Trumpet Discussion Discuss making the most out of practice in the General forums; Hi Manny,
Greg here again. I've only posted once before, so let me give you some background. I'm a college ...
making the most out of practice
Greg here again. I've only posted once before, so let me give you some background. I'm a college junior going to school in Boston, and I've been putting in 2-3 hours a day on the trumpet since around the end of my junior year in college...I've been doing lots of various summer festivals for as long as I can remember. The point is, I've got a lot of musical experience that I feel I'm not making the most of right now. I came across a teacher this summer, Judy Saxton, who brought out some of the most easy and effortless playing I've ever experienced. I remember having so much fun with the trumpet, and everything seemed pretty easy, and more importantly, I felt like I was really on a track of improvement. Now that I've removed myself from this teacher I've found I've fallen into the same old traps of frustrations and I'm not very sure how to get out of it.
The point of all this is that I'm starting to feel that simply putting in the time and trying hard isn't enough, there is something in my daily practice that is keeping me from attaining excellence...
My question, then, is this: do you have any tips on how to make the most out of practicing and any advice for me as to how I can set some goals or something to give me feelings of accomplishment? Do I need to put in more time? Less time? Different time?
The best players in my studio are the ones who seem to have a good handle on where they want to go and a solid way of achieving it on a personal level, and I've always felt that I've needed a teacher to tell me exactly what and how to do things...is there any way that I can start to take control myself over my natural progression as a player?
Sometimes I think I need to just have more fun with this whole thing...
Mezzo Piano User
I certainly want to hear Manny's advice related to your question. Just a question for you, though. Do you have a daily balance/centering routine? I know that I play at my best when I take some time each day to Sharpen the Sword.
Back to Manny...
At the beginning of each day I spend a fair amount of time (anywhere from 10-40 min) on a mental and physical warm up consisting of starting on a middle G and going for the best possible resonance and sound and then starting to spread that sound around the registers of the horn with arpeggios, scales, etc. I then usually have a lot of different music I need to get through, so I'll spend the other 2 hours of my routine going through those with maybe 10 min or so for a specific techinical thing that I'm working on. For example, right now I'm working on speeding up my single tounge so I try to spend at least 10 min every day with a metronome tounging a middle G for 30-40 sec. straight and then working up the metronome click by click. I started on quarter equals 80 a month ago and am now up to quarter equals 97 or so.
I know many players who commit more then two of their sessions each day to elaborate technical work on exercises and things, akin to the Ray Mase 12 week maintainence sheet many people have. I used to do a similar thing, however I found it was taking over my routine (getting longer and longer) and becoming a burden both mentally and physically...I felt like if I didn't get in my entire hour and a half of maintainence I could'nt play. Judy Saxton, as I mentioned above, somehow brought out consistant playing in me that tapped into my years of doing these basic fundamental skills without the need to actually go through the rountine...it was like she shifted one brick and the whole structure fell into place. I've been trying to get back there. Hope this helps.
It doesn't sound as though you're doing anything different from what I do. What exactly is missing from your playing? What are you expecting of yourself. Are you comparing yourself to other players in school you admire and feel like you're coming up short? Some folks think that's a bad thing, comparing yourself. I don't. I think comparing yourself is appropriate at the collegiate level as long as you can define what it is you want and know how to work to get what you want.
I mean, after all, what are professional auditions all about? It's a grand comparison of yourself to other people that are not as good, the same, and better than you presently. So, I ask again: what is it you want?
Sometimes we tend to get away from routines that work well for us. You mention that teacher that gave you great success---did you stop studying with that teacher?---Did you get away from that routine? When a routine works, sometimes we stop to "super analyze" why it works and what we actually do is sabotage our efforts. If you got away from your teachers routine you have to ask yourelf why? You will probably leave your next successful routine for the same reason. I know many guys who have cleaned out all their trumpet method books, put them in the garage and stuck to what works for them.
We are in the age of information---that is good and bad. It is too easy to find a new routine, teacher, approach to the trumpet. Try to concentrate on what has worked well in the past and that will probably be the best appraoch for you. The appraoch you get from other people works for them--not necessarily for you---find YOUR WAY to success.
I agree, perhaps a more concrete definition of what exactly I want is in order. And yes, I do tend to compare myself to others a lot and feel like I'm coming up short...here are some specifics as to what I want and what I don't feel I have:
I want to be able to play the trumpet in a beautiful way. I want to be able to produce a sound that can make people cry, or laugh, or smile, or reflect. I feel like I have a lot to offer musically but that the mechanics of playing the trumpet are holding me back from being as expressive as I want to be. I want the playing of the trumpet to be effortless so I can make beautiful sounds without worrying about notes or mechanics.
I've always had a strong liking for orchestral playing and chamber playing, and I think that my musicality could really shine through in any of those applications be it a quintet, dectet, brass ensemble, or orchestra. What I like about music is the feeling you get after an amazing performance and I want to be in a position where I could have the most chances to get that rush over and over. Along these lines, I feel that a good job for me would be in a major orchestra, and that a principal position would give me the most opportunities for expression.
I'm tired of dealing with how to get the notes out, what I want to do is be thinking of what I want to say with this phrase or that passage. I need to get the trumpet out of the way so I can think more about making music.
This is what I want. What I have is tension (although I feel like that is starting to improve, sometimes), and effort is required to move around on the horn. I can get a lot of the notes out, but it is not effortless and I have always been weak when it comes to issues like range. I feel like I have to worry about about the trumpet, and I want things to just sound the way I want them to, all the time.
I'm confused as to how to get there. I've read a lot of books, taken a lot of lessons with a lot of different people...I study with a teacher who doesn't quite know what to make of some of my problems sometimes but is an amazing sound example for me, and I've tried many many different ways of getting things to work (Ray Mase maintainence, Claude Gordon, many different suggestions from different people, etc) but the trumpet still isn't effortless and making music is always a battle between the trumpet controlling me and me controlling the trumpet. I want it to all be about music and I want to forgot about the tool I use to make it happen.
I want music to be effortless...I always liked that Bud quote: "I just think it". I don't feel like I have a bad work ethic, I just don't know to get where I am to where I want to go.
I hope this makes things a bit clearer. Thanks for the prompt response; after seeing all your posts here I'm not sure how you manage to answer everybody and still make it to rehearsal on time!
Mezzo Piano User
Just a few more thoughts…
I know when I’m pressed for time, I will consider rushing through my maintenance work so that I can get to the music that I need to work up for ensembles. Unfortunately, this usually isn’t the best course of action for me. Sometimes I will move quickly through my “centering” exercises and then go right to the skill set exercises to get them out of the way. By doing this I don’t allow my body the time to relax into the vibrant, resonant sound that I need to carry with me into the rest of my practice day.
At the beginning of each day I spend a fair amount of time (anywhere from 10-40 min) on a mental and physical warm up consisting of starting on a middle G and going for the best possible resonance and sound and then starting to spread that sound around the registers of the horn with arpeggios, scales, etc. I then usually have a lot of different music I need to get through, so I'll spend the other 2 hours of my routine going through those with maybe 10 min or so for a specific technical thing that I'm working on.
I’m not sure what you use for your centering drills (I like the James Thompson Buzzing Basics). You could use Caruso, Adam, or Stamp too. The most important aspect of the centering session for me is not to be in a rush. If I go too fast (just to get through the exercises) I will miss that still small voice of resonance that I need to find. I have to “let” my sound develop. This is an extremely important point. Don’t be in a hurry. If I try to control my sound, I will miss the mark, and I have wasted my time. Tension and effort will be required for sound production at that point. Your body knows what to do if you just let it.
What I have is tension (although I feel like that is starting to improve, sometimes), and effort is required to move around on the horn. I can get a lot of the notes out, but it is not effortless…
I devote about 20 minutes to centering and then I put the horn down for about an hour or so. When I come back ready to move into my skill set exercises, everything works better because I’m bringing my best sound with me. With a great, resonant, centered sound, everything falls into place more easily (long tones, scales, articulation, flexibilities, etc.). When everything is working easily, maintenance work is a pleasure and goes by very quickly (I do one 30 minute set rest half an hour and then do another 15 minute set).
Once I’m ready for music, it’s with that same vibrant sound that I spent the time to let happen in the first centering session. If I rush that first session, forcing or trying to control the sound, I might as well just put the horn down. It’s not worth it to struggle with “mechanics”.
If you didn’t click on the link in my first post, please check it out. The referenced article is very interesting.
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