I find that I get much more done in the practice room when I record myself, because it allows me to “become my own teacher” and critically analyze my playing from an audience member’s perspective. I was afraid to do it for so long because I was so afraid to know what I really sounded like, but once I swallowed my pride and regularly started doing it, I got much more done in the practice room and became really satisfied with the progress I was making.
To demonstrate the importance of this, I like to use the analogy of a chef. If you want to learn to cook really well, you should probably taste the food you cook once in a while. Otherwise, how will you know whether it’s too spicy, or salty, or bland? The same goes with playing the trumpet. Unless you get a “taste” of your playing through hearing yourself played back on a recorder in the practice room, it will be hard for you to make real progress because you’ll never realize what you really sound like.
Sometimes, a recording also reveals that we sound better than we originally thought. After performing a recital once, I remember thinking immediately after that I sounded ok, and that I had done a mediocre job. After listening carefully to the recording, though, I was amazed at how good I sounded, and this experience was a huge confidence booster for me as I moved forward with my trumpet studies and career. This can be a definite bonus that comes with recording yourself!
One temptation we all suffer from as trumpet players is to want to be able to work out fast technical passages in only one short practice session at the indicated tempo. This is typically not a reliable solution. The best way to really get a challenging passage under our fingers is slow practice with a metronome. Turn on your metronome and find a tempo where you are 100% certain you can play the passage comfortably and without mistakes. If you can perform the passage smoothly, at the right dynamic, and with good subdivision and rhythm, then it is ok to turn up the metronome, but no more than two notches at a time (e.g., 80 to 84 or 88). Keep this process going until you reach the desired tempo, and when you finally reach the desired tempo, you’ll be happy you put this extra time into learning that difficult passage and really feel like you have ownership over what the composer wrote.
If you want to make things even more fun, try switching the rhythm of the passage. For instance, if the passage is a sixteenth note run, turn it into a dotted sixteenth-thirty-second note pattern, and any other rhythmic combination you can think of. Then, you’ll really feel like you have it under your fingers!
This is a technique I employ often with my students and in my own practice, and the results are always positive. Good luck working out all the technical aspects of the music you’re working on!
I was reminded this week of what deep breathing can do for your trumpet sound. I like to use the analogy with student of a brand new jug of milk. When that jug is completely full, all you have to do is squeeze the sides and the milk will begin bubbling out with not a lot of effort on your part. It’s the same with our lungs when we play the trumpet. If our lungs are filled up all the way, you will feel like you barely have to work to fill up the trumpet with air, giving you the sensation of using less air and effort. This can really help with endurance, playing loudly, high range, and a host of issues that trumpeters have to face every day. If you’re not already, start incorporating some breathing exercises into your daily practice routine. I personally like some of the ones that James Stamp created.
Happy practicing and remember, deep breathing can really help!
Hello everyone! I am excited to begin this blog which I hope will be a valuable tool for trumpet teachers and players worldwide. It will be a forum dedicated what I have learned after many years of practicing and performing. Stay tuned for my first post, which will be coming shortly!