Worship from INSIDE-UPWARDS not OUTSIDE-INWARDS.
That means that we worship from INSIDE, with our hearts, as the MercyMe's "Hearts Sing Louder" says,"May our hearts sing louder than our voices, Jesus." We direct our hearts UPWARDS to God.
We don't worship by presenting OUTSIDE a quality product to be judged by human standards, like great art, whilst taking the pride in that great work INWARDS, feeling satisfied with the quality product and the praise that does, or should in our estimation, go with it.
(Now that I look at it again this reminds me of the Berenstain's book, Inside, Outside, Upside Down.)
“The only people who get any better are those who know that, if they don't get any better, God will still love them
.” – Steve Brown, Key Life Network
and Steve Brown Etc.
That statement sounds radical in that we think that people will just go out and do anything if God offers them true forgiveness for their sins. What will actually constrain them from going out and purposefully sinning? If someone actually loves God, is saved, then they will want what God wants. They will not do this perfectly, but it will be authentic goodness and not just try harder goodness.
How can this apply to brass playing?
Well, from what I have observed in myself, my students, and in my fellow professionals is that the most common way for brass players to slow their progress toward sounding better is to force their instrument to sound the way they want it to sound. I know that sounds like it goes against the things I was taught in lessons all my life. I come from a very sound oriented tradition of teaching. The thought process is that you chase the sound and everything else will fall in line including your equipment choices and your technical abilities.
I do not disagree with that teaching! What I’m saying is that if you force that sound to happen, you will not actually be following that great brass teaching tradition. You will be trying to improve on the wrong steam. You will be operating on will power and force. And how long do you think you can power through before you slow in progress or get hurt? Honestly, for some almost a whole career of forcing, but it does catch up.
The alternative is to just play radical freedom of sound. This will be embarrassing, so don’t try it for the first time at your next performance. Listen, don’t even try to sound good at first so that you can get the feeling of playing free. Once you are free, and probably be sounding questionable.
Now, you are ready to begin. You will notice things in your playing that are not as you would like them. Perhaps you articulations are now too pointed. Well image beautiful articulations – extremely beautiful. The body will give you what you want with enough “agains” to do its work. Your job is to think of the sounds you do want that counteract what you are hearing that you don’t like. Your job is in the power of imagination not in the control of the body.
One note on sound, brass player often think they are sounding bad when they are playing with power. Record yourself. Get with a teacher to get advice on what aspects actually need changing - you might be surprised.
So what we really need is permission to stink, so that we will play free, so that we will be able to really learn.
If you use this new found freedom to sound bad and brutalize the music, don't use my name. Ok?!
All the Best,
I have heard many times the advice, "Don't practice. Perform!" That means that when you are in your practice room you should play just like you would if you were performing, so no slouching through things. That sounds like good advice, right?
Well, in my own playing I can say that advice made me really look at my practicing differently. I had a habit of timidly testing notes and not really trying with full vigor. In that way the advice was great because you cannot learn to do something with ease if you are being timid.
On the other hand, performing means some bad things as well. Performing can mean being fake. Performing can mean doing a task well to the expense of those around us.
Our aim in life should be to build our relationships with God and with others with love, so events are not about just about performing - getting it right, but about getting together, whether they are concerts, weddings, funerals or daily work... (Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV): Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”)
Let’s not perform in the practice room, but instead relate out of love to God in that time. Then let’s bring that loving relating way of being to our “performing.” This is advice for me and you can adopt it if you feel it fits you as well.
Here are some ways this performing instead of relating has worked itself out in my life:
I have shut others out while performing.
I have felt unreasonable performance anxiety in part due to this.
I have gotten upset when others make errors.
It creates performing hang ups that manifest as physical playing problems.
It takes me away from my loving Jesus.
It makes worship impossible.
It does not give the Holy Spirit a chance to move through me.
All the best,
If you want it to be easy, do it with ease.
This is what should be an easy concept, but turns out to be quite difficult in practice. This phenomenon does not limit itself to trumpet playing. You will find that the best players make it look easy, and indeed for them it is easier than it is for someone off lesser development Can we safely say that we want to be the type of player that plays with ease?
This was not the case for me when I was in school. I wanted trumpet to feel like I was lifting a huge weight over my head and doing a primal scream. I wanted it to feel like work.
Along the way I did have what should have been enough of those experiences where you play something only half trying and it works and it is way too easy. You think...ok, let's do that again. Then I would do it again and only be able to recreate the feat with much more effort. I should have been able to understand then that ease was the way to go, but I felt I could do it. I could get there on my own steam.
I seam to be one of those people with a great deal of drive. I suppose that can seem like a good thing, but I can tell you that it can lead to forcing to get your way - on the trumpet and off. I had to face several periods of trumpet problems before learning that if it is not easy it is not right. Even after I had learned that I fell back into the same thing. Now keep in mind, I have always looked like a player that was not forcing - we are all able to hide some of those things from others.
So when it comes down to it I suggest that we try things with ease even if that means that we don't get it right because of our ease. That is what "try again" is for. It is for doing it again until we get it right, while doing it with ease.
If we force and get it right, than we still have to learn to do it with ease...problem is you probably can't get there by that approach.
Perhaps, we get this idea from the folk wisdom that says "try harder." The reason we go with that is because it sort of works. It is quicker to force than to learn to do a thing with ease. Like so many things patience and perseverance is the key to good playing and not forcing. It means that we have to accept that we are really not as skilled as we think we are, and that is humbling. It also means that we are not on our time schedule of improvement, but, frankly put, on God's.
So, I guess I'm saying if you want to be a better player - humble yourself. Think not more highly of yourself and your skills than you ought. Then go to the practice room and make it easy - right will come in time.
All the best,
Why Music? What is the motivation behind our musical pursuits of playing and listening.
Last entry I told you that there was a time when my primary reason to play music/trumpet was to try to make people think well of me. Well, I don't want to give the impression that that is all a thing of the past. I still struggle with wanting people to think well of me. Don't you?
Well look, it is indeed a shallow reason to play, but doesn't that mean that it is shallow reason to listen as well? The reverse would be when we listen to music to be impressed. Said another way it is when you listen with the attitude of a judge. You see there are popular shows that have as their backbone the judging of musicians by a small panel and by national audiences.
Look, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having an ear for music so to know when something is in tune, of sound rhythm, and of good pitch. That is necessary for music making and has the possibility of enriching the listening experience in the same way that knowing more vocabulary words opens you up to richer literature. What is happening is that we are using our ears to judge instead of being able to enjoy.
Is music still music if you hear errors?
I played taps today. If there is one song that I never want to make a mistake in it has to be taps. It is not a difficult piece for a professional to play, but everyone seams familiar with it,and you are quite exposed. The emotions in the room were high as the man was a veteran who surrendered to Christ in his last days battling cancer at the pleading of his faithful daughter, who was passionately speaking for the family.
Let me tell you what you might have heard in a judging manner. I did not like the attack I got on the 16th note. It wasn't quite as perky and clear as the other 23. Also I could argue that vibrato is not historically used in the performance of taps and perhaps that should not have been part of the performance.
If you were the one catching those details, than how would that make you feel? Now I know those are small details, but I'm trying to prove a point here without bringing up a time where I really messed up big time. (Still trying to impress, right?)
Now let me tell you what I was saying when playing taps. I was expressing death's power over the body, solemnly pronouncing the end of the days of a man. At the height I let the note linger and emoted the finest tone I could muster without getting loud enough or vibrant enough to break the the sober veil. At the end I held the note long, steady like death and then added slight vibrato with a slow crescendo and decrescento so that it would give a hint of the glory of heaven that awaited this man in Heaven. Then the note went to a flat tone before ending.
Now the listening experiences of the audience may have differed from my performers viewpoint. To some the top not may have expressed victory. To another the pacing may have been too slow as they were uncomfortable anyhow in a stiff pew.
What is the reason you play, and what is the reason you listen?
The first thing to go is music. Schools run short on money ...no that's not really my topic. There is no doubt that music stretches developing minds, but I am really interested in motivation. If you are a musician (beginning to professional), why do you play? If you are a listener, and who isn't really, why do you listen?
There was a time that my main reason for playing music was to impress people in an attempt to elevate myself like the continuation of the type of self flattering speech I learned in my teen years. You know - where you say what you say to get people to think of you as larger than life. No doubt this is not a great reason for musical pursuits, but this blog will be honest and not self-aggrandizing, except for my occasional use of big words to make you think I'm intelligent.
So, why you play music or why to you listen? (Don't just write what you think people want to hear but be bold and dig deep).