Jeanne G. Pocius:

Inner Teachers

Sometimes all it takes for a child (or the child inside any of us) to succeed is for someone else to encourage them...

For many years I've kept a big sign high up on the wall of my teaching studio with a simple, two-word message:  I CAN!

I don't allow my students to say I can't.... It's okay for them to acknowledge that they haven't reached their goal yet, it's okay for them to know that they still have a ways to go, but it's not okay, imo, for them to practice self-defeating behaviour....

Think of the difference!  Even by saying I can't do it yet, you are allowing negativity to creep in...It's far better to say I'mprogressing or even Every day, in every way, I'm getting a little bit better and better (thanks to Mr. Norman Vincent
Peale)....

Another concept that is helpful is to realize that your grasp never exceeds your reach... For example, if you want to grasp a
pencil on the other side of your desk, but only reach a quarter of the way across the desk, you won't succeed.  But if you reach beyond the end of the desk, grasping the pencil (which is merely on the other side) becomes an accomplished fact!

The same is true for trumpeters....Each of us must be our own, inner teacher in order to succeed (however you might define the term succeed)... Your trumpet teacher/band director/colleagues at best are with you for scant hours every week, so their influence on you, though it may SEEM great, pales in comparison to the way you interact with your inner self on a daily basis....

How many times have you criticized your self in a recent practice session?...Oh, I'm not talking about correcting yourself--that's very important if you're going to improve... But have you treated yourself with the same sense of kindness and encouragement as you would, say an 8 year old beginner?

I know you're not 8 years old, nor are you likely to be a beginner, but you still have the same sensitivity, deep within yourself, as you did when you were a youngster, or you wouldn't be very effective as a musical artist, would you?

A few thoughts for you to consider adding to your self-teaching repertoire:

1.  Always try three times (no matter what the task)... If you have succeeded by your third try, then take a break or move on to something else for the time being... You'll often succeed at your next session (or the following one), but if you keep pushing after three tries you may be tensing up and/or causing yourself injury... So try three times, then give it a rest.

2. Record your practice sessions, and listen to them as if they were being played by a student (this isn't always necessary, but can give you some real insights if done, say, once a month or so)... Write down your observations and look at them in a day or two--- BUT make sure that your comments are phrased positively (as in First attack in the third movement needs to be clearer NOT first attack in the third movement STUNK!), and that you actively think about the best way to correct any mistakes (ie: Practice air attacks, then marcato, set the tongue before releasing air...be as specific as you can)

3. Take some time every day for visualization:  SEE yourself succeeding at your goals (See yourself performing confidently in front of an audience, See yourself confidently playing that technical passage in your solo, Hear your clear tone and clean attacks)

4. Listen to (and imitate) great artists, both on the trumpet and on other instruments (including voice).... Analyze what makes their performances seem so effortless, so musical.... How do they phrase?  How do they connect their phrases?  How do they release notes? Practice imitating those phrases, releases, etc...

5. Take a few minutes to do some deep breathing before you play... Breathe in deeply, thinking of the word HOME (let your mouth form the word as you inhale), Breathe out slowly, through gently closed lips (but not buzzing), and gradually increase the air speed by using your torso muscles....repeat this several times before beginning your regular warmup....

There are other concepts that are equally helpful, but I urge you to be kind to yourself while practicing (which doesn't mean you can't also be tough! <G> ;^)