Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 21:14:47 +0000
From: Stanton <>
Subject: Snake oil, BS or the Real Deal... real long


I have very high regard for your opinions and, as you know, believe in face to face lessons by QUALIFIED teachers. Unfortuntely, Pops makes an extremely valid point. Even at the college and university level, too many trumpet teachers are hired without the critical skills needed to TEACH. Pops' point is (IMO) quite appropriate and unfortunately accurate. Yes, there are some good teachers out there, but there are too many who collect a paycheck for logging time, without being able to create a product. In person or via the net, a good teacher can teach good <G>, regardless of the handicaps. Sometimes it just takes a little longer (better late than never). If I may share some of my personal experiences as a student...

My first lessons were in my senior year of HS. I took my first lessons at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. I had one of the "top" teachers there. He made such an impression that I don't even remember his name.  This was not Joe's Music Store, though it may well have been for what I came away with. Net result, I went off to college with a "smile embouchure" and didn't even know it. You'd have thought that even a 3rd year Music Ed major would have spotted that sucker.  Breathing? I was breathing, wasn't I????

Freshman year (college), I was assigned to the trumpet professor who identified my smile embouchure right away and simply told me to pucker my lips when I wanted the notes to go up.  Not a word was uttered about breathing except to "stick your stomach out when you go high". In the two years I was forced to study with him I did not actually hear him play a SINGLE NOTE!!!. How I passed the audition to transfer schools (to a major university), I'll never know.

As a Junior transfer student, I FINALLY got a decent teacher, though again, not very mechanically inclined. Fortunately, he pushed a lot of music at me and inspired me with his musicality as well with his kindness. Unfortunately for me, the next year he got a big deal pro gig in Europe, where he still plays principal trumpet.

As a Senior, I got yet another teacher, but this one had neither the teaching or playing skills of my previous teacher. This guy was more interested in getting his next degree and getting an orchestral gig than teaching. My playing flatlined for that entire year. Then came graduation day.

After those four years, I graduated from college never having achieved much musically. Range sucked. Endurance was non-existant. My exposure to literature was very basic because of the range/endurance limitations. I tried some post college lessons with some highly regarded teachers, but again, the physical/mechanical deficiencies that kept me from excelling as a player were NEVER addressed.  It was not from lack of practice and perseverence, I assure you.

I continued with a local professor for two years of post college study. My ear, from having played in a first rate college concert band was too good for the community groups, but my playing wasn't nearly good enough to play anywhere decent. Thus I quit playing. That was 24 years ago.

Let me tell you about my return to playing. I am now in the 25th month since the cesation of my extended hiatus. Initially, I did take a lesson  or two to get jump started.  However, since finding TPIN, a lot of information, both good and bad has passed before my eyes. Much of the ideas were absolutely foreign, in spite of having the knowledge of 6 years of college/post collegiate study.

About 18 months ago, I saw a post by a regular TPIN contributor I thought that the information being espoused in this post was total BS (based on what I was previously taught). I wrote back to challenge what I thought was "snake oil" and found that this person had a plethora of knowledge that transcended the traditional trumpet pedagogy.

After a month or so of regular correspondence, I emailed off a sound file, recorded directly into my computer. I received a reply that talked about so many nuances in my playing THAT HAD NEVER BEEN ADDRESSED IN PERSON. Needless to say, many emails went back and forth for the next several months. I finally went to visit my "net mentor" in the flesh to solidify many of the ideas that we had discussed. The rate of improvement got a real shot in the arm by the visit, but was set up almost entirely via email. When I got there, the mechanical issues had mostly been addressed and thus we were able to spend most of our time onsound and musicality.

All the while I have been monitoring Pops' posts to this group and RMMT. Though I am trying not to deviate too much from the mechanical issues that I have been working on, MANY times he'll say something that just helps all the other ideas congeal. "Gut slurs" is just one example. This concept has helped me to isolate one area that I've never been able to sufficiently address. Yes, I'm sure that a face to face lesson with Pops will crystalize so many thoughts and concepts that are still floating around in my head.

So as not to challenge the Guiness record for the World's Longest Post, I will cut to the summary. Though I have a long, long way to go musically, my internet coaches have brought me along to the point where I can now, FINALLY, think about playing music rather than wrestling with the instrument. Yes, there is much more physical development to go. No, I cannot yet play a dubba C, but for the first time in my playing I actually believe that it is now an inevitabilty- but I no longer need to care about the dubba C. The range I do have is playable range. I no longer suffere from chop inflamation (only some fatigue). My playing overall is head and shoulders above the point where I left college... AND IMPROVING! Yes, and internet lesson cannot replace a lesson in the flesh, but this internet thing makes this a small, small world and brings ideas and information to everyone, regardless of geography.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to all you guys that post regularly (or even occasionally) and even for taking the time to debate all these issues. Even with the friction that occurs sometimes, this is a great medium. Thank you all for being here. Thanks TPIN.

Stanton Kramer
3rd year Trumpet Re-Tread

Dr. Ted posted:
Careful Janet! Someone selling snake oil may be upset about this very
old-fashioned concept of going to a teacher who can actually hear you
play and see what your face and wind is doing...
My favorite NYC pro has it right when he keeps reminding people that
they don't need another designer trumpet, they need some lessons in
person and some serious practice time.
...and Pop's replied:
>>>>If there was enough GOOD teaching in person there would be NO questions
about trumpet playing mechanics on either tpin or the rec. trumpet
group. The High school students would have NO endurance, tonguing, tone
quailty.... problems that need to be addressed. The H.S. band director
would deal with them. Or better yet they would have been started right
and never have a problem. The college students would not be writing in
with range problems and the more seasoned players wouldn't be asking
questions either. >>>>