Who’s in charge?

How many warmup, routine, general method books do you own? If you have played trumpet for a while, you probably own a lot. Many are focused on a special method, and many of these books ask you to follow them without deviation.

But even if your trumpet book doesn’t ask for blind faith, we often give it anyway. We practice these books everyday for months at a time. It’s natural that we develop a sense that these books are “canon” and are inviolable.

I would like you consider a different approach. Use your books and methods, but try to ask yourself WHY they have the exercises that are in them. As you do this, you will begin to understand more basic principals of musical growth. You will begin to feel free to adapt exercises to your own needs and preferences. I recommend this approach for older players or for those that have teachers who can help them with this process. For younger players, I recommend remaining a little more faithful to what is asked of you in your books, simply because it takes some time to develop this sense of independence.

A parallel could be made with other disciplines. Take cooking for example. When you are learning to cook, you should follow the recipes exactly as written, so that you don’t ruin any of your dinner plans! However, after years of cooking, you begin to understand the underlying principles of cooking. This allows for flexibility in your ingredients and approach. At times, it even helps overcome some recipes’ faults! (e.g., don’t put your garlic in too early, like some recipes tell you, because garlic will burn quickly).

At any level, always think of the principles and purposes of your practice material. The more you understand these guiding forces, the more you can be in charge. You can become a “chef” of your musical progress.


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