Artless Art, part III

Make sure you have read Artless Art, parts I and II before continuing.

After reading my previous posts you may be thinking to yourself, "that all sounds great, but how do I actually train my mind to not care?" And the answer (as if it could be anything else) is practice. Yes, you already practice, but what are you training yourself to do with the way that you practice now? Practice that leads us away from our goal is useless. It is difficult for the mind to retrain itself, so we must use the body to train the mind.

I find that the most effective way to achieve this transformation is to treat trumpet playing as a ritual, and this must be done every single time the horn comes up to the lips. During this ritual it is important to not be concerned with playing trumpet, and simply focus on the ritual. We start before the horn comes up (you can actually do this part now). Most people have an unbelievable amount of tension built up in the facial muscles, and we will release that tension.

Start with your lips touching. Now, feel the muscles around your cheek bone just let go, as though they are dropping to the floor, and gradually transfer this feeling down to the bottom of your cheeks. Give it time, and let all of the tension leave. Release the tension in the corners of your lips, and feel that move towards the center of your lips (which are still together). Let the area above the lips let go and drop your lips to the ground.

In this relaxed state, bring the trumpet to the lips without changing the lips. Once the trumpet is on the lips go through the process again. You want to be comfortable with the trumpet just sitting on your lips with no thought of playing. It should feel natural, and you should not be antsy to play. Now that you have the trumpet comfortably on your relaxed lips you start the countoff, for we always breathe in rhythm (preferably with a metronome). 1...2...3...inhale (a huge, deep inhale) which you do not stop, but which is interrupted by the sound that you hear vividly in your head. The external results (the way you sound) may not be pleasant for a while, but it doesn't matter. Just keep practicing and listening harder to get a more detailed sound model in your head.

It is extremely important to not cheat yourself by letting a little tension stay because you feel more secure with it. It may help to do this a few times without going past the point of the inhale, so that you get used to not thinking about playing as you go through the ritual.

Besides this ritual, I find Clarke studies and songs (like those in The Art of Phrasing section of the Arban) to be great for moving past just starting a note to playing whole phrases. Keep your focus on the sound that you have vividly in your head and on keeping your air moving through the trumpet.


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