I told Tony I would post a summary of my lesson with Patrick Hession. So here goes...
I have been interested in studying with a professional lead trumpeter for some time. Had a one time lesson with Wayne Bergeron in 2005, and realized so much can be gained from a seasoned pro’s experiences. Discussed this desire with a local pro jazz player. He knows and recommended either Roger Ingram or Patrick Hession. Like many of you, I am familiar with each of these two’s recorded work. After reviewing both player’s webpages, I found Patrick’s home is near where I travel for work occasionally. So, I contacted him regarding a lesson and made an appointment. The lesson took place in Patrick’s living room.
I explained to Patrick that my immediate goals were 1) playing exactly in time and 2) phrasing. I have enough range for the gigs I play, so that was not top on my list. Hope would be to work more on that after addressing the first two goals. Fortunately, Patrick’s book covers a lot about breathing and playing in time.
When I arrived, Patrick had not played yet that day, so he started his warm-up while I was there. He began with a mute in, which I thought was due to the close proximity of his neighbors. But, Patrick told me he liked the resistance during the first few notes of the day. Since I brought a copy of his book, we opened it to “Exercise #1 - Warm-Up / Breathing”. For those of you who have read or use his book, he describes how he has used the same warm-up for years. It is great to discuss with an author of a technique text what is meant by some of the content.
I have been trained to breath deeply toward the abdominal muscles, but keep the shoulders level and relaxed. Patrick raises his shoulders to allow the lungs to fill all the way to the top. Similar to Bobby Shew’s method, I was told. Believe Roger gives Bobby credit for the same. Before we began the initial breath, Patrick turned on the metronome and set it to 60 bpm. The inhale of “Exercise #1” is 7 beats (7 seconds). Always subdividing the beat into sixteenth notes. This has helped me already, since I never really planned out when to breath. Just took a big breath some time before I was required to play. Patrick knows exactly how many beats before he plays and where within that beat for each entrance he begins his breath. This technique should really aid in my desire to play exactly in time. Also, he explained air intake to be like “yawning”. I have used the syllable “ko” for years to keep my throat open. “Yawning” seems more open.
Patrick’s breath capacity is amazing! We would breath at a constant rate for 7 beats. Even though we were breathing at close to the same rate, I was completely full before 5 beats. Patrick went all the way through 7 beats. To give you some idea of the difference in our sizes, Patrick is about 5’7” medium-athletic. I am 6’6” large frame. So, I was shocked at how much more air he could intake.
Other items he stressed in the exercises were the breath attacks versus the tongue attacks. As we worked on the breath attack, Patrick demonstrated his mastery of “whisper tones”. I have heard of them, but have not witnessed a demonstration. Patrick can begin a note that is so faint it is barely audible. Hence their name. He begins these notes and crescendos to double forte and back to whisper. Tremendous control.
We covered the first half of the book; which contains: breathing, relaxation, isometrics / develop center, relaxing center, refocusing center, lip slurs, ride the air stream, and riding the center. After that, same type of exercises, but more advanced. After we got through “riding the center”, Patrick said now practice other stuff daily.
After we completed the formal lesson using the book I began asking other questions. One was regarding his students. He has some high school students who want to have range like him. He has them work on Arban’s and Clarke’s methods. After they have those books under their fingers, he will begin them on range. He plays so many different styles and gigs that he has many books, charts, and sheets out in the practice area. He played a difficult “legit” solo piece for me. He is quite comfortable in the big band and “legit” settings.
Before now, I had heard Patrick about once a year during his 5 years with Maynard. I had to ask questions about being on the band. As we talked, Patrick would play different parts from different charts. One thing I keep noticing was how my ear seemed to “jump” each time he played G or high C. Since he hits notes so much in the center now, his horn resonates more than when I play. He also explained his horn, Monette MF, “rings like heck”. My ear was catching all the overtones. His playing in the note center was really demonstrated during one of the exercises later in his book. Exercise #17 is for “glissandos”. One of the patterns is quarter notes starting at middle C - high C - middle C - high C - middle C - high C - low C - high C- low C - double high C - low C - triple high C - low C hold. Tempo is 60 bpm in cut time! After playing it, Patrick says, the triple C is really only with his chops; not supported like it would be in a performance. Each note was on the money!
Before I left, I told him my long term dream is to play Maynard’s solo on “Danny Boy”. Patrick has recently performed this, so he took out the music and played it beginning to end. No misses or cracked notes. What a treat for me.
By the way, my ears were ringing most of the 3 hour drive home. He has serious power to use when he chooses.
Patrick’s schedule is full for a few weeks. So, I will be working on the first half of the book. After ITG, his schedule will free up a little and we will set-up another lesson then.
Looking forward to it!