Seriously. Do you feel like you're improving at a steady clip? Or are you in a rut with your current teacher or chop system?
There was this graffiti I read in a little used practice room back in New England circa 1974. It read:
"All Roy Stevens has is a a lot of trumpet player's money".
I kind of resented the statement at the time though in the passing years I tended to understand and at least partially agree with the complaint.The Stevens system really wasn't suitable for the majority of trumpet players. That said it is still a good read. Somewhere there is an online source of Roy's book "Embouchure Self Analysis and Triple C technique". I've got it myself both in pdf and actual photo copy. Somewhere anyway.
There were other near scam-like systems on the market back then. Stevens, Spaulding ("Double High C in 37 Weeks") and others. Each promising high notes but rarely delivering on the goods. Some like Stevens were very expensive books back in the day. I think that Stevens book sold for some $100 bucks back in the mid 1970's. Maybe more. That was a lot of money then.
I witnessed at least five trumpet music majors study with Carmine Caruso for about three years each. Only one of them developed a decent practice room High F. The others I considered miserable failures in their attempts to learn the upper register.
Later one of them switched over to Claude Gordon and studied with him personally for TEN YEARS and still couldn't play a usable High G! Sad really. He, an old friend of mine, I was able to fix in a few short sessions. A quick fix as i pointed out that the Gordon approach, with it's pedal tones, tongue arch, large mouthpieces wasn't well suited for him.
Despite all these freaking MISERABLE failed teaching attempts all the men I mentioned STILL loved their instructors. Each of the Caruso students greatly admired Carmine. All despite them never attaining even a solid High C. And as for my buddy whom i fixed? He rarely credits me for anything. Instead he runs on and on about how great a guy Claude was. Sheesh...
Another example. An analogy rather. A friend of mine suffered with depression for some ten years. During this time he attended weekly visits to a psychiatrist for therapy. After a couple years he quit. I asked him if the shrink helped. His reply was interesting.
"At first I seemed to be making progress. But as time passed I felt the doc was keeping me locked in the problem. At our sessions I'd vent for an hour or so, feel better but in a day or two, sometimes less my depression and anxiety crept back again. So I quit seeing the MD because it seemed the only thing I was doing was helping him make his car payment"
The reason for that story is to explain the powerful effect that the teacher with a strong personality has on his student. Or like in medicine the doctor has on the patient as the case may be. When my depressed friend truly BELIEVED in his shrink? He made progress. Or at least he thought he did.
Similarly when my friends who studied with Stevens, Caruso, and Gordon BELIEVED in their "masters"? Each felt a powerful motivation to continue playing the trumpet. Regardless of whether or not each made much tangible progress in his trumpet playing technique. And of course an inspirational teacher can truly help.
But at some point in the game RESULTS should become the criteria for making an evaluation of a teacher's effectiveness. The "feel good" approach can actually be detrimental if the student isn't gaining any real ability. The cause of range, tone and endurance problems is usually physical though psychological and inspirational matters can figure into the equation too. Inadequate breathing and minor chop muscle function usage inadequacies. Except for the breathing matter almost NONE of the so-called "Chop Doc's" have even a clue about why this is so. And even then they will probably not emphasize the breathing approach enough. Don't forget how important the understanding of MOUTHPIECE issue angle is either.
But don't try and tell your chop doc that! You'll be savaged. The words alone will threaten them. I'd like to think that the hesitancy of these chop gurus to accept new ideas and take responsibility is simply a matter of ego but I'm afraid it runs deeper than that. Why?
Because they make money off of you!
Now in and of itself this is not necessarily a bad thing. Profit is not a dirty word. Each of us has bills to pay. However at times the need to make money can blind a teacher from accepting new ideas. He becomes too personally invested in his old ideas. So he completely rejects anything new. Even the most simple of ideas. Worse he will attack the messenger of new thoughts.
This is the reason most of the truly heavy cats do not write on open internet trumpet forums. As a powerful and much accomplished lead player told me
"(such and such a trumpet forum) is full of idiots".
So he doesn't post much anymore and we are all worse off for it. He himself a disciple of Donald Reinhardt. He's got more knowledge about the physics of trumpet playing in his little finger than most others have in their whole being...
As for me? I don't want your money. I have no interest in taking your hard earned cash and buying a new car with it. You've had to work way too hard as it is to get where you've gotten to. And besides if I did publish what would I sell? My ideas aren't "systems" so much as they are fairly obvious perceptions of physical reality as it relates to the trumpet. Newton may have written a book or two on physics but he didn't try to get a copyright on gravity.
See what I mean? The truths need to be pointed out regardless of how they are received. Why charge for them? Should Paul Revere have billed the Massachusetts revolutionaries after his long ride? I sure hope he didn't.
So how do you decide if your teacher is not helping you much anymore? At least as far as range, tone and endurance is concerned? When did you become just his "car payment"? Well you can probably figure that out for yourself if you keep an open mind. But there will be at least one sure fire way to determine which person is more likely to stymie your progress while taking your money. Maybe even be a scam artist. How to tell?
Show him this post. If he savagely and vehemently denounces the ideas presented?
Then you know...