I have been thinking about posting my own (not so?) humble opinion about one of the timeless debates about trumpet playing that has seemed to be a common thread here lately. One TPINer has recently scoffed at another for over analyzing and worrying too much about chops. This is a very common idea that not worryinng about the chops and just focusing on things such as air, concept of sound, and music will solve most (all?) problems. I have studied with many teachers who have told me the same thing, including Don "Jake" Jacoby and many other great players. ("Just forget about your chops and let them VIBRATE!!!") As everyone can easily see Jake, Claude, and countless other great teachers have shaped and molded some of the greatest players that are around today.
One thing that I witnessed about Jake is that if a young, inexperienced phenomenal player came to him to study, Jake would mold him into a mature, solid phenomenal player. Good lead players would study with him and become AWESOME lead players. Also, as we have been told, it is possible for a 16 year old to begin working on the Claude Gordon SA and emerge an incredible player, but I will bet that this 16 year old was not your average high school player to begin with. I am sure we could insert many more names and come up with other great success stories and to all this, I say WOW!!!!!
So you may ask, what's your point? Well, here it is: I really
believe that those who don't have any major problems with their chops can
practice more, focus on air and concept of sound and become GREAT players.
BUT ... what about the rest of us? Those of us who: (at least me
1. Could hardly play a high C the first lesson with Jake (or the first time we tried to play the CG SA)
2. Practice everything anyone tells us to for 2-3 or more hours a day religiously for years and work up to a seemingly all new level of playing, and then a month later of the exact same routine begin to wonder if we have really gotten any better since High School.
3. Can't have even the slightest break in practicing without DISASTROUS results, but even steady practice doesn't guarantee much either.
4. Seem to play well in some situations and terribly in others with no real pattern that can be learned from.
I could go on and on. You see, if you don't have these problems, you don't have much to worry about. I have taken lessons with so many teachers that were such good players at a young age, that it is obvious they had NO IDEA what I (and others like me) go through!!!! Many times I have wondered what the problem was. Why did I have to work so hard for such a low level of results? I always have improved under these great teachers, but never beyond what I would consider a decent "recreational" player ability and had to make up for this lack of ability with lots of blood (no joking here), sweat, and tears. (Sorry, it just fit so well.)
The real problem is that through all this extra effort (plus being a good reader, decent jazzer, and handling my business well), I have been able to cut enough gigs to get by (cruise ships, freelancing, private teaching, and now an Army Band-but that's another story) and make a living, but now that I am married and have a couple of kids, I need things to get easier or I will have to find another way to make a living. I am not wanting much, either.
1. A good, consistent sound, free of excess air and fuzz.
2. A solid F above high C, anytime of the day or night.
3. Good enough technique to play the whole Arban book cleanly.
All this with only having to spend 2 solid hours of practice a day. That is all I want. I am sure this may sound very strange to some of you. Some of you probably had all this right out of high school. For those of us who were not able to develop these things by "traditional" means, we need a little more.
Here is where Clint "Pops" McLaughlin and his "unorthodox" ways of analyzing players' embouchures and giving them advice has helped me and countless others. You see, people don't come to him for help if they can already play lead. In fact, if you read his website, many people that he has helped are those who quit playing earlier in life and are now wanting to come back to playing trumpet, but do it right this time. After reading his site (which btw is full of totally FREE info from his books, not the typical "the answer can be yours for only $XX.XX") I finally realized why I have been beating my head against the wall for so many years! It is not that I am stupid, or lacking in some way, I JUST WAS NEVER SHOWN THE PROPER WAY TO PLAY!!!!!!!!
Granted, some take to playing the trumpet easily from the very beginning regardless of their first teacher, but most do not. If your first teacher did not know how to properly play the trumpet, or did not know how to show you the proper way, or did not take the time to show you, how could you know?
This is the basis for Clint's teaching. He is taking the time (and I do mean LOTS of time) to help those of us who didn't "get it" the first time around and have been frustrated by teachers who didn't know what to tell us. So, as I have said, if you are satisfied with your current level of playing, then totally disregard everything Clint has to say and never visit his website, because it may not help you at all. BUT.... If you can never seem to play at the level you think you ought to and you can't find any REAL help (other than what everyone has been saying since your private lesson teacher in college), then I recommend checking out Clint's website. But be prepared ... he will say a lot of things that would make your college professor roll in his grave.
Well, there it is. Remember, if the shoe doesn't fit, just hand it to the next guy.
- -Brian Reilly