I need help to stop coasting!

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Kingfan
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I need help to stop coasting!

Post by Kingfan » Mon Jun 11, 2018 8:33 pm

I've covered some of this in other posts on other topics, but I'll start from scratch here. I was a classical performance major for my freshman year back in the mid 1970s after three years of study with a Cleveland Orchestra trombonist. I practiced for at least two hours six days a week. I switched majors and the last time I seriously practiced was 1976. Since then I've been coasting. I can handle

I tried lessons at a local conservatory as an adult student a few years ago, but the instructor was marginally better then I was and that lasted all of 6 weeks. I took some lessons five or six years ago from a recent graduate who helped me learn a bit of jazz style, but that also lasted six weeks. I'm good enough to sight read community band concerts, play transcribed French horn in a casual brass quintet, and have done well in community orchestras. That said, I am a pale shadow of what I used to be. My main issue is sometimes the notes don't come out, or if they do they are in the wrong partial once I'm at or above A above middle C.

I'm newly retired, so the excuse of not having time or energy to practice doesn't cut it any more. My warm-up before rehearsals consists of about a minute of lip slurs running two and a half octaves. My practicing between rehearsals is maybe 30 minutes once or twice before a gig working on just the hard and high parts.

OK, I have Embouchure Builder by Little, Technical Studies by Mueller, 2nd Book of Practical Studies by Bordin (swp?) and Arban's. I think I still have Rochut's etude book too.

I am looking for guidance. Telling me to "play more" or "do long tones" isn't specific enough. I have been telling myself that for over 30 years and it didn't help! I don't know what the current thought is on warm-ups or what lesson books are good. How much is the minimum I should be playing per day? What should I start doing? I eventually want to learn to ad lib and have a few playlong CDs, but I figure I should rebuild my foundation first.

Input of any kind is appreciated.
I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are still missing! :D
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Neo Bri
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by Neo Bri » Mon Jun 11, 2018 8:40 pm

Sounds like you could use a goal. What about scheduling a mini-recital for friends, family, religious community, etc.?

How about making a goal of getting to a local jam session and playing a blues?
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Doug Elliott
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by Doug Elliott » Mon Jun 11, 2018 10:41 pm

How much you practice is not important. HOW you practice is very important. It sounds to me like you could use a good lesson on chop fundamentals. Got Skype? You know where to find me, that's what I do.
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greenbean
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by greenbean » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:41 pm

How about a year of lessons with a top symphony player? You are near Cleveland or Columbus, I think. Should be able to find someone great. Treat it like a conservatory program. Play for 5 or 6 hours a day, high expectations, regular floggings, recitals, etc. You will hate paying $80 a week for a lesson - but that will motivate you to get something out of it.
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by imsevimse » Tue Jun 12, 2018 1:07 am

I think "play-along" is one way to improve your skills. You said you are a shadow of what you once were. You said you only practice 30 minutes between the rehearsals? and only the gig stuff or difficult stuff. You warm up 1 minute.

To me this tells you are not doing enough time with your horn to have a reliable technique.

We know result from practice is better if it is fun. We then need to make it fun. Buy a variety of minus one CD's, and have as a goal to learn them without the sheet music. You could take the first song and memorize bit by bit. This will give you the time with the instrument you need and you will also have a goal with your practice. The big goal can be to play the whole CD from memory. Choose an elementary CD with classical music to start. There shall be nothing "to fast" or 'to high" to you in the music. Take a phrase at a time and learn to play it without the sheet music.

Do the warmup 1 minute and expand this with long tones and maybe have a look at the Caruso method. I do think a lesson could be good to check you are on track with everything.

I give this advice because this is a couple of things I do myself. It does help my playing with the fundamentals.

To evolve you need to push your limits too. Just continue and add more demanding stuff. Improvise, read new music to improve sight reading, make up your own studies and etc etc but first concentrate on making practice more fun so you play more. If you spend two hours a day with your horn where you play in a way that you are comfortable with you will improve because this will build chops. If you just play the difficult stuff it could mean you are not getting enough fundamental playing. The difficult stuff must come on top of the fundamentals.

/Tom
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tctb
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by tctb » Tue Jun 12, 2018 2:43 am

From my perspective you have not yet found the right teacher. You can only get so far on your own ,relearning bad habits. You need to find someone who is where you would like to be -" been there , seen it ,done it , got the T shirt "!
Find someone who was commercially/ academically successful and learn from them , even if it is a lesson once every few weeks.
If I had known trombones were this much fun , I would have got one sooner! :cool:
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by timothy42b » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:09 am

My thoughts, from a community band amateur, so consider the source.
I am looking for guidance. Telling me to "play more" or "do long tones" isn't specific enough.
Exactly! That's way too vague. But so are your goals, as you've expressed them so far. "Play more" will make you "better." Neither is measurable nor offers anything in the way of guidance.

What are your specific strengths you want to build on, or your weaknesses you want to fix? That will determine what methods you use, how many minutes you practice, maybe even what type of teacher/coach/mentor you look for.

I hope you've recorded yourself so you have an objective assessment of your baseline.

Secondly, the fact you've been coasting for this long suggests you're going to struggle making any big changes on your own. Go for that teacher/coach/mentor.
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by timothy42b » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:11 am

Neo Bri wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 8:40 pm
Sounds like you could use a goal. What about scheduling a mini-recital for friends, family, religious community, etc.?

And of course there's nothing wrong with posting a youtube video here periodically. Geezer and I will welcome the challenge. Hee, hee.
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StevenC
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by StevenC » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:45 am

greenbean wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:41 pm
How about a year of lessons with a top symphony player?
Yes. I know some very high level players who moved to Cleveland for this purpose. OP is already there (I think).
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Kingfan
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by Kingfan » Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:14 am

greenbean wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:41 pm
How about a year of lessons with a top symphony player? You are near Cleveland or Columbus, I think. Should be able to find someone great. Treat it like a conservatory program. Play for 5 or 6 hours a day, high expectations, regular floggings, recitals, etc. You will hate paying $80 a week for a lesson - but that will motivate you to get something out of it.
Five or six hours a day? I didn't do that when I WAS in a conservatory program! Too early in the morning to be drinking, my friend. :wink:
Last edited by Kingfan on Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are still missing! :D
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Kingfan
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by Kingfan » Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:17 am

Doug Elliott wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 10:41 pm
How much you practice is not important. HOW you practice is very important. It sounds to me like you could use a good lesson on chop fundamentals. Got Skype? You know where to find me, that's what I do.
Thought of that, but really need a set program. I may contact you at some point again, though, as I did benefit from our Skype time.
I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are still missing! :D
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Kingfan
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by Kingfan » Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:40 am

Thanks, all! The idea of finding a local coach/teacher/mentor seems best at this time. I just contacted John Ferguson at the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra to see if he knew anybody who might help.
I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are still missing! :D
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by Wilktone » Tue Jun 12, 2018 9:29 am

Kingfan wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:17 am
Doug Elliott wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 10:41 pm
How much you practice is not important. HOW you practice is very important. It sounds to me like you could use a good lesson on chop fundamentals. Got Skype? You know where to find me, that's what I do.
Thought of that, but really need a set program. I may contact you at some point again, though, as I did benefit from our Skype time.
You will get a set program from a Skype lesson with Doug. One that will specifically reinforce what you're already doing correctly and target the things you need work on.

As far as how much to practice each day, I think it's more important to practice regularly than in big chunks. If you can find even 15 minutes to play every day you'll probably do better than practicing the same amount of time on the weekends.

Out of your practice session (or sessions, if you break them up into multiple times per day) you can try to set your personal goals and rotate your practice sessions around touching on all of them. For example:

Goals: high range, improv, work on difficult parts for community band, possible recital, fundamental technique

So one day your practice session could be:

10 minutes - long tones, lip flexibility, scales (practicing multiple tonguing with scales)
10 minutes - Run through a Rochut etude, band/quintet music
10 minutes - Practice improv, select a single topic for 5 minutes (e.g., chord tone soloing), and then just jam for 5 minutes

The next day you swap out exercises and topics. For example, you practiced double tonguing with major scales already, so you practice your dorian mode with triple tonguing. When the Rochut etude is good, move on to the next one or practice a solo piece you would enjoy performing at a recital. Instead of practicing your chord tone soloing you can practice varying up your phrasing.

Whatever long term goals you have for your playing should be used to create your daily practice goals. If your goal is to have fun playing trombone, then find stuff that is enjoyable for you to practice and study.

Dave
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VJOFan
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by VJOFan » Tue Jun 12, 2018 9:36 am

Start practicing the stuff you have, regularly, first.

When you re-establish the habit of practice you will start to see what you need to work on more and then you can find the things to help in those areas.
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greenbean
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by greenbean » Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:30 am

Kingfan wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:14 am

Five or six hours a day? I didn't do that when I WAS in a conservatory program! Too early in the morning to be drinking, my friend. :wink:
Okay, fine, you can take Sunday off. :D
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by Scotzen » Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:51 pm

I would do a Skype lesson with Doug. You need someone who is going to reframe your approach and understanding about playing. He is the person to do that.
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Kingfan
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by Kingfan » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:11 pm

Scotzen wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:51 pm
I would do a Skype lesson with Doug. You need someone who is going to reframe your approach and understanding about playing. He is the person to do that.
Already had one earlier this year before I retired, learned quite a bit. I know me well enough that I need a regular kick in the butt/feedback. I contacted the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and hope to hear from Paul Ferguson with a recommendation of who can help.
I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are still missing! :D
sterb225
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by sterb225 » Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:56 pm

My story is quite similar - last fall I finally took the plunge and took a lesson with a guy that punches the clock at Lincoln Center every day. What I took away from that first lesson was remarkable and has kept me hard at work for months with notable and noticeable changes in the quality of my playing. Lessons with such a high level player serve almost like recital prep in my head - I want to not fall on my face while playing for him and also want to get every single benefit I can from this budget stretching experience. Record the lesson and take notes immediately after the lesson so you stay on track and don't lose track of what you learned.
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Kingfan
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by Kingfan » Tue Jun 26, 2018 8:15 am

sterb225 wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:56 pm
My story is quite similar - last fall I finally took the plunge and took a lesson with a guy that punches the clock at Lincoln Center every day. What I took away from that first lesson was remarkable and has kept me hard at work for months with notable and noticeable changes in the quality of my playing. Lessons with such a high level player serve almost like recital prep in my head - I want to not fall on my face while playing for him and also want to get every single benefit I can from this budget stretching experience. Record the lesson and take notes immediately after the lesson so you stay on track and don't lose track of what you learned.
That's what I'm thinking! My big band had a gig last night over an hour away from home. Donnie the drummer needed a ride so we got a chance to talk out and back. He is a retired college music teacher and touring pro. He said he knew a few good jazz t-bone players in the area personally and would check around for me. :good:
I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are still missing! :D
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BaritoneJack
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by BaritoneJack » Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:56 pm

@Kingfan - you say you're now retired, so even if you took early retirement, you've still reached the age where muscle tone tends to fade, and be much harder to get back than when you were in your teens and 20s. If that sounds like 'the voice of experience', it is; I didn't start playing any brass instrument until I was 68! And that part about muscle tone applies just as much to your lip muscles as to any other.

Two years ago, I started riding again, having not even sat on a horse for years; within 15 minutes my instructor said it looked like I'd never been away, BUT . . . after a half an hour of working in the school, I was SHATTERED!

Re. the advice to 'practise more'; I've found that the best way to build up strength is not to hammer away at it until I feel as though I've been punched in the mouth - little and often seems to work far more effectively. Being retired myself, I can practise any time of day, so (for example) rather than practising for a straight two hours, I'll split it into two sessions, of an hour each, and with a gap of a few hours between them - and three forty minute sessions, widely spaced, is better still. The solo trombone in our band always has the instrument sat on a stand and ready to go. Whenever she has ten or fifteen minutes to spare (or even five) she'll pick it up and have a blow. Through the course of one day, that mounts up to a LOT of time practising - but it never becomes a chore.

And I'd second the advice of Dave Wilken - that even 15 minutes a day, but EVERY day, is far more productive than doing a big slog once a week. Our MD gives exactly the same advice to all our learners, and he says when the learners come in for a weekly lesson with one of our instructors, he can tell which ones practise every day and which don't.

HTH, and best regards,

Jack
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Kingfan
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Re: I need help to stop coasting!

Post by Kingfan » Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:47 pm

Thanks. I have a mental block against practicing but I have a dress rehearsal Monday for a 2 hour big band gig Wednesday. I'm the lead trombone player and also the band's music director so I can't hide! I had an easy nursing home gig on bass bone last Friday and actually pulled out the gig music and practiced some of the hard passages, and feel a whole lot better about it. No time to practice today, but will work on it again tomorrow. I still haven't found a mentor/coach locally. This is the busy season for yard and car projects, but in the fall boredom will set in so I will REALLY have no excuse then.
I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are still missing! :D
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