Consider this example about understanding a concept versus "knowing" something so well that you can provide the answer consistently and immediately "under pressure – without having a second chance". We all know our multiplication tables. I think I made one when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I remember we were required to make a 10 x 10 matrix but I decided to make mine 12 x 12 (I guess I always did a little more than was required). Think about how well you know your multiplication table. Some answers are immediate and require absolutely no hesitation, (i.e. 2x2, 5x5, 10x10). There are some combinations, however, that you may pause for a moment before answering, because you are applying more steps of mental activity to arrive at the answer. For instance, consider 8x7 and 9x6. The answers are 54 and 56, but which is which? I always pause and think of the little trick that all numbers multiplied by 9 will lead to a product where you can sum the numbers and get to 9. So 9x6 is 54 because 5 plus 4 equals 9. Therefore, 8x7 must be 56. The thought process isn’t nearly as clean as just knowing the answer like 5x5 equals 25.
The same situation exists for some of the other "more difficult" answers. Instead of practicing to the point of "knowing" the answers, I ended up developing a longer thought process to get to the answer. Let’s say 12x9. I would simplify the problem into several pieces and then apply this thought process: 10x9 is 90 and 2x9 is 18 so 90+18 is 108. That’s three steps to get to the answer. I would think that those extra steps really don’t take that much time and that I really know the multiplication tables well because I can get to any answer in less than a second or two. However, the whole point of this example is that understanding the concept versus "knowing" the answer will be VERY quickly uncovered when you find yourself under pressure. Check out this LINK
to get a feel for experiencing this high-pressure environment through the use of these concentration charts and a metronome. By increasing the metronome tempo you will quickly understand that "pressure" will force you to rely on what has been programmed into your subconscious. You don’t have time to go through extra mental steps when the pressure is on!
To move from understanding the concept to "knowing" the concept of playing to the center of the instrument so well that it is deeply ingrained in my playing, I have chosen to use the James Thompson Buzzing Basics exercises on a daily basis. These exercises are extremely well conceived and allow me to rely on someone else to provide "the intensity of concentration to sustain that conception". For about 20 minutes everyday (after the Adam and Caruso exercises that I described to you), I spend time finding the center of the horn via the Buzzing Basics exercises. By doing this, I have essentially made a commitment to myself that this concept is vitally important to the way that I want to approach the instrument so I must spend about a year to move from "crudity to mastery". In the 7 months that I have focused my mental efforts on this aspect of my playing I have found that playing to the center eventually leads to enhanced vibrancy that is nothing short of magical!