A day of rest

Rest, or cut back on your practice, once a week to feel refreshed

One of the best brass musicians I ever met was a trombone student at Indiana University back in the late 1980s. Francisco Rosario Vega, one of many talented musicians from the island of Puerto Rico, was technically flawless, had a great tone and he had an enormous amount of stamina. One day I asked him what was his secret about his stamina. He told me that he rested every Sunday. That rest gave him back the resiliency that he needed. Francisco went on to become the principal trombone of the Royal Seville Orchestra in Spain.

Although I have tried resting one day a week, it has not been great for me, at least so far. I have found that my fine motor skills suffer too much. What has worked better for me is to play only a very little amount, with the result that I am refreshed without feeling too regressed the next day. 

What can make this rest, or near rest, day even better is to try an inspiration quest. This could be as easy as listening to music that is new to you. Or you could go on a hike. There are so many possibilities. 

The main thing to realize is that we can’t keep demanding of our embouchure heroic efforts every consecutive day. We have to embrace a cycle of stress and recovery. Stress is practice and performing. Recovery is rest. Without rest, our muscles cannot do well, nor can our brain be inspired.

Relaxed, rested muscles and an inspired mind can definitely help us to be happier trumpeters.  

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How can recording yourself be soothing and confidence-boosting?

Gary Larson’s take on the confident trumpeter in an audition.

Here’s the situation: you are getting ready for an audition. Your teacher told you to listen to a recording to really understand how the music goes. Like thousands of other musicians, you put your favorite recording on your playlist. Who will it be? Which soloist or principal trumpet do you want to emulate? This is a good question. And a question that is somewhat a matter of taste. This recording will help you get to where you need to go. But only so far.

After you have learned your audition piece, you should be recording yourself. You should be trying to play the definitive recording of this piece for your own playlist. Why?

Because the effort will make you better, as I talked about in an earlier post. But one additional thing will happen when you play this recording back for yourself. You will hear yourself–YOU–rocking that piece! You will start to believe in yourself. You will remember what you are capable of. 

And when you are at that audition, trying to chill out in the waiting room, play your recordings for yourself. You’ll make yourself a believer–IN YOURSELF. 

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The new trumpet music business

Samuel Johnson quote on Union Station in Washington, D.C.

I’ve posted about the dismal trumpet job scene before. Unemployment is incredible among trumpeters. And yet….

Today, more than at any time in history, we can learn from so many books, videos of performances, lessons and masterclasses online. We can hear an unbelievable amount of recordings on Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon Music, and we can stream videos from all over the world on YouTube. 

We can self-record ourselves more easily than ever before. We can reach an audience directly in ways that we have only begun to imagine. We can crowd-fund! We are free to express ourselves more authentically than ever.

With these new horizons come new requirements for us to be successful. We cannot wait for a job to plop down in our laps. We cannot wait for a recording contract to give us our career. 

In my hometown of Washington, D.C., at Union Station, there is a quote carved on the front of the building. Attributed to Samuel Johnson, who was, in turn, borrowing from a Spanish proverb, the words are powerful directives to this new trumpet business world we are in:

He that would bring home the wealth of the Indies must carry the wealth of the Indies with him. So it is in travelling. A man must carry knowledge with him if he would bring home knowledge.

For trumpet players, I will paraphrase:

She, that would bring home the happiness of winning a position or a recording contract, must bring that happiness within her own heart. So it is with learning to play the trumpet. A woman must learn to play through self-evaluation and self-knowledge if she would learn best from a teacher.


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Why should you record–a top ten list

Me, doing a recording session last June (2017).

Yesterday, I promoted the concept of recording during your practice sessions. I gave some reasons. Today, I’m going to give you my

Top Ten Reasons to record yourself when you practice:

  1. It will force you to organize your practice sessions, so that you can have recordable parts (as opposed to random things that you are throwing together)
  2. You can listen to yourself objectively, so that you can improve
  3. You will imitate the feeling of performing for an audience
  4. It will force you to practice a lot more repetitions in order to get a good take
  5. It will force you to balance the impulse of risky phrasing with the necessities of getting right notes
  6. It will help you become less self-conscious, more confident
  7. It will force you to rest more frequently in your practice session (in order to hear each take, and in order to sound fresh for the takes)
  8. If you video yourself, it will give you feedback on your body language (and facial expressions)
  9. It will help you take your playing to the next level
  10. It will give you material to post online to enthuse your fans

Record yourself. You’ll begin to really like your playing.

Trust me on this.

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Recording for confidence

For my whole life, I have avoided recording myself. The first time I heard a recording of my voice, I was dismayed. Why didn’t it sound like the voices I was used to hearing on TV or the radio?

Likewise, throughout my trumpet-playing life, I have not really enjoyed listening to recordings of me playing the trumpet. Mistakes on these recordings pop out like a badge of shame, and I just didn’t want to face up to my mistakes. Of course, when I was young, personal recording devices were not that great. Nowadays, however, even though smart phones are definitely not studio quality, it is remarkable what they can capture. They can be a great practice tool.

Even as I write this post, I know I need to get more accustomed to recording myself. My Third Commandment is “Do the trumpet/musical thing that needs to be done as soon as possible”

And since there’s no time like the present, here’s a practice recording today of me working on the Gottfried Reiche “Abblasen” fanfare that was painted on his portrait by  Elias Gottlob Haussmann in 1727. 


I’m trying to get this fanfare to sound both exciting and smooth, so as I progress over the next little while, I hope to post a recording that captures that vibe.

Here are some benefits to recording yourself during your practice:

  1. It’s an honest evaluation of what you sound like. You can be your own teacher. Maybe your best teacher.
  2. It’s almost like performing, so you get used to playing under that kind of mentality.
  3. If you stop to listen to the recording each time, then you add rest to your practice, and this enables your practice go longer and lets you sound fresh much longer. In addition, lots of breaks in a practice session can help you learn the material better
  4. If you’re using video, then you can see yourself and your facial expressions and body language, which may give you an idea of the emotions you’re feeling as you play. This may help you to unpack some emotions in a more mindful way. It may help you to learn to be less distracted.
  5. It will help you become less self-conscious, and, therefore, more confident. Happier.

The negatives of recording your practice :

  1. It makes you feel vulnerable.
  2. It takes time.
  3. It’s a pain.

Since this is supposed to relate to happiness, and since I think getting to be a better, more confident trumpeter by recording yourself is going in the right direction, I’ll leave you with this quote from Gretchen Rubin: 

Happiness Doesn’t Always Make Us Feel Happy.



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