Recognize and Expand your Sweet Spot
Think of your sweet spot as the parameters within which you’re feeling good, getting great results, and things are easy. Often referred to as your comfort zone, expanding this area is the key having a more enjoyable musical experience and greater musical control as a trumpet player as well as leading to a more rewarding life in general.
Begin to think of your practice as a time to develop your range of control. The greater your range of control the wider your sweet spot will be. This is to say, the wider your area of executable skills which always seem to be there no matter how fatigued you become.
Obviously there are a wide variety of applications for the sweet spot method; range, tempo, dynamics, endurance, etc. Preferably you will be able to eventually develop the technical facility to execute all the musical passages required of you without thinking about it. An excellent way to make this possible is to occasionally practice well outside of the expected guidelines.
Sticking to the sweet spot on gigs will decrease the physical failure which leads to needed recovery, making it possible to play more with less time off.
Margin of Safety
Benjamin Graham of the investing world calls this a margin of safety. Once you feel you have a sufficient margin of safety over your required professional skill set you are free to put parts of your routine into maintenance mode. For example, if you are playing a show which has a high F in it what/how do you need to practice to always hit that high F? Likewise, if you are required to double tongue at a certain tempo how fast do you need to be able to articulate to always hit that speed easily?
When you determine a specific goal for what you would like to be able to do with ease you can then begin to visualize your routine as it will be some day. By having an idea of where you’re going it’s easier to determine where your time is best spent.
Your sweet spot is where you have the greatest musical control. By expanding it you open the door to greater expression which leads to a more fulfilling experience.
In the following image think of the blue triangle as being your sweet spot while the curved line is your learning curve. Remember, the sweet spot is not only where you have technical control, it’s also where you will experience the most fulfillment By pushing the boundaries of your sweet spot you’ll be able to expand it over time and be able to experiment with more adventurous ideas in practice.
Get creative with how you apply this model to your practice and please think outside the box. Things like range and tempo are easy to understand in this way but how about ideas like mouthpiece placement,which fingers you use to play passages, or postural alignment? Really have some fun with this and let us know what you come up with!
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