Brassatomic habits: forget perfection

I have a few unbreakable Clarke study habits. For one, I practice the Clarke studies everyday of the week. Seven studies for seven days of the week (I don’t really do the eighth). Monday, I play the first study. Tuesday, the second, and so on. Today, Sunday, I play the seventh study. Although this is purely an arbitrary way of incorporating the Clarkes into my practice and perhaps not even the most optimal way, I have a groove that works for me and is very easy to remember. It is nearly unbreakable (yes, there are times that I miss a day, but never two in a row). Unbreakable habits are like a superpower to a trumpeter.

Even more arbitrary is my second habit having to do with Clarke. I have an arbitrary articulation rotation. This series is: “k-tongue,” single tongue, triple tongue, double tongue and slur, in rotation. Starting from low F# (most Clarkes start with low F#), I always begin the rotation. For exercises beginning on low G, I do single tongue. I play triple tongue for low A-flat, double tongue for low A and finally I slur for low B-flat. This five-part series is repeated as I progress through the Clarke study. This is a flawed rotation, because my different articulations have different speeds, k-tonguing being the slowest and double tongue being the fastest (or, rather, slurring is potentially the fastest). Because of this, all the low F-sharp, B, mid-range E and A exercises, which are k-tongued in my scheme, are slower than the rest. If I were to “perfect” my articulation rotation, I would change the rotation every week, so that all keys would get practice at a variety of tempos.

But that would require extra mental effort to ensure the change happens every week, and extra effort does has a way of eroding practice habits. This is like “kryptonite” to Superman. My articulation rotation is good (and unbreakable as a habit), but it is not perfect. It gets the job done.

The incredibly prolific 18th-c. French writer, Voltaire

Voltaire said, “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien” or, in English, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

We need great habits to keep us improving over the long haul of our trumpet career. Keep them simple, memorable. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect.




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