At this point of narrative I want to state that the Walter B. Rogers mentioned in the preceding chapter as a boy-wonder on the cornet, in later years became one of the most celebrated cornetists in the country, with the most remarkable technic of any cornet player ever heard. As we grew up into manhood our two lives became linked together, both of us later on occupying professional positions in America's great Metropolis, New York City, Rogers became cornet soloist in Cappa's Seventh Regiment Band, and I served in a like solo capacity with Gilmore's famous Twenty-second Regiment Band. About ten years afterwards Rogers was my side-partner in John Philip Sousa's Band, at the time when it made its first European tour, playing at the big World's Fair in Paris, France, and throughout all Europe.
To my knowledge, there never has been any great cornet soloist who has not changed his method of playing several times before becoming successful. In other words, each has commenced playing the wrong way at first and then worked out his own salvation by finding the easiest way of playing for himself - adopting it, working with it and, having proved it, sticking to his own idea no matter as to how other players might advise him. When a cornetist can do his work musically and easily and prove results, he certinly must be on the right track, regardless of what the "Book" says. Remember, that every cornet method published is simply an explanation of the way in which its author himself played.
Quite a few fine authors contradict each other regarding the proper way of playing the cornet, i.e., position of the mouthpiece on the lips, holding the instrument, and tonguing correctly. In consequence of these various contradictions, with many struggling players of wind instruments who live in remote parts of the country and cannot have the advantage of personal instructions, the question arises in their minds: "What is the proper position of the lips when placed on the mouthpiece!"
Many beginners, even after purchasing an instrument and instruction book, when working on the theory of the author and finding they are not making the advancement expected, become so discouraged that after playing a year or so they give it all up. Some players have a protruding upper jaw, others an undershot lower jaw; some have thick lips, others thin lips, and yet the "Book" gives only one explanation of how to play. Now I do not mean to find fault with different methods, as all of them are good in many ways. I simply wish to point out that each individual player must reason a little with himself, and not take the text too literally. Remember, we are not all born alike and fashioned from the some mold!
Well, here was I who had been playing the cornet a few years under hard and assiduous practicing, only to reach a point where I could not seem to improve, no matter how long and hard I worked each day! I had the ambition and plenty of time for practice, as well as the spirit to play many hours more, but one hour with swollen lips was enough. My poor lips would become so tired that I could hardly produce a tone, and was compelled to quit because they were "all in." However, watching someone else play with perfect ease all the time without any noticeable strain or facial contortions, hardly ever taking a rest, yet doing the most wonderful stunts as easily as playing marbles, started me thinking. Quite naturally I did a lot of that when I reflected on the way I was torturing myself, also a great deal of experimenting in seeking some way whereby to better conditions, with the result as stated in the chapter before this.
After succeeding in my efforts by changing my embouchure, I began practicing all the elementary studies in the first part of the "Book" and all the different scales both chromatic and diatonic. I was careful always to play softly, but surely, so as not to injure the sensitive nerves of my lips, and gained the satisfaction of noticing an improvement each week. My earnest efforts were finally rewarded by being able to last longer, produce a smoother tone, and reach the higher notes without any strain. This ecouraged me greatly.
I always played before the mirror, which of course reflected every movement, in order to note if my playing caused any undue facial contortions. I noticed that sometimes when I tried to hold out a high note my face would become a little red, although there was no visible sign of strain. I did not attempt to hold these high notes very often at first, however, fully realizing that my muscular "foundation" had not become quite firm enough in the short time since I had made the change, and I did not want any set-back to further discourage me. You see I was growing older, getting more sense, and using thought.