Telling a Story

How and what to teach and learn.
Post Reply
johntarr
Posts: 16
Joined: Sun May 06, 2018 11:03 pm

Telling a Story

Post by johntarr » Fri May 17, 2019 10:46 pm

When improvising or even playing written music, how does one know if they are telling a story, or not? Listening to a trumpet teacher podcast, several of the guests who studied under some of the Chicago greats like Arnold Jacobs etc. talk about the importance of communication, acting, story telling and infusing your own personality into whatever you play. Jazz players talk about this as well.

Of course there are the obvious things like just playing the notes mechanically or not listening that show that there’s no communication but what do you think, sense and/or feel when you are telling a story while playing? Perhaps it’s obvious to most but I started wondering what lets a player know that they are indeed communicating through the music. My assumption is that it’s a very personal process unique to each person, and certainly not black and white, or either/or but how do you know that you are connecting with your listeners?

Very curious, John
User avatar
JohnL
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 9:01 am
Contact:

Re: Telling a Story

Post by JohnL » Fri May 17, 2019 11:30 pm

One thing to keep in mind is that you need to be feeling something before you can make the listener feel something.

Sometimes our parts are pretty mechanical - so we need to feel the music, not just our part. At the same time, we need to realize that most of the music's message is being delivered by other members of the ensemble and that we need to support their message, not try to send our own.

It's a whole 'nother thing on those rare occasions when we're the focus of the music. Then it IS our job to find meaning in the music. I firmly believe that if you're feeling something, that feeling will come through - just make sure it's not total panic - or worse: "What should I have for dinner after the concert?"
Doubler
Posts: 82
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2019 8:56 pm

Re: Telling a Story

Post by Doubler » Sat May 18, 2019 9:20 pm

I agree that you need to feel something, and it may or may not have a strong relation to the music. For example, one time that I had a bad cold, and I was angry and frustrated that it was affecting my ability to play, and I struggled to get the music out. Wellll... after the performance, a couple of members of the ensemble said to me: "Man, you were hot tonight!" It caught me off guard, and I had to realize that what's within you will come out, and your learned technical ability will translate into an emotional reaction by your listeners.

Another player in another ensemble kept, shall we politely say, alluring pictures of members of the opposite sex taken from magazines that provide such images to inspire him, one of which he would place next to a chart that he felt he could not relate to while he was playing. He always seemed to convey emotion when he played, and I think it was best that the audience was unaware of the motivation that enabled this.

That having been said, I'm not sure that the distraction, anticipation, and fantasizing of "What should I have for dinner after the concert?" might not translate into a positive listener response after all.
Current instruments:
Olds Studio trombone, 3 trumpets, 1 flugelhorn, 1 cornet, 1 shofar, 1 keyboard

Previous trombones:
Selmer Bundy, Marceau
harrisonreed
Posts: 585
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan

Re: Telling a Story

Post by harrisonreed » Sun May 19, 2019 5:59 am

Doubler wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 9:20 pm
For example, one time that I had a bad cold, and I was angry and frustrated that it was affecting my ability to play ..... It caught me off guard, and I had to realize that what's within you will come out,
gross...
imsevimse
Posts: 422
Joined: Sun Apr 29, 2018 10:43 am
Location: Sweden

Re: Telling a Story

Post by imsevimse » Sun May 19, 2019 6:34 am

Study the people around. Do they look as they have a lot of stress, love, cold or anger while they are playing? I never recall have seen or noticed anything like this if it was a performance I liked. What goes on outside is certainly not something that helps the performance, it rather takes focus of any note on stage. If the outside feelings that you can spot does not help then what does?

It is impossible to know what goes on inside a GREAT musician while he/she is playing and I don't think anyone can explain, but conductors often paint pictures of nature or motions. They could also say this must sound a bit happier or more heavy. This gives us associations and often leads to a notable change.

Personally I do not think of much while playing. If everything goes on smoothly in a performance I don't recall any details of what I have done at all. This is the moment when people tell me I've done good.

The importance is not to think of the audience as consumers of what ever GREAT things you will deliver. I try not to think to play things that please the audience. I just focus on the part and the context. If I'm on the melody I just try to play as beautiful as I can. If I want my best sound I think of getting enough air and fill my chest, and then I think of an open and clear sound. Vibrato often comes naturally, but it happens the leader ask for it in places where it is not natural to me, then I have to accept that fast and do the best I can. I need to embrace every expression that comes through my horn or else it will not sound motivated. This goes for any instructions from any conductor. I need to embrace and not just execute what they say for the result to be good. To much crescendo, vibrato, diminuendo or accents even if it is the conductor who asked for it will not sound good. I think of this as having to embrace the information and not just to execute.

If it is an improvised solo then I try to focus on the moment. I listen for the piano, bass and drums and try to go along with what they do. If there are backgrounds I have to adjust to those too. Maybe I then need to be higher in register and louder in volume. If it is possible and the solo is longer I try to start cool as not doing a lot of fast and high notes in the first choruses, because I need to build. I never know what to play as I stand up to do a solo, but it always have solved and I'm getting better at it, these simple thoughts is what have widened my comfort zone.

"Telling a story" is to me the same as to embrace what ever you are doing. Make it your words, your story even if it is the conductor who has the stick.

/Tom
"Do your best and then do better" ttf_watermailonman
My webbpage: https://sites.google.com/site/brazzmusic
Doubler
Posts: 82
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2019 8:56 pm

Re: Telling a Story

Post by Doubler » Sun May 19, 2019 9:53 pm

harrisonreed wrote:
Sun May 19, 2019 5:59 am
gross...
:shock: :oops: :D :lol:
Current instruments:
Olds Studio trombone, 3 trumpets, 1 flugelhorn, 1 cornet, 1 shofar, 1 keyboard

Previous trombones:
Selmer Bundy, Marceau
Post Reply

Return to “Teaching & Learning”