The Quotable Miles

I once went to a Miles Davis concert when I was 17, where I met all of the musicians, except him. I was too intimidated by him. But I love his playing, and I love the creative drive that he somehow challenged us all to strive for. Like my other quote posts, this one has three quotes. One general, one music-specific and one trumpet-specific. This time they’re all by Miles.

It’s like, how did Columbus discover America when the Indians were already here? What kind of shit is that, but white people’s shit?
― Miles Davis, Miles: The Autobiography

Don’t play what’s there; play what’s not there.
― Miles Davis

Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent.
― Miles Davis

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Practice big for piccolo: the 2-for-1 strategy

In 1991, I was a member of the National Repertory Orchestra. My roommate was a dear friend––the late Ryan Anthony, of Canadian Brass and Dallas Symphony Orchestra fame. He was perhaps 22 at the time, and was very youthful in his whole outlook on life and the trumpet. He had already played Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (“BB2”) a number of times by this point in his career, so I asked him for some advice in getting ready to play this piece.

Normally, he––and most of us trumpeters––would play this on the B-flat piccolo trumpet. But, he said one thing that worked really well for him was to practice the piece in the correct octave on the normal, big B-flat trumpet, with his normal big mouthpiece. He recommended playing it with the same fingerings as the piccolo trumpet (with a lot of 1-3 combinations, for instance) and to not hold back in dynamics. After doing this, he felt a lot more secure on the piccolo! Maybe we can call this the “2-for-1” practice strategy!

I have followed his advice over the years, with at least one attempt at practicing the “BB2” on the big horn to prepare for the piccolo. I have also performed the BB2 on the baroque trumpet, but this doesn’t work so effectively for preparing such a performance. However, I imagine that if I could get a natural F instrument (such as a hand horn, or just add a lot of crooks to a normal baroque trumpet), then I could try the 2-for-1 strategy this way, too!

This Saturday, I am performing BB2 with the Fort Collins Symphony, and I thought I would share a little of this 2-for-1 practice strategy with you in this little video. I hope this might help you, too, if you need to prepare this very high piece.

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