A NEW IDEA IS BORN

Stopping short in my tracks to think gave me an entirely new idea of correct cornet playing. I started to play over those same exercises, and in counting my mistakes I found so many that I turned to the first exercises in the book. After playing the first one, I found, much to my chagrin, that I had made many mistakes even in this simple exercise.

Then I turned to the study I had been playing for my faultfinding friend. It was No. 1 of Arban's Characteristic Studies, in the back part of this Method, the playing of which requires an elastic lip and much endurance, the first twelve measures must be played in two breaths. I worked an hour on this particular study, and found I had made a hundred mistakes each time I played it. When my lips gave out, I realized this study was far too difficult to use as a means of conquering myself, and learning when and how to breathe. It seemed that the more I played it, the more mistakes I made. Then I lost my temper. But, instead of laying the blame on myself as I should have done, I vented my injured feelings on my defenseless cornet and wanted to smash it on the floor, How foolish we are to blame our deficiencies on something else, rather than shoulder them ourselves! And the world is full of individuals who act over and over again the little drama just recounted, and who never really succeed at anything.

I sat still a few moments after my anger had passed away, leaving me rather ashamed and sorry, and said to myself: "Well, if I want to be a great cornet player, I must be perfecting the little things first, otherwise I can only reach a certain limit and stay there."

With a renewed joy in my work, and a head full of good resolutions, I turned to the front of Arban's Method and commenced playing the eleventh exercise, setting the metronome at 120 common time to see if I could play it through in one breath. I found it difficult at first, tried again, gained another measure, and so on, until I won out. In doing this, however I had made many mistakes. After I had learned how to take a full breath to start and conserve my wind at the beginning, I played more easily, and soon acquired the habit of filling my chest completely with wind before starting an exercise. It was fully six weeks before I could play the eleventh exercise perfectly in one breath, and with ease of performance. Finally, after I had played it ten times in ten breaths, I tried to play it twice in one breath, and in a few weeks managed to accomplish my aim. This practice was the foundation of my endurance, which has always been one of the means of my playing the cornet easily. With the surmounting of obstacles, my love for the instrument grew, and I realized, as never before, that in order to become a successful player, such a regard for one's instrument is quite necessary.

Every cornet player in the world, I believe, has an equal chance to become great if each one strives to conquer himself, to overcome bad habits, and to become perfect in his practice.

From Herbert L. Clarke How I became a cornetist