Date: Thu, 01 Mar 2001 00:03:29 -0500
From: Tim Phillips <>
Subject: Re: [TPIN] Why do exercises?

One more phrase that occurred to me while driving to a gig today.  Road Chops.  Chase pointed out that we use exercises to pinpoint problem areas and improve them, but they can also be used to maintain parts of your playing that you do not use everyday, but none the less need as a musician.  If you have a gig, and all you play is that gig, after a while, that may be all you can play.  You need balance in your practice doing all the different acrobatic feats you may be called upon as a working player.  Granted, this means that you have worked up to doing these feats logically and systematically.  Trying to double tongue before your single tongue is great - playing octave glissandos before you can slur a minor third in the trumpet's mid-register - working on de dubba C before you have a dependable high C (which is what bothered me so much on your visit down here :) are the things to watch out for. This is why the student years are sooooo crucial to a player's development.

What you challenge is your technical ability AND your musical ability.  It is easy to make music of a great piece of art.  It is much more demanding to make music out of an Arban/Schlossburg/Clarke/Etc. exercise.  What you must be able to do is ARTISTICALLY play any series of notes on the trumpet at any time in any order at any dynamic with any articulation.  If you can't do this, then you need to practice exercises designed to help you learn to do this.

Exercises also give us baseline technique that we can then transfer to music.  The Hummel concerto opens with an arpeggio - then tetrachords and skips - slurs, intervals, etc.  We learn to do these things in all keys so we can properly have those aspects of our technique ready when a piece of music we are playing calls for it.  There are several organists I work with that will go as far as to purchase a trumpet solo piece, schedule it on a wedding and not tell me till I show up 15 minutes before the prelude begins.  If I do not possess the techniques necessary to navigate the work, then I will fail in my attempts to make music with it and look like a fool before the wedding attendants.

When I go on a big band gig, I don't know if there is going to be charts there I have never seen before.  If there are, I have to be prepared that I can both sight-read the chart and have the technique to navigate the licks.  When you prepare correctly, you will - if you don't...

Technique is like vocabulary.  I wouldn't dream of going in front of a German speaking crowd with my limited knowledge of the German language and try to conduct a clinic.  There is not much of a chance I could communicate with them effectively.  It would take me months (if not years) of preparation with a German coach and practice using the German language each day in order to effectively communicate.  Technique is the same thing.  If you can't speak the language, then nothing you say will probably matter.  This is ESPECIALLY true when you you talking with the language of jazz.  There are so many BS artists out there that can SOUND like they know the language, but wind up speaking musical gibberish (like the Swedish Chef on the Muppets).  People that don't understand the language probably think their "blue smoke and mirrors" approach is really great - but they don't get it either...

All right.  I've used up my posting quota for the week.  I'll go back into the shadows and practice.

We just got back from Chicago to hear Bud play first one more time on Mahler 7 (what a concert - the whole brass section was spectacular - Trombone, Euphonium and Tuba solo's were incredible Charlie Vernon played with such great taste - Clevenger was the best I have ever heard him live - not to forget our TPIN's own, Steve Wright's nephew playing 3rd - but I digress).  Bud was gracious enough to spend some time with me and my friends after the concert - even though he had another engagement to attend.  The last thing he said to us was, "Now, go practice".

Tim Phillips