An analogy I'd like to make is that the quarterback would never have made a touchdown and received the glory of the touchdown had it not been for the rest of the team supporting his effort. Sure it was easier for him and he didn't go home with all the bruises and pain unless his support was inadequate.
Point: if your time to adequately practice and a teacher isn't in your defensive structure, don't expect to be a winner ... but you still can have a lot of fun playing the best you can.
I still like the miracle analogy. It's kind of like children's trousers. They look fine until it appears that the children have "overnight" grown three inches. If we keep plugging away, that flat spot we were in suddenly "jumps" to a higher level. This jump seems miraculous.
"A tool good enough to be so used and not too good"C.S. Lewis That Hideous Strength
I simply do not understand this "plateau" mentality. I have been playing for almost 50 years and it is really easy to make a list of 10 things that I cannot do - 3 of which can be solved in a short period of dedicated work, 4 that will take more time than that and 3 that I will NEVER accomplish. I have always worked with these lists and NEVER had a time of depression.
Because I devote the most time to the stuff that I can't yet do, but have a reasonable chance of accomplishing, I have had the pleasure of moving forward almost the whole time that I have been playing. The added advantage of constant improvement in small steps: after a while, no questions are asked. The people who matter recognize the attitude, preparation and reliability. I learn also to recognize the small steps and give them their proper perspective!
My suggestion: stop whining and work on the stuff that counts. Take notes while practicing, work from a shortlist of things that aren't quite there yet - make those things happen!!!!!!!!! Attitude, preparation and reliability are universal attributes that every one who knows you must immediately recognize - not by you saying so, rather by your playing.
If others aren't noticing, there could be a delta between what you think and what they hear.
Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
My personal experience is that plateaus are just reminders that my mind and my body have adapted to the training challenges, they have decided to settle in and be comfortable at a certain level and now require a change in routine to shock them back into a learning/improvement mode. This was true when I was doing signficant amounts of long distance road races and the same idea of changing things up a bit has always worked for me with music.
There are, after all, more ways to get to the other side of a mountain besides going straight up and over the top.
Bb cornet: 2012 Getzen 3850 Custom (copper bell)
Bb trumpets: 1980 Bach Strad 37
Euphonium: Jupiter Capital Edition 460
Eastern Iowa Brass Band
"Practice, not procurement, is the secret." -- me
Insanity is doing the same thing over & over and expecting different results. I played the same way, and same stuff, for years, thinking if I just fit in enough practice, I'd finally get better. Well, I didn't, and in frustration, I quit playing for a while. It finally dawned on me that I would need a teacher and a new approach. A few lessons via Skype, an embouchure change, new horn, new mouthpiece, and I'm a better player. I feel like I'm hitting a plateau again now myself, but I'm happier than I've ever been with my progress.
You have to push yourself during your practice sessions. Playing the same old exercises you can already handle, or practicing them with the same mistakes over and over won't lead to much improvement. It's not much fun, but to improve you have to work on things you can't do well or can't do at all. Doing it in a vacuum won't give the best results, either. You need a group to play with that stretches you and gives you benchmarks/examples of what it takes to play well.
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