Monday, March 21, 2005

It makes a huge difference when you do stuff the right way

As most of you know, I've been playing trumpet since the 5th grade. Which means I've been playing trumpet since I was 11. And since I'm 26, that means I've been playing trumpet more than half of my life.

I never really had formal lessons while I was growing up... mostly I learned by trial and error, and by reading ancient bibles of trumpet playing like Arban's Method for Trumpet. Arban was an excellent cornetist, and wrote a piece called "The Carnival of Venice" with which to display his amazing virtuosity. It is probably one of the most difficult pieces ever written for the trumpet repertoire.

For about a year I was taking lessons with Jerome Callet, who teaches a technique called Super Chops. He did great things for my range--I could consistently play an F-sharp above high C without warming up. Unfortunately, I would always get headaches when playing in the upper range. After a weekend of musicals my head would hurt so bad I couldn't really do much but lay on the couch with the lights off. I read lots of accounts on the web about how headaches were normal when learning to play in the upper register, and that they eventually stop happening. Well, being incapacitated gets old, and it wasn't really worth it. So, I decided I needed a change.

Last weekend I flew to Orlando, FL to take a lesson with Bill Carmichael. Bill is one of the main trumpet players for Disneyworld and some other theme parks. Orlando is a great place if you like theme parks. If you can think of a theme park chain, they have one in orlando. Disneyworld (which actually is a huge conglomeration of tons of separate themeparks), Universal, Sea World, etc...

Back on topic. I went to Bill's house, and the lesson was a good mixture of playing/teaching philosophy, demonstrations, me playing, him playing, back and forth. It was a very productive time. He explained why I was getting headaches, and helped me understand the mechanics of what you actually need to do to get a trumpet to sound a note. You'd think after 15 years I would know this, but I'm always learning new stuff.

So, I've been working on Bill's exercises and technique for a week now. Tonight I had an epiphany, and things just started clicking together. I played my first Double-C ever. It was weak, and thin, and generally sounded like crap, but it was there! With very little effort. And most importantly, with no headache. Bill and I got along pretty well, and he said he would be willing to continue the lessons. Hopefully I'll continue to make progress, and eventually I'll be good enough to get some gigs around the Fort Collins / Denver area.


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