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training trumpeters to teach themselves

Building accuracy and confidence: playing the trumpet (or any other brass instrument) is like shooting free throws…
Building accuracy and confidence: playing the trumpet (or any other brass instrument) is like shooting free throws…

Playing a brass instrument is like shooting free throws…Steve Nash is the second-best free-throw shooter of all time at 90.43%… just behind Steph Curry, depending on the week! Nash shot 90% on his first free throw and 91% on his second free throw. That one percentage point difference is smaller than the other players in the top five who were all 3-5% worse on their first free throw. The first free throw is harder because the player needs to access long-term muscle memory. Once they have shot their first, the muscle memory is pulled from their short-term memory which lends the higher percentage to the second shot.

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The Best Zoom Settings: Learn More in Your Lessons
The Best Zoom Settings: Learn More in Your Lessons

I have met and worked with many fantastic trumpet players since spring of 2020 via Zoom: American, Canadian, Asian, Australian, Spanish, and British players; older players and younger; amateur and pro. I feel lucky to have been able to help so many people from the safety and convenience of our respective homes/countries. Even now that it is safer, I am still thankful for the Zoom interface and its ability to reach far and wide. I wanted to share some info on how you can make your distance learning lessons go smoother from a technological standpoint.

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The march from Shostakovich 5th Symphony
The march from Shostakovich 5th Symphony

Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony has always been a favorite of mine to play – but, here’s the question? Have you heard his 4th Symphony? Check out the BSO’s recent recording of it to hear some crazy stuff! It never shows up on auditions and is rarely played, but it is big, brawny, and bristly in that awesome Shostakovich way. My colleague, Tom Rolfs, principal trumpet of the BSO, sounds incredible in all of the Boston Symphony’s Shostakovich cycle, but especially so in this piece.

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Principal trumpet excerpts from Alpine Symphony – Peak Efficiency Needed
Principal trumpet excerpts from Alpine Symphony – Peak Efficiency Needed

Alpine Symphony – a need for peak efficiency – pun not intended! In high school and then college, my friends and I were constantly trying to bang out the high Ds in Alpine Symphony with varying degrees of success (and bruising of the chops)! I was shocked when I finally realized that it wasn’t supposed to be crushingly loud at figure 68, but F and then (GASP) mf on a high D… But mine would only come out at the speed of PLAID (Spaceballs reference to light-speed for those of you under 40).

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Carmen Prelude for Trumpet and LOW notes!
Carmen Prelude for Trumpet and LOW notes!

LOW NOTES! It’s been a huge part of my professional life since leaving school in the late 90s. Having held two 4th trumpet jobs and two second trumpet jobs, I have always been comfortable below the staff and continue to be so.

In every audition, you’ll have to show you can play in the basement and Carmen is the most commonly requested excerpt that covers that range. There are others: Shostakovich 5 and Piano Concerto, Beethoven 5 second trumpet, Dvorak 8 second movement, Tanhauser, etc, but the focus here is Carmen.

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