the low biorythm day occurs.
Just my thought..
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