Hi. I’m quite new to MTM so have dozens of questions, but one stands out. I’ve had a few coffee moments since starting, which are fantastic when they happen, but on the flip side, there are days when everything seems to unravel; my technique is nowhere and any progress I’ve made evaporates. Either that or after making real progress on the “circle” part of my practice, I go to the “square”, pick up an old familiar study and make a sound like a cat in a bin. Is it just me that gets these setbacks? When this happens, I tend to back off practice for a day or 2 then come back refreshed. How do you all deal with “bad playing days”?
I should add that in the last couple of years I’ve been fixing (with a pro-teacher’s help) my very inefficient embouchure. It’s been a massive change, which has had a big impact on many aspects of my technique, so the gap between my expectations (i.e. what I used to be able to do) and reality (what I’m currently capable of) is probably bigger than most other players.
Also, what would be the best way of closing that expectation gap? I’ve worked through to the end of Moderato and there’s still plenty for me to work on there. Does Allegro cover other areas of technique that might speed up my improvement or should I just focus on getting the fundamentals as sound as possible?
Three steps forward, two steps back. That’s been my experience as well. Meditation has worked wonders for my ability to cope with the bad days. I try to recognize that it’s effectively just hurt feelings, accept the frustration or shame (or whatever is the feeling), thank those responses for looking out for me, do a little bit of grieving, and reassure myself that I am still learning and that I can do it. The process does work, I think there is plenty of proof of that here. Convincing yourself that it can work for you is much more difficult but logically it must. Be there for yourself and achieve some level of calm and peace before proceeding. You can do it!
Thanks Rick, this is reassuring! I have complete faith in the process, I think it’s my understanding of the process that I doubt in these moments. I know I’m doing SOMETHING wrong, but doubt my ability to diagnose it. Calm and peace are definitely the way forward
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.
I definitely relate to good AND bad days, I’m sure this is true in every endeavour; whether a sole or team one. My favourite quote on this from the sports coach Clive Woodward (who coached the England Rugby team to its only world championship title) is “success doesn’t come in a straight line”.
P.S. the fact that England beat Australia in the final had no influence on me picking this quote; honest!
It can very be hard to do but I try on look on bad days as good things. These are the days when you can really feel what’s going wrong. You can feel the tightness, pinching, pushing, and chocking. And it feels horrible. But I try to put frustration aside and use these days to really concentrate on Greg’s concepts and putting them into practice on all those bad feelings. Often I feel better at the end of a session than when I started.
Many thanks for all your comments. Sorry it’s taken me a while to respond but I’ve been digesting it all. I am taking two things away from this:
Firstly, development is definitely non-linear. No one will start at the beginning of Windworks and just work through it gradually improving incrementally. Everyone needs to revisit the fundamentals from time to time. This is to be expected and encouraged.
Secondly, this back-and-forth is actually how we improve as players, and should therefore be embraced. In the very first video on Windworks, Greg calls out the 3 things that hamper development; clamping, over-blowing and THE INABILITY TO IDENTIFY WHERE THE PROBLEMS SIT. This was my main reason for joining Windworks, and to be honest, I was (naively?) expecting the answer to be much more prescriptive than it is. I notice that the longer-serving members of this community have quite a different mind-set to the newbies. They are more accepting of failure, in fact they don’t even see it as failure, it’s embraced as an opportunity to investigate and improve.
I realise now that the critical thing I completely missed when I originally went through the Windworks fundamentals was the impact that the non-linear improvement would have on trying to find other problems. Everything is so interconnected, that fixing/changing one thing can so easily change everything else, maybe only slightly, but you still need to run all the checks just to tweak and be sure.
So, in response, I went back to the top of the course, started working on the 4 factories and straight away found examples of throat tightening, unnecessary tongue tension, jaw closing and inadequate use of the BCH, all of which I’m now working on, all of which have already benefitted the rest of my playing. I’m sure my mind-set is still too critical and impatient, but this just another habit that I’m learning to break.
Well said, philip. You’re right, failure is a good thing–it is how we learn. It can be frustrating when it happens, especially if we are focused on Results and do not have the mindset of being an objective observer. And if we don’t do anything to experiment trying something better, refocusing on better process and what it means to play open, relaxed, with passive air, efficiently, freely.
In time, we develop a series of “coffee moments” as Greg calls them which I guess are the new “neural pathways” in our minds of how to play. It becomes more and more second nature and our worst “bad days” become greater than our best “good days” before. I just posted something on the “must read” thread Greg created yesterday that is kind of on this same topic if you’re interested.
I’ve done repeated laps through Largo and am better each time I do, coming away with something new each time.
When I was young, I treated warm up exercises as something to “get through” so I could get to the fun stuff of playing. I didn’t know why I was playing what I was playing, really; I understood it helped me feel a bit better, but I didn’t really know why or care why I was playing the notes I was playing or why there were a variety of ways one could warm up (Stamp, Caruso / Mitchell 6 notes, long tones, scales).
The nature of this beast we play is that we must begin again each day focusing on the production of sound and finding again the optimal balance of Shape and Air. When I have my best days, I find I enjoy my sound in the middle register and am amazed again at the ease at which I can play and the fullness and resonance of my sound, the openness and ease of playing. My mind is not eager to “get through” my warm up and move on to playing high notes, but enjoying the sound I am producing in the middle and low register, the foundation of everything else.
As we develop a keener sense of awareness of how it feels to play, and as it becomes easier for us to play, we remember and want that feeling again and have increased confidence as time goes by that we will find that ease again.
Be patient with yourself and observant of how things Feel and Sound and let that be your ultimate guide to how You should play–how to balance Shape and Air.
As Greg says, anyone can play anything they want on the instrument. I believe that too.
For example, I haven’t yet developed my range up to Double C, but I believe it’s physically possible for me to play that note today and I believe you can to.
I believe it’s more about coordination than it is about developing strength; that’s why there are young people that stumble across playing high notes. They’re not stronger and while they may be more “talented” in some aspects, it’s just a matter of our discovering for ourselves what precise combination of “Shape” and “Air” we need to form to make those pitches speak. I believe it’s only a matter of time before we unlock that ability, IF we are patient and objectively observe how our “experiments” work or fail and make minor adjustments based on those experimentations…and don’t overdo it and lose focus on Process to focus our attention on Results, becoming emotionally attached to the outcome of whether or not we are successful–a positive feedback loop destined to fail… And blindly playing exercises repeatedly, making no adjustment for what is working and what isn’t, expecting a different result is insanity…I used to do that, so I guess I was “insane”…
My plan for this year is to spend a small time each week on range and endurance. I’m not certain I’ll develop my range all the way to Double C in 2021, but things are off to a good start (except for overdoing it a bit)… And in my opinion, playing trumpet is more range and I will be focusing on all sorts of other aspects of my development as well. But I have kind of held off on specific goals with my range until now. I need to work on really “owning” some notes below Double C first, I was only using “Double C” as perhaps the ultimate goal for myself and most players. Above that doesn’t interest me much, except that playing a bit above that might be necessary in order to feel like one can “own” Double C and play it consistently and musically.
Me too !
have worked out that bad days are normally when I am distracted or under pressure.
For a good day it helps me If I get my music head on and plan out what I want to do and practice it away from the instrument. Maybe on a walk; then when I get started it has a better chance of going well.
doing enough reps to get bored and let go has on occasion resulted in sudden steps forward.
Keep at it. no rush have fun
I too have treated warm-up as something to be got out of the way quickly before the “proper” playing starts, but am learning to appreciate the smaller things – a great sound, effortless playing.
In the last few days I feel like I’ve released my inner trumpet geek, so when things don’t go to plan, instead of getting irritated, I react with “ooh, that’s interesting” and look for root causes. I realise I’ve previously been pressurising myself to get improve, so “no rush, have fun” is something I really want to take to heart.
Another upside of this new mentality is that I’m more prepared to tackle issues head-on. For example, quiet music with long phrases is a bit of a nemesis since I changed my embouchure, so today I started working at that by playing the 2nd movement of the Haydn – an easy, not-too-high piece, but something that I have to work really hard at to get through. I broke it down into shorter and shorter sections and noticed that after just the first 7 notes my jaw had lifted and my lips clamped. With some work, I could eventually play the opening phrase with a free and open technique but it was a real internal battle of wills.
Anyone got hot tips on how to keep my chin down and stop the tension creeping into the middle of my lips?!
Great posts, gents. J.Gardam, I need to structure my practice sessions…I must admit to playing extemperaneously most of the time. My intention was to structure things more this year, but frankly it hasn’t happened–I haven’t done it. I’ve been busy at work and other excuses… I just did a little number on my chops and had to take yesterday off due to overdoing it. But, as expected, things felt and sounded much better today. Going to make it a point not to overdo the range too much.
Philip–regarding your question on the 2nd movement of Haydn, here’s my take FWIW:
Tensing up when playing at the top of the staff and above is a tough habit to break. One that I still catch myself doing from time to time and probably something that all players, even the best, have to watch.
Much of the WindWorks exercises is geared towards our breaking this very thing–the Singing C series and focusing our playing on passively released air is a key fundamental that I would recommend spending time on. And when spending time on that, I recommend REALLY focusing your attention on relaxing and using PASSIVELY released air–to the extent of intentionally trying to do less and less until you actually do fail at achieving the pitch(es) you’re aiming for.
I was surprised at how much I could get away with, but it’s easy to forget that when you put a piece of music on the stand–especially if it’s one you’ve played a lot for years and have memories of playing it and struggling with it.
I had to avoid Clarke’s First Study (Technical Ex.) for about a year when first starting WindWorks as I had decades of tensing up as I ascended. So I played Clarke’s Fifth Study instead as it was new to me and repeats a lower register scale series before ascending.
When developing my newfound range above the staff, I started screwing around playing some various melodies I always had wanted to play. Many of them were simple melodies as I was a bit rusty in my technique; I gravitated early on to simple lyrical melodies like John Williams’ themes, for example.
I had “coffee moments” while working on some of those where I “suddenly” was able to play above the staff at a soft dynamic, in control with relative ease–an ease I never thought possible, despite Greg and others saying it was possible.
Most days, I play certain parts of those–the spots that made me realize what’s possible to “check in” and reaffirm that I can still do it. As time goes by, I feel the need to do that less and less but still find it helpful to look for the sensation in my chops as I play those intervals.
Since these pieces are new to me, I don’t have the ingrained bad habits like I had with Clarke 1–which I have now broken, finally. So, when I play them I play with my new way of playing. Thankfully, I no longer worry about my old habits; in fact, I don’t know if I could play the way I used to if I tried to remember how I did it. All I remember is that I rolled my bottom lip under, clamped down too much, overblew and the air was blowing almost straight down.
When I look at Haydn’s movement #2, I might suggest you consider playing a couple lines of Clarke exercises playing at the top of the staff up to and including the highest note in Haydn’s movement #2 (I think that’s Bb on a Bb trumpet).
And I wouldn’t focus on the rhythym or articulation, at least not at first, of the exercises and I wouldn’t play the whole Study, I would just pick a couple of the keys that are applicable to the spots you’re working on.
I would play one or two of them with the Haydn on the music stand next to it. I would play with my eyes closed, slurring with a breath attack on Passively released air focusing intently on the feeling of the “weight” of the air and observing how efficiently (or not) the air releases through the aperture. Is my throat and body relaxed? Is the only engagement in the aperture corners, or is there unecessary engagement? When things are going good for me, I can ascend with minimal movement of the lips and feel like I’m just riding the airstream–I’m not blowing or actively producing the sound, I am allowing the pitch to “happen” by releasing the air through a (hopefully) optimum “Shape” with minimal engagement in the aperture corners (tongue arch can help too).
As I played the exercises, I would define “success” in my mind NOT at achieving the notes in the exercises, but playing with good steady air and relaxed and objectively observing whether or not the notes desired came out successfully with no emotional attachment whatsoever on the outcome. I spent A LOT of time experimenting like this in the beginning and it was good time spent; the key was consistent air passively released, so the only variable that was changing was “Shape”.
I would rest as much as I played in between and probably play some lower exercises like Clarke’s Second Study, for example, and just feel the “flow”–I would play that slurred and, using good but Passively released Air, see if you can kind of “ride the wave” and ascend and descend on the air stream relatively effortlessly with minimal movement of the lips and no engagement of the throat or rest of the body (we have to let go of this and know that this does not help us, it actually makes it more difficult and reduces the resonance of the sound).
And I would alternate between playing parts of Haydn movement 2 slurred and the Clarke exercises, back and forth a bit, eyes closed focusing in on the sensation of the balance of Air and Shape and listening intently for optimum resonance and paying intently to the sensation of openness, relaxation, freedom, efficiency and strive for making it feel and sound the best you can on good but passively released air.
Some songs, I find myself tensing up a bit at the top of the staff and above, whereas some songs/scales seem effortless for me, even though they’re comprised of many of the same notes. I can only surmise that much of this is mental for some reason and that “spending time” up there, slowing things down a bit, playing extemporaneously and not strictly to the written music (at first) to hone in and focus on the balance between Air and Shape necessary to play up there in an optimally efficient (and resonant) way. It’s a battle of determined patience, willing yourself to relax and play with ease and literally intentionally trying to fail–playing relaxed to the point of failure, then engaging only slightly more until you find the absolute minimum engagement necessary. Having good quality, consistent but Passive Air is key for me when experimenting this way–that way, you aren’t mixing up more than one variable at a time. And, at first, focusing on slurring the passages you’re working on first, then introducing articulation in later.
To play the music, we have to achieve each of the following:
1. Produce the pitch – Balance of Shape and Air (based on the given dynamic/duration)
2. Phrasing – Very important to release the air through the phrase to produce the best musical outcome, like we’re singing and plan where the breaths are
It’s easy to lose sight of one or more of the above items as we have to juggle them all simultaneously. But obviously #1, producing the pitch and the quality of the sound we produce is the most important and is the least straightforward of the elements as we have to figure out what WE need to do given our physical structure, etc.
Hope that helps, FWIW.
I’m not sure I could structure my practice like that. Whenever I try, I get distracted. I admire your focus!
John, I’m flattered that you think I start clamping down above the stave – with anything quiet and sustained, honestly, it starts at the bottom of the stave. My tension trigger is more about the style of music. I can play short loud phrases happily up to at least top C with a good open sound. That said, I know what you mean about specific pieces/exercises too, though, there’s some powerful muscle memory there.
I’ll keep plugging away at singing C. It’s definitely having an impact, and it’s reassuring to know that my progress isn’t any slower than normal
Got it–I’ve been there as well. Be patient with yourself. What helped me the most was focusing intently on using Passively released air. I actually took sort of an extreme approach and didn’t play the exercises as suggested, alternating between Active and Passive air. I suggest following the WindWorks course closely, more than I did, but focusing on playing with Passively released Air really helped me, I believe, focus in on how Shape impacts the production of sound and the resonance/efficiency of the sound produced.
I also spent a lot of time checking to make sure I was having a sympathetic vibration in the lower register at softer volumes.
I recommend not focusing too much on the dynamics at first, at least not while experimenting with the balance of Shape and Air. I would play as softly as you can comfortably while releasing air passively. In time, your ability to play softer and softer more comfortably will increase. That was my experience, anyway.
Hi Greg. I made it to the end of your video! You really clarified some important things (the process of rewiring should have NO expectations attached, the exercises are an assessment not a target, keep a mental portrait, belief vs. confidence etc.) so thank you so much!
One thing I do which I know doesn’t fit with your description, is when you said “then you go out on the golf course and forget about it”. This is the square/circle elements of playing, right? Since starting on this course, when I move from circle to square and practice actual music, my mind is working overtime, and trying to correct my technique on the fly, whilst still trying to play musically, which I know goes against what you say in the “how to practice” lesson at the beginning of the Andante stage.
Higher up in this thread johnelwood has already given some great advice on breaking down technical issues, but if I do that too obsessively, I’ll never properly leave the circle mentality. So how do you suggest I balance the two? Should I mainly play music that doesn’t pick on the holes in my technique too much, or tackle head on those pieces that I know will lay bare my technique, and accept that either I can’t play them as well as I want or that I’ll probably stop every couple of bars to reset, rework, rethink?
By the way, my sound and range weren’t at their best today, but today, thanks to my new-found objectivity, I feel like I’ve had a good day’s playing – progress!
Great question Philip–I myself struggled with the balance between being too obsessive with the elements of playing and playing exercises and playing music.
What I have found useful for me is to make sure I spend time on both.
In hindsight, I spent way too much time earlier in my “comeback” a couple years ago wasted on endless harmonic slurs and unstructured experimentation in how to play better.
What keeps me focused, honest with myself and motivated, is to make sure I spend some time playing music I enjoy and am motivated to play better.
I have actually had “bad days” in which things didn’t seem to feel right that turned out to be good days after all as when I tried playing music I’ve been working on, I wound up playing it better than ever before or playing it very well. Sometimes our “bad days” are just in our heads.
And a “good day” of things feeling well and hitting a high pitch might not be as good as we think if we can’t use that newfound range in a musical way consistently and with dynamic control. It’s important not to go into “gladiator trumpet” mode where it’s just about playing a high note, unless you’re intentionally practicing range development–which should be limited to a fraction of your practice time.
To put a finer point on it, though, I chose music that utilized new notes above the staff that I found possible from my WindWorks and other experimentation. So, by practicing that music, I am solidifying my newfound range, etc.
I don’t try to play music that I don’t have the range for yet; I use unstructured experimentation to work on range or range exercises (WindWorks, Caruso, etc.) to play around up there.
Most of the music I play is more on the classical side or John Williams stuff which doesn’t go too high, but does hang out for a while above the staff and requires lots of different articulation, dynamic control, intervals, etc. I find that fun and challenging to hack myself through some of that stuff… ;).
The music period of practice, in my opinion, should be focused more on the phrasing side of things and really focusing on getting to a point where you can “sing” the phrase freely where the instrument feels like it’s not an obstacle, it’s something that you’re exhaling through freely and the sound is happening, you’re not blowing/fighting against/through the instrument. So, if you’re still in need of some more range, you might want to focus on music that only gets to the top of your current range, or slightly above–just try to stay objective and not compromise process when you get there, be willing to miss the note(s) for the sake of good process.
That’s my opinion FWIW. Good luck!
Hi John, this all makes a great deal of sense. I don’t think I’m at that stage yet though. I’m still working on low-mid register consolidation, so I’m not consciously trying to push my range higher – my upper register (when I do check it) is improving as a result of the technical work I’m doing, so I’m quite happy with that!
My current goals are to be able to play within the stave with a consistently clear, strong sound and without getting tired after just a few minutes. I can “sing” short phrases, even quiet, high phrases, but string a few together and everything starts clamping up. So there is very little repertoire I can play that sounds as I want it to.
Any musical “square” playing that I do will either end up back in the technical “circle” or not be musical. This limits the “square” part of playing to either revisiting the music I played in my early teens or playing the pieces I want to play (and could once play well) really badly, or in short bursts. Neither of these fulfils the aims of what Greg describes in the “How to Practice” lesson about getting immersed in the music and really enjoying it.
I really get how important the square part of playing is. For months (because of what I describe above) all I did was technical exercises but that strips away all the musicality and creativity from playing. It was a happy revelation when I got to the “How to Practice” lesson and was told I MUST start playing real music again.
Greg talks about focal dystonia, which is far more extreme than my slightly-crap-work-in-progress embouchure, so when someone recovering from focal dystonia gets to the point that they start playing again, what kind of repertoire do they play and how do they practice it?
I want to achieve my current goals as quickly as I can and am prepared to do whatever is needed to make sure that happens. I’m just very unclear as to how I should tackle it!
Got it, Philip.
Spending all your time in the technical circle will, in my opinion, not produce results. In my early “comeback” and experience with WindWorks, I tried that to expedite my development and it didn’t work–in fact, I believe it held me back for quite some time and almost led to my quitting for good.
In my opinion, it is important to spend a certain minimum amount of time on Music and we must enjoy the basic sound of the trumpet–the sound of the instrument on a G on the staff, or even below the staff and up to a modest range on the staff or just above can be quite pleasing. I know this very well, as that was my limit for many years…while frustrating, I did get enjoyment out of playing tunes in that range.
Prior to WindWorks, my functional range was limited to a G above the staff and my endurance was extremely limited, as I was fighting against myself and the horn.
Perhaps it would be good for you to choose some music that you enjoy playing that only goes up to your current effective range, perhaps slightly above, but ideally to the limit of your range so you can play relatively relaxed and comfortably. I believe it should be somewhat challenging for you, but not to the point that you feel it’s insurmountable.
You’re probably not going to develop an efficient way of playing, in my opinion, by playing too much fortissimo big band jazz or marching band music at this stage in your development. The music that I have found most helpful to spend time on while developing my efficiency is more lyrical music where I have to focus a lot on the air moving through a phrase. It’s helpful if the music has some simple melody components/parts to it so I can focus more on the quality of my tone and efficiency/sensation rather than complicated articulations, fingering, rhythm, all which should be worked on separately (in my opinion).
I have found more lyrical melodies, even some Etudes, helpful. Phil Collins (former Cincinatti principal trumpet) has some great etude books for sale online. Some of them go above the staff. I would simply transpose them down where needed for a while until your range develops naturally.
I never got a lot of enjoyment out of random Etudes (i.e. Sigmund Hering, Arban’s). The Collins etude books include excerpts from the orchestral repertoire, so it’s music we all know–famous melodies that we recognize even if we don’t recall the name of the piece…
I saw a video on YouTube of someone playing the melody from “Malice Toward None” that made me want to learn how to play that melody. The melody itself isn’t too hard and only goes up to a G above the staff (if you do NOT transpose it from C trumpet to Bb trumpet, which I did not as G was the limit to my range at the time… The whole piece actually is more difficult and gets up to a High C# (if you transpose it up a step). I’ve actually worked up to being able to play the whole thing up the step thanks in part to watching the videos of Christopher Martin playing it and making it look effortless; I can’t obviously play it as well as that, but watching him somehow made me realize that it must not be as hard as I was making it…and the fact is that it’s not.
Here’s a link to the video that originally inspired me, BTW FWIW (https://youtu.be/VHz7j8VAVs4 ). I I don’t recommend buying a plastic trumpet, BTW. I also recommend watching Christopher Martin playing it, but the whole piece is rather difficult. The video link above is just the main melody.
For some reason, that melody just really stuck with me and I played it just about every single day. Eventually, I worked up to being able to play the whole piece–I bought the sheet music as my range improved and now I can actually play the whole thing start to finish, even transposed up a step.
Another piece that I like which doesn’t go too high that I have been playing a bit lately that is more lyrical and that I find helpful to play is “Intermezzo” by Mascagni–the version I have is in F and only goes up to an F at the top of the staff, most of it lower, till the end which does go to an A above the staff but is very soft and you could just play it down. I think it would still be pleasing to play.
I play a lot of John Williams melodies lately as the main melodies are often simple and I can focus my attention on my sound, efficiency, sensation (relaxing) but the entire pieces can be very challenging and work my entire range, etc. I think part of what makes those melodies so attractive as well are the recordings–the ease of which they are played by great players like Tim Morrison, Malcom McNab, Maurice Murphy, etc.). That ease of playing is helpful to aspire to.
I do want to, eventually, work up to playing challenging stuff–including some higher range / louder stuff, but I’ve avoided it thus far while I work on developing my control over the range I have developed thus far.
But it has to be music that YOU like, that you want to play–that gives you enjoyment. Much of the key to playing efficiently or optimally is trying to get to the point where we are singing through the instrument and the instrument is not in the way, it is an extension of ourselves.
Also, I would make it a point to spend time away from the horn working on your understanding of how the instrument works. Watch / listen to WindWorks videos, watch great players you admire play on YouTube.
I have found Jim Wilt’s (associate principal trumpet of Los Angeles) videos on YouTube particularly helpful for me to watch as Jim makes it look SO easy and he has such a great sound and is obviously a very efficient player. At times while playing, I think of Jim’s videos and how easy it makes it look and I try to replicate that in my playing.
The ideal probably is to see a great player play live (i.e. a trumpet teacher), but I don’t do that anymore and YouTube can be very helpful (stay away from some websites/YouTube channels though… avoid the “sizzle” and focus on the quality of the steak…
So much of playing is mental–if we have the wrong mindset of what it’s like to produce sound on the instrument, we’re not going to get the desired result. It’s really important to use our imagination of what we want and think it can feel like to play a bit higher in our range.
Whether it’s playing music or playing technical exercises, neither is going to do any good for our development if we don’t approach them both with the right mental and physical approach.
Today, for example, was an ok playing day but it probably could have been a great day, but my mind was on other things, I was inpatient and rushed through things and so things didn’t sound as good and I didn’t get as much enjoyment out of playing. I was rushed and I pushed things, rather than cooperating with the instrument / finding an optimal balance. Tomorrow is the weekend, I hope to carve out some time to relax, take my time, play with a more patient mindset and enjoy the music more.
My $.02 FWIW. Sorry for the long post. Couldn’t sleep so thought I would put my thoughts down. Hope there’s something in there that provides some help to you. Good luck and have fun / enjoy playing music.
Thanks yet again, John! I know what you mean about the “random” books of studies. I have many that I get about 4 bars into, then have to stop, lie down and think happy thoughts. I DO need some new music to play – I think we talked about familiar pieces triggering old habits earlier in this thread so getting my chops into something new will be good for me. Phil Collins seems as good a place as any to start.
So I think you’re saying I do need to tackle head on the types of music that challenge my technique (otherwise it’ll never get any better). I’ll do that going forwards, with some new repertoire and revised mindset.
I enjoyed that Jon Dante clip you posted. For quite a while I didn’t bother watching or listening to other trumpeters. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, but now I’m embracing my inner trumpet geek, I’m finding myself watching and trying to learn again. Live music isn’t going to be happening any time soon round here, thanks to COVID so I’ll have to make do with online performances for now.
You might also want to check out even some Bach or other brass quintet hymns. Those are simple, mellow, lyrical but pleasing to play (in my opinion) and allow us to focus more on sound production.
The Pacific Symphony recently posted a streaming concert of one of my favorite pieces of music and, even better, it was arranged for brass. The first trumpet part does go above the staff but I played the melody transposed down a bit for a while and found that pleasing and a lot of it was slurred, so I didn’t have to deal with articulation. And it’s slow.
WindWorks wisely has us check to make sure we can articulate each pitch before we move on to the next, which makes a lot of sense.
But when I’m wanting / needing to focus more on the fundamental production of sound and ensuring I’m relaxed and things are free and efficient, I often play bits and pieces of stuff like this and it helps me.
Find what Inspires you–something you really want to play and find it pleasing, etc. I’m not a singer, but that’s the ultimate goal–Adolph Herseth talked about that.
Good luck philip and, most importantly, ENJOY! 😉
There have been times when I found myself not enjoying playing anymore as I was so focused on results and my expectations, that I lost sight of what it was about. Important to bring context to our technical development and keep ourselves honest with ourselves–not too hard, not to easy. And, at the end of the day, it’s all about music.