Couldn't pick just one motivational poster this time
Blog 113: Discipline
If you asked me what the most important elements to improving your trumpet playing were, I'd say: discipline, consistency and knowing what to practice. Discipline and consistency go hand and hand, since it takes will power and focus to practice every day. I think without discipline and consistency improvement is essentially impossible, at least with regards to the trumpet. I've had a lot of conversations with strangers in bars, airports, at parties etc about how trumpet really doesn't give you a day off and how incredibly unforgiving it can be as an instrument. This is usually met with a lot of surprise. I then explain that even if you just go light for a few days you'll notice some ability lost in your range, tone, or flexibility.
My explanation regarding this has always been the regeneration of the tissues in your lips and mouth. I read once that in all the places in your body, blood circulated in your mouth the second most (the brain being the #1 area for most blood circulation). A great demonstration regarding bloodflow and cell regeneration is such: When you get a cut on your arm, it'll scab, and then take around a week or more to heal, whereas when you bite your lip it heals within just a few days. I'm not a scientist, but I believe it is for this reason that if you're not constantly maintaining your embouchure it will leave you quite quickly.
For the reason that the body is in a constant state of flux, I think it is incredibly important to provide some sort of order if you want to play consistently and as I'm always telling my students 'if you want to play consistently, you've got to practice consistently.' If you look to professional weight lifters who are trying to add more weight to what they can lift, it's a steady schedule with small incremental additiions of increasing difficulty. Can you imagine a professional weight lifter(or any athlete) who takes off 3 weeks and then goes to pick up right where he left off? The results would probably end up causing a lot of physical harm to the person in question. Having a daily routine with both elements that maintain your current ability as well as aspects which expand, challenge and expose your body to new demands is essential. There is no growth without preserving what you already have.
Lastly, knowing what to practice is an incredibly important element to improving as well. As I stated in my last blog, it's important to be honest with yourself about what you can play and knowing how to build; knowing how to intelligently push your limits. I still stand by my statement that I good teacher is the best way to go(finding a good teacher is a challenge in of itself though.) I believe a good teacher has a system of increasingly difficult exercises to will slowly steer a student towards improvement in a brick by brick fashion. This is exactly what my teacher Laurie Frink did with me (and all of her students). It was a step by step process, each week going back and receiving the next in the series of exercises. This is the method I teach as well; exactly what Laurie gave to me, taking into account a player's specific natural physical tendencies as well. Over the past few years it's been incredibly satisfying to see Laurie's method work with my students. The sky is the limit for any student that comes to the right teacher with discipline and consistent practice.