I am not trying to make excuses for trumpet players when I say the trumpet is a very unique instrument with characteristics not found in other instruments. You might find the following statements supportive of these observations.
- Brass players are the only instrumentalists expected to produce the music with their lips.
- Reed players buy new reeds.
- String players replace strings, percussionists, etc.
- Trumpet players most often are playing the melody which everyone recognizes.
- Tubas play on beats one and three and horns play on beats two and four.
- Trombone players are usually lost, asleep or looking for something to eat.
- Many times trumpet parts are very high and difficult to play.
- Who ever heard of a screech French horn player?
- Tuba players never break a sweat for their notes just fall out of their instrument.
- Trumpet players are expected to play at extreme dynamic levels.
- What other instrument can be credited for bringing down the walls of a city?
- For a string player to play loud it requires a stack of Marshal amplifiers.
I am not making excuses, but there are many reasons for the apparent bravado that accompanies most trumpet players.
Overcoming nervousness while performing
Please note that this is the first issue I will discuss on this post for it is one of the most difficult problems to control. Some people have ice in their veins and do not go through the dry mouth, shaking knees, and uncontrollable hand shaking that many of us experience when performing. Nervousness can be an asset but when you are unable to function under pressure while performing in public, little can be done at that moment. I said little for I will make some suggestions later* in this posting which may be helpful to you while performing on stage.
Fear and nervousness most often occur when a person is not sure of the outcome of his activity. We get nervous when we wait in line to ride a roller coaster. The nervousness is relieved when we return to the platform and exit the ride. We get nervous when we see a traffic officer following our car down the street. We get nervous when we have our income tax figured or when we are having our annual physical exam. In all of these cases the nervousness can be traced to the unknown outcome to each situation.
Stop and think about that for a moment…………..
If nervousness can be traced to the fear of the unknown, then “why do we get nervous when we perform”? The answer is simple, “we are not sure that we will perform up to our own expectation”. If that statement is true, the next question should be “why do I doubt my ability to play well?” The answer to that question is also simple, “You are not sure you can perform well”. And now the last question “WHY HAVE YOU NOT LEARNED THIS MATERIAL”?
The great cornet soloist Herbert L. Clarke has been quoted as saying, “I would never perform a solo in public until I had played it perfectly 100 times in a row”. That my friend is why many people know the name Herbert L. Clarke and only a few recognize your name or mine.
Suggestion #1. I would never perform a solo in public until I had played it perfectly 100 times in a row”. This statement speaks for itself.
Suggestion #2. “Playing for yourself is not the same as performing for an audience”
Before you perform your solo on stage (for real), invite a friend to listen to you in a friendly environment such as your living room. A parent, friend or a neighbor would be happy to hear you and the added pressure will increase your confidence as well as point out areas in you solo that need more work.
Don’t waste your time practicing what you already know
I have observed students ripping scales left and right, blazing away at arpeggios which would impress the most accomplished violinist and still leave no time for the sensitive and equally difficult melodic passages. It’s great to show off but many times the soft, musical sections require greater control and musicianship.
Suggestion #1. “Mark your parts”
To help you focus on what you can play and can’t, I would suggest that you record your material (solo) and on the playback, circle every passage you had problems with no matter how slight. After isolating these passages, copy them to another sheet of paper. Rewrite the passage up one step as well as one step lower. The reason for this is to practice the passage without letting it get stale. If the passage is in the key of Bb, then practice in that key as well as the key of C and Ab.
Suggestion #2. “Don’t miss the high note”
If you are playing a solo that ends on high C, rewrite that passage up one step so that you will be practicing the original as well as the transposed version. Eventually the high C will seem easy for you.
It is more difficult performing when you are tired
Make sure you are rested the evening before an important performance. To perform well you must have as much energy and concentration as you can
Suggestion #1. “Hit the shower”
Several years ago I was performing with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra and was having a difficult time concentrating on the second of two shows each day. I asked one of the members if he had the same problem and he told me how he was able to solve it. He said that he takes a shower before every show. Two shows a day, two showers. Three shows a day, three showers. I tried it and it works. Before every performance, I take a shower. Try it, it works.
Suggestion #2. “In through the nose, out through the mouth”
One of the best techniques to calm your nerves is the Yoga calming exercise. Take a deep breaththrough your nose, hold it for five seconds and slowing let it out. Again, take a full breath through your nose, hold it and slowly release. Two times should be enough, three or four times you won’t care and when they pick you up off the floor, please do not mention my name.
The last and by far the most important rule when performing
*NEVER, EVER WONDER WHAT YOUR AUDIENCE IS THINKING ABOUT YOUR PERFORMANCE
To focus your attention away from your solo to what they think is the kiss of death! Have I stressed this enough? I don’t think so. Keep the following suggestions in mind as you perform.
- No one has spent as much time on this piece as I.
- No one knows this material as well as I.
- I have performed this solo perfectly 100 times in a row.
- The chances of me missing anything today are remote.
- Listen now as I show you all how this solo is to be performed.
After you have released your last note to thunderous applause, news cameras and people screaming for your autograph, and only after you have released your last note, flash your most shy smile and accept your just rewards with modesty and humility.