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Playing expectations and self-sabotage



 
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mcamilleri
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Joined: 25 Oct 2001
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Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2003 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is a story about Vladimir Horowitz, one of the greatest concert pianists of the 20th century. After a concert, a woman came up to him and said "I'd give my life to able to be able to play like that", and Horowitz replied quietly "Madam, I have".

I believe that our previous playing expectations, especially the need to sound good, and an unwillingness to suffer a temporary loss of ability, impedes our progress. We find it hard to trust that exercises that sound bad and feel weird can actually benefit us, and so try to conform them to our normal playing style and feel, and by doing so unconsciously hamper our own progress. Self-sabotage, and we don't even realise it is happening.

It happened to me.

To be honest, I had only been 'playing' with BE up until about 8 months ago, when I had my wisdom teeth extracted, then broke my jaw, and was left with a numb lip, unable to play for 3 months. When I started playing again, I sucked so badly, I put ALL my old playing habits and expectations aside, and went for BE 100%. I was determined to change, and had nothing to lose.

I went right back to the BE basics - lesson plan #1, and took it really slow - only moving on when I knew for sure I was doing things right.

I didn't care how I sounded (which was good, because I sounded REALLY, REALLY, REALLY AWFUL!!!), I just did my best to do the exercises as written, and tried to expand my concept and understanding of BE. When playing music, I did my best to keep the BE mechanics going, even though I couldn't play above the staff, and on a bad day would split every 2nd note.

Well, that forced a real change. In time, I started progressing through the BE exercises, and my tone, range, and attacks started to come back. My old stretch/smile/pressure embouchure is gone, BE has taken it's place, and I refuse to go back. I now play about as well or better than I used to, and know that there is a lot more improvement to come.

There is a real temptation to try to SOUND GOOD all the time. Only when you let that go will you be free to explore. Most of the BE exercises are NOT meant to sound good. If you try to make them sound or feel like your normal playing (which, remember, you are trying to change!) you will not get the full benefit.

Let's go for it, and be a group of trumpeters that fart (Roll out), squeak (lip-clamp), snap, zip, blast, and rip our way to success.

BE gives you the luxury of exploring this territory while still keeping you old playing mode going - you don't have to be as radical as I was. However, if you don't step out of the boat, and let go of the side, you'll never walk on water.

Michael
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_dcstep
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2003 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry about all your injuries, BUT great story. Thanks for sharing.
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mcamilleri
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2003 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your sympathy. I'm still eating soft foods, but at least I can play and perform again - gotta keep my priorities straight!
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oj
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2003 2:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael,

Excellent post!

Last evening a guy in Norway, Gunnar, phoned me. He just ordered B.E. and had read the whole book and was ready to start. It was a long conversation and some of the things I told him was what you say (so much better) here.

I will point him to this topic now. Hopefully he will join in when he has worked with B.E. for a while.

Ole
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trumpetteacher1
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Joined: 11 Nov 2001
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2003 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael,

Very articulate, as always.

The magnitude of your setback puts a whole new spin on the problems that most of us face! Now that we know your story, if we get discouraged, we can say, "Well, at least I didn't break my jaw and have my lip go numb for several months."

Can anybody top Michael's experience? I hope not!

I salute your patience and perserverence. Hard to imagine what it was like.

A small comment on the "tone" thing. You really should - eventually - be going for a clear, rich tone, especially on the Roll-Ins. But you are correct in saying that tone is not the determing factor regarding the initial success of your approach. How you feel is much more important, as the tone will come later.

Hope you are making quick progress!

Jeff Smiley
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mcamilleri
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2003 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As the song says, you don't know what you got till it's gone...
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LeeC
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2003 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hope I stay on topic here.

BE is a good book. Would have helped me more thirty two years ago of course. At that time I was unintentionally practicing something similar to the roll out exercise while doing the Maggio Sysytem for brass.

Here's what strikes me as interesting: Way back when while doing those roll out type things in the course of pedal tone work I started having a really hard time performing simple second trumpet parts in orchestra. That struck me as odd at the time because the pedal exercises were giving me a good high G in practice (for the first time in my life).

Never the less I persevered and in a relatively short time the rest of my sound came back. Could have used more self discipline and a teacher like Jeff then too but the later wasn't available.

The reason I bring this up now is because I feel like my playing is at a similar threshold as it was in 1971 only with a more rolled in formation. The differences are that in the seventies I was bringing a high f online and now the new notes are above the double C. Like years before the process of integrating the higher notes to the middle and lower register is finally starting to occur in a smoother fashion.

Someone could write a whole book on this register integration process as well as the perseverance factor necessary in pulling off an above average range embouchure. Maybe that's why some of the biggest names in the high note doctrine had dynamic personalities, the students needed someone to continue telling them that things would eventually work out.

Of course the flaws in the oldtimer's methods may have prevented many from developing the physical methods necessary in produciing good high range, endurance etc. The fact remains though that some aspiring trumpet players could use a inspirational "lift" during the learning process. We get discouraged when things work out slower than expected.

Glad Jeff's book is so universally applicable.

[ This Message was edited by: leesbrass on 2003-12-23 14:17 ]
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