Periodicity: why stress and recovery are like a sailboat

Diagram of a sailboat tacking

“Serious” trumpeters. I’m speaking mainly to you, because you are the ones who are stressing your embouchures to their limit, too often. I want to encourage you to get on the periodicity train (and get off the stress train). Think of your “periodicity” that I have been writing about over the past few days NOT like this: stress = progress and recovery = regression.

Instead, think of periodicity as being more like a sailboat that must sail into the wind. How does a sailboat do this? By tacking. Think of the headwind as the general resistance to growth as a trumpeter–the tendency to stay at the same level of ability (I wrote about this in a blog about homeostasis). If you want to get better, you have to move your boat upwind. But with a sailboat, you cannot simply sail upwind. You have to change your angle back and forth, left and right, until you have accomplished your goal. Think of stress as a tack to the left and recovery as a tack to the right (or “port” and “starboard,” if you prefer the nautical terms!). With this in mind, now you can see that stress is not progress. It is simply one of the two directions that you must tack. Recovery is equally important. It is the tack in the other direction. In this way, you can (and should) feel as proud of your recoveries as you do of your practice sessions.


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