When focusing on the inner workings of the trumpet, technique, air, tongue, rhythm, sound, etc..the one thing I don't find discussed enough is instinct response.
Huh?? You may say...Well, I teach about this a lot! This, to a certain extent, can apply to all musical instruments, but for the trumpet it is a vital discussion. While talking recently with my trumpet mentor, Charlie Schlueter, he said something to me that I say all the time to my students, "there's nothing natural about playing the trumpet". I had to laugh because he was reminding me of all the gems of wisdom that came out of my 3 years of studying with him.
Instincts serve us well for the most part in everyday life. Unfortunately, certain instincts and body function instincts are the opposite of what a trumpet player needs to be able to count on to play well.
This will be an ongoing discussion here. So, I will begin with some basics.
The most basic instinct we have is the fear/flight mechanism. That adrenaline rush that happens when we are at risk, either physically/verbally. This same mechanism reacts similarly when we perform. Much has been written about this issue so I won't focus too much here. This instinct can reek havoc on our abilities to breath and not be tight.
Other instinctual impulses connected to our senses are a problem with trumpet playing.
The one I will discuss first is sight. Without knowing it we see a high note and instinctually blow up, and even worse assume because it's "difficult" to play high we must play with force to "get the note out". Why in the world would we assume there is a correlation with where a note is on the page and which direction we should blow? To the subconscious this makes perfect sense, but boy is it wrong. This is where guru's like Jimmy Stamp say, blow down for high notes and up for low notes or "when your up your down and when your down your up. Why is this powerful. Well....it makes the analysis of tongue position much easier. But, only if that conception works for you. Meaning, when you
blow up does your tongue drop and vis a versa does your (back 2/3rds) tongue elevate? For others, analyzing the specifics of what the tongue does works best. Most important here is that none of this is natural, thus our subconscious cues have to be retrained. Is your sense of sight sending you strong assumptions? If so, what do you do to re-train correct trumpet behavior! I give my students specific drills just for this problem.
The second one I will discuss is air flow related to our subconscious impulse to regulate speeds of air with sight again. I consider my air flow in all registers and all volumes to be fast! How much is released is a matter of tongue placement and control. This is not natural, so it must be a calculated retraining of our impulse to change air speeds based on what we see or assume. Keeping the air speed fast at all times makes playing so much easier and dependable. Especially, when there are dynamic changes and tempo changes. Slowing your air down in andante and slower tempos is a big problem. The same goes for soft dynamics and longer valued notes.
This should peak some interest to discuss more.....
In future posts I will discuss more in depth air and tongue control as well as note grouping.
Parts II, III, and IV on this topic can be found by tapping on the number.