Hi all, just wanted to keep you updated on what’s happening out here in the practice garage.
First off, I have dubbed my practice space “Studio Eins.” I think that means “Studio One” in German. Any German speakers out there that can confirm this?
I had the wonderful opportunity of hanging with my good trumpet-playing, composer friend Brian Owen, and with him, recorded an episode of his podcast, “The Orchestrator’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I highly encourage you to check out his podcast. In this particular episode we talked about what it’s like being a working trumpet player, how to write for the trumpet, my new eBook “Concepts for the Advancing Trumpeter,” and elephants.
Fun and informational? Definitely!
LISTEN TO EPISODE 9 HERE, and be sure to leave Brian a review after you do!
In an attempt to make this site easier to use, I have included a Table of Contents listing all previously written articles. Please take a moment to check out that tab above. I also intend to update each older article (and title them more appropriately), while making sure the ideas are still fresh and relevant.
As some of you know from a recent post, I dived head-first into the practice strategy laid out by Kenney Werner in his awesome book, Effortless Mastery. Basically, you choose one line, or excerpt, that you can’t yet play perfectly without thought, and you practice it until you can.
Makes sense, find something you can’t do, and practice it until you can. Duh. But, as it turns out, this might not feel totally natural.
We tend to bounce around from one piece of information to the next too quickly in an attempt to “cover it all,” which we really can’t do at a super high level.
I know, the truth hurts.
I started with a ii-V-I lick. Specifically this one…
(Sorry these exports look like crap. Anyone know how to do this better?)
Nothing fancy here, and I found the finger coordination and aural aspects of this line to be relatively easy. However, there is one technical chunk I’m still whittling away at.
I kept hitting snags while trying to play over the highlighted portion of the line quickly. In fact, I spent the first month, yes month, shedding those few notes in various ways. Slurred, single tongued, k tongued, double/triple, jazz articulation, etc. And after all that I was STILL making errors when I let it go, and played without thought at higher tempos.
After 4 weeks I realized that my tongue position, or basic coordination over that portion of the harmonic series was not dialed in enough to allow me to just “blow through” the phrase. So for the last 3 weeks I have been practicing only lip slurs that cover that part of the horn; Specifically, the triads from F#-A#-C#, up chromatically to the triad from C-E-G. I’ve been working it super slow and really listening to, and joyously accepting anything and everything comes out.
If whatever slur I’m currently playing locks in, great; I move to the next. If not, I simply hang out there for a while. I am extra sensitive to STOP PLAYING before fatigue sets in, since I’ve found this works best for me. At the stopping point, I make a note of where to begin next time in an effort to use fresh chops to work on WHAT ACTUALLY NEEDS TO BE DONE.
Now, at first I was not successful at picking up at the intended starting points. I would jot down a note, forget about it, or simply ignore it. To fix this problem I started crinkling up the piece of paper around my mouthpiece.
No getting around that.
This style of practice will really drives the point home that just because you can do something today, or did it yesterday, this DOES NOT mean you will be able to do it tomorrow. Everything cycles. It seems we need to repeat certain skills over and over until we CAN’T mess them up, even if we try. This is why it’s best to get comfortable working where we are today.
Completely disregard how playing sounded and felt yesterday, or how it will sound and feel in the future. Yesterday I was sailing up to G on top of the staff no problem, today middle C is unstable. That’s life. Leave the ego at the door and pay attention to what needs attention.
Another aspect of this process that has been humbling is the fact that the exercise is SO basic, SO fundamental, that it seems like I should have been able to master it more quickly. I’ve needed to remind myself that, hey, practicing this, and only this, until you get it, IS WORTH IT – no matter how long it takes.
Really. Think about it. You know it’s true.
What’s also been cool is how my knowledge of the harmonic series as it relates the mechanics of the trumpet has developed. Certain notes on the series do not slot as clearly, or easily, and practicing to master these pitches has helped my playing a ton, and I believe it is working to develop my sound.
I think this is what sax players do. Right? Help me out sax players.
Now the really nice thing is that even without practicing other techniques, my playing as a whole is noticeably improving. My chops feel better on gigs, playing feels easier, and what is the HIPPEST (in my opinion), is that it has actually improved my improvisation!
I suppose the combination of increased facility, along with listening to the same notes over and over again, is really taking root and letting new things happen. As it turns out, my facility sucked when it comes to “just playing.” It seems that each skill improved a bit “unlocks” dormant abilities, or sounds in our minds.
Granted, when it comes to my improvisation, any improvement is big improvement.
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PS – I haven’t given up on my goal to increase my practice time in 2015. I’m just taking a more relaxed, natural approach to it. Quantifying my practice in minutes did help me get the ball rolling, but now that I’m moving in that direction, I’m going to let nature take over and do its thing.