Interview for Jens Lindemann’s Trumpet Tip Tuesday
QUESTION 1 [THREE ON THE SAME TOPIC]
Brian, what would you say are the most valuable assets to have during a performance? And even if you’re in a negative mental space, how do you push yourself out of that and give a true performance?
what do you think are the best ways to prepare for a performance, anything from an audition to a concert? Is there anything that you do in particular before a show to “keep your head in the game?”
I’ve always enjoyed hearing and watching you play. Are there certain things that put you in the right ‘head space’ before you perform (meditation/yoga/cup of coffee/etc)? You seem to put your whole self into your performances which give them a certain electricity that’s very cool to see.
Meditation and yoga have been important tools for me – but I rarely formally meditate or do yoga before I perform. I’m usually freaking out too much. And I generally don’t try to channel whatever crazy energy I have toward something else unless my freaking out gets out-of-hand (which I won’t describe). In those moments, my go-to is a classic mediation technique called tonglen. Otherwise, I just bring my freaking out to the performance. I’ve said many times that one of the things Mark Gould taught me was 1. to know who I am and 2. to bring it all to the stage. A colleague of mine at UO, John Schmor – who is the director of the theater program here – told me in a different way: “own your mess on stage.”
Hi Brian, when auditioning for grad school, how did your audition prep look like? Pretty broad question, but I know you, and you can talk for days!
I prepared the following list if I remember right.
2nd movement of the Hummel
Kryl, for solo trumpet – Robert Erickson
Ravel Piano Concerto
maybe a couple other standards..
I was determined to move to NYC and auditioned at Juilliard and MSM (I don’t recommend being so narrow-minded). I set up lessons with Ray Mase and Mark Gould a few months prior to the auditions. I originally wanted to play Hindemith, but after Ray heard me play it, he said “bravo, bravo…um…I don’t think this is a good piece for you; it just doesn’t highlight what you can do on the horn.” So, I switched to the 2nd mvmt of the Hummel. While my trumpet-ego felt like Hummel “wasn’t hard enough”, it was the right move – it was a slightly unusual choice for a solo and it highlighted my strengths. The Erickson was a piece that I had been working on for a year and showed my best work at the time: unconventional, extended and insane. The excerpts – I hated excerpts back then – were simply the ones I felt good about and had something to say on.
My audition at MSM was fine, but I felt rushed and wasn’t grounded. Afterwards, I called my teacher George Recker and he kept repeating “chill out and just sing man.” So, before the Juilliard audition, I went to Riverside Park, sat down with a book and chilled. I remember walking in to the room and seeing Vacchiano, Mel Broiles, Phil Smith, Ray Mase, Mark Gould and Chris Gekker. I about lost my shit. I got terribly nervous. Played “ok” through everything but just didn’t feel like I was swinging or singing. Ray said thanks and I started to leave – thinking that I blew it. I felt awful.
Then, as I was packing up, Vacchiano said “how about the last page of Shostokovitch 5?” It was an odd request and everyone looked at him like it was an odd request. But I just went for it. (For WHATEVER reason, I actually had the whole part with me – it was the only full part I brought.) The last page was not something that I had typically been able to get through very well – but I had sort of ‘given up’ and let go. And well, it was one of those moments where my singing mind really took over – and it felt like the piece played itself. Vacchiano smiled and everybody else was sort of slowly nodding their heads as if they were suddenly hearing me. I felt like I was finally hearing me too. My friend Jack Sutte was waiting outside for me – which meant a great deal to me – and we had an epic hang that night.
Auditions are mysterious and funny things. I don’t believe for a second that I deserved to get in more than others that year. But I chose the best music for me, I actively sought out advice, I chilled out, I focused on the music, and I was surrounded by friends and luck.
Any advice for upcoming college music grads entering the real world? I realize that the job situation for musicians today is much different than how it was decades ago.
Decades ago? Watch yourself.
My advice is this: be open-minded, make friends, play what you love and love what you play.
Move toward the music that interests you with everything you’ve got. Find your interest in the music and go deeper. Then, realize that you can bring the same interest to almost ANY kind of music. A lot of my students come to me with their hearts set on one kind of music or ensemble – and I like seeing that – but I encourage them to bring the same interest, love and heart to everything they play. You might spend a lot of time in gigs or ensembles that feel like a “waste of time” or even “soul-crushing” — I’ve certainly found myself there on occasion – but the lesson is really to figure out how to love what you play, no matter what it is or who it’s with. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be discerning, or make choices, but the practice of loving what you play can be transformative.
Millennials will likely have some of the most diverse careers of any generation before. And your vocations will arise at the point where your talents meet culture. You’ll need an open mind to be flexible within your culture. You’ll need friends everywhere you go. Playing what you love will show you where your talents are. Loving what you play will make you great.
thank you for spending time and sharing your valuable tip. My question for you; How do you advice to practice the “first attack”? Some of my students are struggling to have a relaxed first attack and builds up inner tension. Thanks!
It’s awkward to say anything about fundamentals without a face-to-face meeting, but here are two general ideas that might help:
1. MUSICAL CONCEPT: it seems that many students forget that conceptual development is helpful toward meaningful growth in fundamentals. They reserve their conceptual mind for more obvious creative pursuits within a piece of music – but helping them develop their imagination and concept in fundamentals can be revelatory. When you consider the variety of sounds trumpet players use with their “first attack”, it should become pretty clear that a musical concept is key. How can you help students with conceptual growth? Demonstrate “first attacks” using a variety of shapes – and ask the student to play them back. The more variety, the better.
2. PHYSICAL EASE: from the inhalation through the first sound, the physical goal is to foster and encourage ease. I sometimes have my students break down their playing into Blow, Buzz and Play – developing more and more ease with each. From a pedagogical point of view, it can be useful to ask the student to INCREASE their tension once or twice and then DECREASE it – this can sometimes bring much-needed awareness to their unconscious habits.
what are your thoughts on the anchor tonguing, or dorsal tonguing method?
While at Juilliard, I had throat surgery for a painful pharyngocele – something I’m still dealing with today. Once I had returned to playing, I realized that I was anchor tonguing. It was kind of a weird, fascinating feeling and all – but fortunately Ray Mase helped me avoid getting overly distracted with the technique and remain focused on the music. Now, I really don’t think much about my tongue position – but I would guess that it moves all over the place when I play.
Talk about ‘fast air’ and how to compress it to gain that speed.
Talk about tongue arch
Compression comes from three primary sources: the aperture, tongue arch and diaphragm. Again, I think the best way to deal with proper compression and speed is through a robust musical concept. Let the concept lead the body.
please talk about the psychology of why we trumpeters are obsessed with high range, e.g. why is there *no* effort to emphasize the lower register?
Tessitura is one line of development in fundamentals. It isn’t any more important than the others. And “higher” isn’t necessarily an advantage or even indicative of how other lines of development are improving. As with all fundamental lines, EASE is the goal. And in my experience, range often starts to develop higher and lower once the students let go of TRYING to play higher and lower.
Of course, playing high notes can be really, really fun. After studying a bit with Laurie Frink, my upper register started to feel easier and I was like YESSSSSS. It was fun. And without a doubt, listening to Chase and Maynard as a young trumpeter was CRAZY. But, for me anyway, listening to Miles, Hendrix and Heifetz was even CRAZIER once I started to understand how great artists use their tessitura as part of a musical vibe.
To the obsession that you mention: trumpet players are eternally cursed with the temptation to push for higher notes. We regress, we reduce, and our reptilian brain stem reveals itself – especially when we’re around other trumpet players. But for teachers, using words like “scream,” “power,” “chops of steel,” “control,” “strength,” “man-up,” or “grow some balls and blow” contorts the issue so absurdly and offensively that, for many students, the notion of musical concept is long-forgotten and the notion of letting the physical finesse develop is thwarted.
In the movie “The wolf of wall street,” stocks were sold to people by convincing them they “needed them.” I’m referring more to the scene where DiCaprio’s character says “sell me this pen.” The other character created a need for a pen by asking DiCaprio to write something down. DiCaprio then “needed” a pen.
How do you think we can convince the consumers they need our products? Besides the fact that music (recorded and live) is so much more than just a tapestry for our lives. We need to create value to our products that even Joe “6 pack” can recognize, and be willing to pay fair price for. Any thoughts from your unique perspective please?
The point of the “sell me a pen” analogy is that, if you want to sell something, create demand. That isn’t terrible business advice on its own I guess – and it’s possible to follow that line of thinking to apply to the business side of music. For instance, if you had a swing band, you could host a dance competition and play. Or if you wanted to sell your new Christmas album, you could deploy a legion of drones to destroy all the Christmas albums ever made and then hog the market. On one hand, the analogy seems like a near-complete process for generating sales from a seller’s point of view: create demand and sell. On the other, and in the larger context of the film even, it seems like an ethical slippery slope that reminds me of another analogy: selling water by the river.
I think it’s generally better advice to forget about convincing consumers that they need our products or that they should value our products more. Instead, I think musicians should focus on creating relationships with their audience and their local culture. This is good business advice in general of course, and it just feels better for everyone involved. You don’t feel pushy, and they don’t feel pushed. You’re not encouraging material attachment and they’re not feeling like their depression could be solved if they just got your Christmas album. They’ll also get to know what motivates you as an artist and you’ll get to know what they value as an audience. In other words, you’ll become more valuable.
can you explain the balk rule?
Yes, I can:
We’ve all been there. During a rehearsal, some “musical humorist” sitting next to you gives a fake cue and well…you fall for it. You “step in the hole” as they say. You become the punchline to their setup. The ‘and’ to their 4. And to make it infinitely worse, the sound you just got caught making, in front of everyone, could probably only be described as “diseased.”
Sure, you might have ONLY played one note, maybe you even played the RIGHT note, and maybe, just maybe your articulation wasn’t the worst it’s EVER been. But about halfway through the note, at the exact millisecond that you realize you’re a fool, it gets much, much worse as your body short-circuits under the influence of two extremely determined and opposing forces. While your ego wants to finish the offending note like it was no big deal, your physical body reflexively tries to actually suck the note back.
When your body tries to suck the note back, all sorts of awful things happen. And they all happen in about a half-second. It’s a complicated process that involves 1000s of vigorous contortions in the diaphragm, the complete closing off of the throat in at least 3 distinct and novel locations, a tongue that suddenly locks (and typically remains locked for several hours) and more problematically, an outgoing airstream that is battling an incoming airstream creating a multitude of bizarre vibrations, most of which are processed through the trumpet. It should be noted that the resultant sound is not like a trumpet.
And it doesn’t matter how accomplished you are in your field, there is simply no hope at this point: the sound that takes over half-way through this shameful note, no matter how you started it, is now the sound of the most vile and depressing parts of your soul – it’s the sound of your nightmares, your fears, your desperation, your demons, your shadow. It is not fit for the living.
And so it was banned. The fake cue I mean.
The Balk Rule states that If a trumpet player gives you a fake cue, you may advance to 1st Bass after smacking them upside the head.
What is the maximum weight of a successful pink plug?
Hi Mark. It all depends on how high you can play.