Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3.1- Getting Ready for Year 3

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say
a hearty yes to your adventure.

—Joseph Campbell

Well, we are now officially ready to kick off the third year of the Tuning Slide. Technically, that won’t happen until after the Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop from July 30 - August 4. But it is time to get back into regular new posts after a series of reruns from last year.

Since the last post of the 2nd year those many weeks ago I have been finishing the editing of the new edition of The Tuning Slide book. It is done and will again be given to all students at this year’s Shell Lake Workshop. If any of you want to help make that happen, here is a link to my Go Fund Me page ( to support that effort. The book, which includes both the first and second years of the blog posts, will also be available on Amazon as either a hard-copy or an ebook. Watch for that information.

But let’s move on.

I have also been busy playing trumpet, reading, practicing, attending Shell Lake’s Adult Big Band Camp, and planning the new year of these posts. I am constantly amazed at how learning never ends and in even the basics, we can always learn something new. Kind of as a teaser of thinks to come, here are some thoughts to kick off the new blog year.

What I’ve learned so far this spring and summer
1) Learning the names and the feel of the scales
- It started when I was working on Clarke #3. As you probably know Clarke’s exercises start at the bottom of the scale at the low F#/Gb. Well, I started a little higher than that one day, probably at the lower Ab scale. I was working my way up the scale as Clarke sets them up. Suddenly I stopped. I looked at the notes on the page and said to myself, “Let’s skip that. I can’t play all those flats.” It was really intimidating to see 5 flats in front of me. “That’s too hard,” I added. Then I stopped.

- Oh, that’s right, it’s just the Db scale.

So I played it. No sweat. After all, that was why I have worked on scales every day for months. It was no longer an excessive number of flats that I had to think about. It was now simply the Db major scale.

- That is how the “Inner Game” works. It utilizes Self 1 and Self 2 together! Self 1 reacted. Self 2 simply said- I know that. Self 1 remembered to trust Self 2 and off they went, together, into making music!

2) The Effect on the whole body and vice versa
- Big Band Workshop involved a lot of making music! Hours of music from Friday afternoon into Sunday noon. Sure there were breaks, but unlike Trumpet Workshop there was not a lot of lecture and information breaks. We had a limited time to get a number of songs ready. So off we went to work. I wrote on Facebook after he weekend.

- My lips are angry at me and my body won’t talk to me. (All that standing during rehearsals and the concert!)

It only got worse. I had little to no recuperation time- band rehearsal on Monday evening, a big, intense concert on Tuesday, another intense rehearsal on Wednesday. On top of it all the excitement and activity of the weekend and concert prep drained a lot of energy. I was physically and emotionally exhausted on top of the angry embouchure.

- The whole body is involved in making music. I don’t think it matters what instrument you play. There is a lot that we put into it and a lot that happens. For those of us who are not at the highly-trained full-time musician level, that can cause us trouble. We have to learn to take good care of body, mind, and soul in order to make good music.

3) Trusting your colleagues on the bandstand
- Many of know of my ongoing wrestling match with performance anxiety when I have a solo. Well, you will be happy to know that in the concert back home last week I played a solo part without panic! I did one, too, at the weekend workshop, but this one was part of a trumpet opening to one of the pieces as three of us played a surround-sound antiphonal entrance.

- The reason it went as it did was thanks in part to one of my colleagues who gave me feedback at rehearsal the week before. He made a suggestion to make the part flow more smoothly and in-tune. He expressed positive comments about what I was doing. He let me know I could do it.

- We are in this together. When we sit on that bandstand, whether with 50 others in a concert band or five in a quintet, we must all be aware of and supportive of each other. If we know our colleagues “have our back” so to speak, we will relax and move forward.

So, with that in mind, here are some of the places I’m thinking about going this year. This is based on my editing together of the first two years and reliving the experiences of my personal move into a more advanced musician. I see this year as doing three things built on the basics from the Trumpet Workshops of the past two summers as well as this year. We will maintain those basics and then move in three directions:

For that we will dig more deeply into things like:
- The Inner Game and how it helps us improve.
- Listening as a musical (and spiritual) activity.
- And the road to Carnegie Hall or your own local auditorium-Practice, Practice, Practice.

I will also look at expanding the width- the breadth- of being a musician. For this I will look at:
- Spirituality as part of music’s essential character.
- Making sure we work the physical and mental aspects together. Mindfulness, exercise, attitude will make such a difference in who we are and what we do.
- The reason we can expand and learn is the chemistry, structure, and character of our brain and the many ways we can utilize it for growth. The neuroscience is exciting- and revolutionary.

All of these lead us to go higher in our level of playing and musicianship. Some of the things I am exploring are:
- Stretching one’s limits. How do we push ourselves and what does it take to keep us motivated?
- The importance of focus in this is critical. It is easy to get lackadaisical. How do I keep from being a sloppy player?
- Sharing with others is what we do. New heights of working together to make music and to help others grow along with us is one of those great side-effects of music.
Overall- I’m even more excited about this year. Lots of things will be added to this list and lots of music will be discussed. Through it all, don’t forget to have fun. Making music is to participate in a wonderful, mysterious, and even magical experience.

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