In November 2015, I coordinated a Brass Clinic at Arkansas State University. Below is a copy of the handout I gave trombone students that day. As always, if you have a question about anything in this post, drop me an email at bfaske (at) astate (dot) edu. Thanks! B.F.
Have the right tools for the job, and make sure they work!
Imagine being a NASCAR or Formula One driver, trying to run the race with a flat tire? The car will still run, but it won't run anywhere as efficiently as it would if you stopped to fix the problem. Noisy or sluggish trigger? Slow slide? Take it to a quality repair technician - fix that flat tire! Email me if you need the name and number of a great repair technician!
If you don’t have to change the batteries in your metronome and tuner regularly, you should use them more often.
Now that I have an office with a sound system and a smart phone, I don't use my Dr. Beat as much as I used to, but when I was a student using practice rooms, I changed my batteries pretty often after I started using them every practice session.
MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS!! If you use a smart phone or tablet to help you practice, put it on Airplane Mode.
Lots of students use metronome and tuner apps on their phones. Isn't technology great? However, if you really want to use it as a practice tool, you'll need to keep all of those texts and notifications from interrupting you every 2 minutes. Nearly everything can wait half an hour!
Learn the meaning of every word and marking on the page. Don’t guess – Google it!
This will help you know exactly what the composer wanted the piece to sound like. It's so easy to figure these things out now with a smartphone or computer.
Don’t always start playing at the beginning of the song.
When I was in high school, my teachers would ask me to start halfway through the etude or solo, and I would need a few seconds to "fast forward" through the music from the beginning to get my bearings. This is silly and unnecessary! What will you do if they ask you to play the last third of the etude on the audition? Be ready for anything. :)
Record yourself to know what you sound like to other people’s ears. I promise that it’s different!
Have you ever noticed that your voice sounds different on a voicemail or video than it does when you speak out loud? Your trombone sound works the same way. If you want to know how you sound to other people, the recorder is the answer! Are you always the person who finishes one chair below the cut? Take your playing to the next level by listening to your recordings, evaluate what you hear over multiple playbacks, circle the problem areas, and direct your practice there.
If you want to get better, challenge yourself to play with players who are better than you.
Being the "best trombone player at _________ High School" is certainly something to be proud of, but your musical world should stretch BEYOND the walls of your alma mater! If you are the big fish in a small pond, it's time to find a bigger pond! Audition for summer camps, music festivals, and solo contests. If you or your parents are curious about your "chances" of success as a professional musician, these outlets are a GREAT way to know for sure!
When you go to sleep tonight, someone is staying up late to practice.
I first heard this quote from Jeffrey Reynolds, retired bass trombonist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic when I was in high school, and it has absolutely been true in my experience ever since. No matter how hard you work, know that someone out there is hungrier and more ambitious. If you are satisfied with where you stack up, then go to bed with a clear conscience. However, if you've been slacking lately, it's probably time to get back to work. :)
When it comes to music, the turtle will always win the race. Start slow, stay steady, and enjoy the journey!
Too often, we get so busy that our practice sessions become rushed and frantic. When you feel these emotions taking over, it is even MORE important to practice slowly and deliberately. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? The rabbit was clearly faster than the turtle, but he was so confident in his ability to win that he fell asleep, while the turtle never stopped going. Are you the rabbit, or the turtle? The biggest difference will be your sense of urgency at the beginning of the process! Oh, and don't forget that this is supposed to be FUN! I would love to be able to go back and learn these things all over again.
Good luck on your auditions, and let me know if this handout helped you!