Problems that I see frequently when I visit schools and
in new students-
1.Immature sound concept- solution have them match your sound, and listen to great recordings...
2. "Testing the water"- playing the first note before playing the music in practice. (An intelligent musicians mistake) - the student doesn't want to miss the note or be out of tune. The problem is that this is a crutch which destroys confiedence. - Solution- practice playing any note in the range with out any preamble... Insist on the student not stopping.
3. Poor posture- two forms-
1. lazy, with bell down, body out of line.
2. Stiff rigid, with bell exactly level to floor.
This second is another intelligent musicians mistake. (Notice that is one sits away from the back of the chair, that the tone becomes constrained. (Also that almost no professonal player sits that way.)
4. Unballanced practice- playing only that which one feels safe (good at doing). This leads to the death of improvement.- Find the weakest areas and blitzkrieg them.
Dear Sir Timothy of Hutson,
The problems I encounter are the few and I can almost guarentee that a high school player will have them before they play a single note (though I try to keep and open mind... :)
1 - No real idea of what a trumpet sounds like. The only examples in their minds are the sounds created by the people in their school bands, which are usually marginal at best. They own no recordings of trumpet players, do not go to symphony (or other! concerts), make no attempts to seek out professional players in the area, and wonder why they even need to. For me and the way i was instructed, in order to create something, you have to have more than a vague idea of what you are trying to create. A trumpet is very difficult to play incorrectly, and the most technical feats become easier when the horn is played/approached correctly. The sound is a great road map to tell if things are working right. Part of this problem is the hs band director that says that an edge on the sound = blasting and is therefore wrong.
2 - They incorrectly think that simply by practicing exercises - with the same diseased playing habits - they will fix everything. Practice does not make perfect. Correct, intelligently applied practice leads to better playing and more consistancy.
3 - They try to play without breathing in or out. Need I say more.
4 - They tongue the beginning and end of each note. Need I say more.
5 - re #3, they play with too much pressure because the air is not allowed to do the work.
6 - They have no idea of what they really sound like. They never record themselves - or if they do, blame it on the cheap taperecorder :). In order to play with intention of sound and music, you cannot be playing teacher and listening and diagnosing at the same time. The two activities are mentally mutually exclusive. An analogy is gained from the study of stuttering. It has been found that when a person can no longer hear their own voice, they no longer stutter. The subject were too wrapped up in listening to the sound of their own voice to be effective speakers. Ergo> I tend to play better with headphones on when I cannot hear myself play. I always sound better in the studio (w/headphones) than live. Maybe I should plug my ears - so my audience won't have to plug theirs :)
7 - They erronously think that they must consciously control too many of the muscles involved - chops, tongue, throat, mpc placement, whatever. The trumpet is easiest played when the automatic systems in the body learn the neural pathways to play by habit, like how we walk, talk and sing. Analysis paralysis. This is usually from studying from someone else who has been too wrapped up in the physical aspects of playing and has lost sight of the real goal of making music through the creation of beautiful sound.
I hope this is sufficient fuel for the fire.
Timothy B Hutson wrote:
> Come on y'all! There has to be more than just ONE common student
> problem out there.
Sir Timothy of Hudson,
I knew that last subject line would dig something up! ;-)
With the exception of the "no recordings of trumpet players" bit, your description is me! (I had everything Al Hirt recorded and can still sing his solos.) That's exactly how I learned to play. Perhaps that is the single largest problem and the single greatest benefit.
Many of us that grew up in smaller towns would not have been able to learn to play if it had not been for the general music teacher or band director who spent one or two semesters playing trumpet in college. But, by that mechanism, the sheer volume of instrumentalists coming out of schools is pretty large. (benefit)
The down side is obvious. Just as you said, not having a trumpet teacher/player to emulate or specialized instruction in how to pursue our goals is a major problem.
OK guy. Now that you have the problem identified, what is the solution? Perhaps it is an approach like Clyde Hunt has taken toward production of method books; the use of CDs and tapes that contain narative as well as quality playing of the excercises in the book. Does anyone know if things like this exist for the beginner and intermediate player? That is, for the players that are just learning and/or struggling to get out of the staff and to get a good sound and basic articulation.
Yea! Now we're gettin' some place with this thread. Now we're really cookin' with gas. (Oops. I'm showing my age with a comment like that. I meant to say "Groovy") :-)
Thanks Tim. This is just the kind of stuff that Tim wanted to hear.
Sir Timothy of Hutson
> I've always thought that when someone is just starting out on trumpet (5th-6th grade) that, aside from correcting the blatant errors like not breathing correctly, one of the most important things to do is let them have fun. To me, that means not trying to fix every little thing they do wrong. The things like stopping the notes with their tongye, or consistently playing their low C#'s without using the trigger... I'd worry that if a student of that age had too many details to worry about, they'd get tired of it and quit.<
This brings up an interesting point. I teach quite a bit, and many of them are first year players (typically in the 6th grade). They always sound the same. Stuffy sound, almost always stop the sound with the tongue, just in general sound rotten. I'm surprised that Band Director's don't supply recordings of the what the students instruments are supposed to sound like. All of my students that I get through the schools play at a very low level. In fact, take a school band student who started playing in band, and then take another trumpet player and start them privately (before band), and track the progress. I have found that the ones that I start privately can play circles around the other kids in just a few weeks! I attribute that to the fact with the private kids, the first sound they hear associated with the trumpet is me! Which, is much better than having listened to only the other 6th graders that don't have a clue as to what the trumpet should sound like.
> When do you folks feel is a good age to start really hitting the details?
I don't think that you can make that judgement based on age. I think it depends on the ability and desire of the student. When I was younger (actually, I like this now too!), I wanted the teacher to tell me what I was doing wrong, and praise me for what I was doing right. If you only comment on the negative things, the students begin to feel like they can't do anything right, then they start to dislike the trumpet, and then both of you are miserable. On the flip side, if you only say what they do right, they don't have an accurate assesment of what they play like. So, when they are younger, or playing trumpet just for fun and don't want to practice all day, I try to make lessons fun, but also accomplish some other concepts and correct any bad habits...
What does everyone else think?
Tulsa Band Instruments, Inc.
In a message dated 5/16/97 10:45:45 PM, Donovan wrote:
>I teach quite a bit, and many of them are first year players (typically in the 6th grade). They always sound the same. Stuffy sound, almost _always_ stop the sound with the tongue, just in general sound rotten. I'm surprised that Band Director's don't supply recordings of the what the students instruments are _supposed_ to sound like. All of my students that I get through the schools play at a very low level. >
I have lately had a unique opportunity for a semi-controlled experiment.
I have started well more than 200 young trumpet players, usually fifth
graders, in the 25+ years I've been teaching. My findings are not much
Donovan's. This last July I started my own ten year old daughter who has grown up listening to me play all the time. The difference between my other raw beginner students and her in sound quality is amazing (uh, hers is
better). While I am in a position to discipline her practicing more than the rest of my students (i.e., I *know* if she has been playing her long tones and scales!), I am *still prepared to conclude that she plays with a better sound because she starts with a much clearer conception of what a trumpet is supposed to sound like (or, at least, what her dad/teacher thinks a trumpet ought to sound like). I know she and I may be blessed with the same sound enhancing genes, etc., but I am almost sure that it is nurture, not nature.
Practical application for the rest of my teaching suggest themselves: demonstrate more myself, encourage the kids to get trumpet player recordings for birthdays, etc., pass out lists (to the parents) of local college musical performances, particularly brass, send the kids up to listen to the oldertrumpet players rehearse, etc.
I really knew it all along: Sound starts in the brain. I always used to say, perhaps not believing it entirely myself, that trumpet playing is 90% mental. Now I think that is conservative.