I can relate, Phillip, and I’m confident most trumpet players can.
Although I will say that those days have become fewer and farther between, thankfully.
They seemed much more often and there were times when I felt I lost my way and almost gave up completely, despite having come so far. Thankfully, I didn’t and am very glad for that.
I’m playing at a level I never before thought possible and I can’t recall the last really bad day. I’m actually having a pseudo “bad day” today, lips are just not feeling great. I’m pretty sure I overdid it yesterday and played a bit late last night / limited time to rest/recover before I played this morning.
I think rest is a very good idea. I would ask yourself what led to the bad day? Do you think you overdid it?
Our expectations increase with our abilities, perhaps faster than our ability does…and more consistently.
I have found it helpful to make sure to play music most days and not get caught up in “gladiator trumpet” mode, playing too many harmonic slurs exploring the limits to my range. I play my full functional range each day, but try not to push beyond that more than a few times a week or at least not too much. It’s important to work on range development, but it’s less about strength than it is about coordination.
Be sure to spend a little time each day, if possible, or at least a few times a week in unstructured experimentation (“Eyes Closed”), observing how you can make small changes to play more efficiently, more resonantly (usually the same as efficiency), etc. You’re the only one that can determine how You can play the best you can play. All the teachers in the world are guides, and that’s all they can be. You’re the one that has to find the right path for You; no one else can.
Sometimes the way we describe things that make sense to us, don’t make sense for others. Playing trumpet is a tricky thing, we have to take all advice with a ‘grain of salt’ and only follow it fully once we experience that it is in fact a truth–that we experience it for ourselves.
Lastly, be Patient with yourself. Try to appreciate the smallest part of playing the instrument each day–the production of sound, the tone, even just on the staff. If you focus on what produces a good tone on the staff and work on replicating that feeling/sensation up and down throughout your range, that’s probably about the best guide on “what to do” than any method book or teacher out there. Imagine how you want it to feel and sound; it can feel that way and sound that way and you (your mind/body) can and will figure it out if you balance your Expectations with experimentation with good Process and have patience, looking for your own “guideposts” to check in with each day–I play certain musical phrases each day as I’m warming up or just after to see if I can repeat past “coffee moments” I’ve had in the past.
Anyway, keep the faith. That’s my $.02 FWIW.
Playing Music has helped me catch myself when I was feeling down about having a bad day, not feeling well, etc. On some of those days, I wind up playing something musical better than I ever have before or at least much better than I would have expected. This helps me check that I’m not being unreasonable with myself and keeping my “bad day” in perspective.
Many times, our “bad days” are in our heads and the sensations we have when playing–which are important.
When I’m having a bad day, bad sound and sensations, I try to spend time on the fundamentals–all the way back to the beginning…a breath attack and holding the note out a bit, looking for minor tweaks I can make that will make the sound better. I find G on the staff is best to start on, then I gradually spider out up and down from there (i.e. G, G#, F#, A, F, Bb, E, etc. up to middle C).
Then I do a little Stamp, focusing on making sure I can play a higher pitch than the one I’m starting on (C on the staff to D above it) pretty much by just pushing the first valve down. I look for efficiency.
Other things that help get my chops back into focus are spending a little time (5 minutes) on the leadpipe, focusing on releasing air through the leadpipe and engaging the “corners” a bit.
One great thing that consistently helps me is to spend some time on note-bending exercises, focusing primarily on bending down.
Playing pedals also helps relax things a bit.
Then I usually try to patiently play some scales softly, focusing on the interaction of the air and “Shape” and my tone and the feeling.
I also often play Clarke Technical “Second Study” focusing on keeping the air consistent/steady and making minimal movement to produce the pitches slurred, I find this is sort of a “flow” exercise that helps me keep my chops “centered”. I often catch myself, even on good days, playing it (not the whole study, just one or a few key signatures) to kind of keep my chops together, especially if I’m playing some music that spends a bit of time above the staff and I’m worried things are getting blown out a bit.