Don’t be a Trumpet Player!

One of the surest ways to doom your trumpet career is to aspire to be a trumpet player. Only a trumpet player. If you try to be a musician, then you just might make it. And when I say, “make it,” I don’t necessarily mean “attain a career.” I mean something more like, “really enjoy yourself in a state of mastery.” Fortunately, the real money chases after those who obviously enjoy themselves in a state of mastery. The music is in your mind, and getting it out to the audience is communication. Some musicians use the trumpet as a tool to communicate, but we know them as musicians by the way that they communicate with us.

Thought is more important than physicality. All communication is done by language and diction–which are the very symbols of thought. Certainly, language and diction are more important than the way our mouth flaps open and closed while we talk. We intuitively know how to move our jaws, manipulate our lips and raise and lower our tongue to get the right sounds, so we don’t have to consciously command our mouth to move while we talk. Most of us are focused, instead, on the message. Hopefully, we are actually trying to communicate thought and emotion, which is the purpose of communication.

In the trumpet world, however, I see too many trumpeters overly concerned with equipment, which is like a speaker being overly concerned about whether their nasal cavity is too large to get a nice sound while speaking. If I were thinking about my nasal cavity, I would not remember what I was saying!

I also have observed trumpeters trying to hold an embouchure in a certain way while playing a solo. There are trumpeters focused on breathing instead of the piece they are playing. The embouchure is  critical. Breathing, also, is so important to our overall ability. But these types of fundamental elements should be habituated to the point that they are as natural as speaking our native language. They are habituated in our fundamental practice.  Even if we get the best equipment or technique we can for the job we have to do, our focus, during performance, should be on communication. On the music.

The good thing about focusing on the music, for me, is that it creates a bond between the audience and me. I feel that I am sharing a great thing with them. It is no longer about me and my chops. It is about the composers’ ideas. It is about my concept of the music. It is communication. And communication, done well, flows in both directions. Yes, the audience comes to hear me and my music. They will be ready to judge my performance. Fine. I need that, so they will pay attention. But I have done my preparation. I understand the music. I offer ideas. Rhetoric. Emotion. They will get that. They will respond and let me know that they get it. It is an awesome experience. I hope every trumpeter feels that experience.

Freddy Hubbard, American jazz trumpeter, played with unsurpassed technique and physicality, but this always seemed to take a back seat to his ability to communicate effectively with his audience.


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