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Advice for a struggling trumpet player????

trumpet advice band help practice

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#1 nothing123456



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Posted 16 October 2013 - 03:50 AM

My name is Emma. I started playing trumpet in eighth grade after I moved to Texas. Now I've been playing for three years, and I'm a high school sophomore. Here's the dealio. I practice 90+ minutes a day, 30-40 minutes in the band hall before school, 30 minutes during study hall, and 30 minutes after marching band before I do my homework.  I keep a practice log that details what I've practiced, how long I practiced it, and what I need to work on. I practice long tones, scales, Clarke studies, lip slurs, and various other exercises before moving on to my actual music for band. I take private lessons for 30 minutes every Tuesday with a guy who has a PhD, and I'm just gonna assume this PhD is for music performance. I go to all the sectionals. I follow every direction anyone could ever give me.


But here's the thing, despite this constant hard work and practice, I'm still fifth to last chair in my 25-person section. I'm second chair in my school's last band. Because of my placement, I'm seen as a lazy slacker, and the rest of my section treats me with no respect. I, along with the other players in cadet band, weren't even invited to our section party or allowed to buy a section shirt.


What's wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? Sometimes I just feel like giving up; my director says that all you can do is work hard and you will succeed, but I guess it just doesn't apply to me. But I love band more than anything, so even if I do suck, I'm not gonna actually give up. 


Sorry for this emo rant-y thing. Basically, fellow trumpet players, do you have any life-saving advice that can help me finally be good at playing music and be respected by the rest of the band?

#2 Euphonipwn


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Posted 16 October 2013 - 05:44 AM

  • First off, do not feel excluded or like this has only happened to you...I used to have the same problem! But my director sat me down and convinced me to switch to euphonium. BEST DECISION EVER, and I wish I had done it earlier than my junior year. Obviously it sounds like you really enjoy trumpet, so if that's the case, DON'T STOP! But on the chance that you are looking to "move on up", euphonium might not be a terrible option?! :)

#3 MaryJoLisa



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Posted 16 October 2013 - 03:05 PM

This is advice from a mom, not a musician.  First, go see your band director and ask why you are receiving that placement.  Ask for specific feedback on what you need to work on to move up.  You have to advocate for yourself and it is entirely possible that they don't see the time and effort you are putting into this.  If you don't feel comfortable starting the conversation in person, do it by email.  


How did you end up playing trumpet?  Was there an instrument selection process?  Did you ask for trumpet or did they just put you on something?  It may turn our that trumpet isn't the best instrument for you.  Sometimes all the practice in the world can't change that (despite what your director says). Have you had braces or something else that might have changed your omberture?  Even if you love the trumpet, you might give another instrument a try.


Also, at least around here, a 30 minute lesson is too short at the high school level.  Many private lesson teachers won't even do less than 45, and recommend 60.  If cost is an issue, maybe you can do fewer lessons for longer time.  I would actually recommend changing private lesson instructors.  It doesn't sound like this one is advancing you in any way so you may have a better fit with someone else.  


Is the exclusion from section events true for all instruments or is it just the trumpets?  Sometimes people look at this type of thing as something you "earn" the right to be included in and you just have to be patient until you get there.  If they are excluding a whole group and not just select people that may just be how it works.  You can always work to change that though.


Good luck and I hope things improve for you!

#4 crazyhornkid135



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Posted 16 October 2013 - 03:12 PM

If you're seen practicing around like the band hall then I would say its probably an upperclassmen arrogance problem. I don't know what school you go to but I went to Hebron and I was second to last chair my freshman year out of a 16 person horn section. Over my high school career it got bigger and actually I never ended up in the top band at all. But I proved my worth and was the principle of the middle band my senior year and I came to terms with it and actually had alot of fun. I'm not a music major anymore but if you're pursuing music (which btw you seem to have an amazing attitude for it) chair tests and things like that don't really matter. Its all about your drive and passion. :) 

Try more of an emotional approach to music also. Feel what you play and try to have fun with it. You might find practicing more enjoyable if you're loving what you play. 

#5 takigan



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Posted 18 October 2013 - 08:05 AM

Keep in mind most of the people you're playing alongside have likely been playing since 5th or 6th grade (depending on where you go to school), so you probably have the least experience out of just about everybody, even the freshman.  And since you started in 8th grade, you probably didn't receive the same level of daily specialized instruction your peers got in 5th/6th grade that enabled the building up of solid fundamentals.  Starting in 8th grade kind of throws you into the fray, and 1 private lesson a week can only do so much...especially if your peers are also taking lessons and/or the PL teacher isn't the same quality of teacher as your band directors.

I too would recommend asking your director to try out Euphonium or Tuba.  Some people's lips just aren't suited for Trumpet, and the Tuba & Euph mouthpieces are suited to a wider variety of lips (since they're larger).  The fingerings are the same as long as you're reading Treble clef music.  Honestly, I think the directors would love you for it if you decided to switch (bands tend to be short on Tuba/Euph players).  Also, you may end up making a higher band either way since the tuba and euphonium sections are generally a little less competitive (not all the time).

As a private lesson teacher I've had a few students who, shall I say "the Force wasn't strong with them".  They're smart, and they tried hard, but there's just nothing there to work with.  A couple of them were what I could call "tone deaf"....their brain simply couldn't imprint a correct auditory image in their mind's ear of the sound they needed to create.  Sing a concert F to them and they can't sing it back to you, even with years of experience.  No connection.  Music takes at least some small degree of talent to be successful at it...

I was really bad at math....I wanted to do well at it, I just couldn't figure out how.  People are different.

Brandon Quam - TxB Staff Writer

#6 jmatthews


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Posted 18 October 2013 - 06:55 PM

I will continue on takigan's last thought. There are three music aptitudes that cannot be learned: pitch discrimination, rhythm discrimination, and pitch memory. A person who has all three of these aptitudes will be able to learn music very quickly; a person with one or none of the aptitudes will struggle with music. Aptitudes are innate talents, and one cannot just practice to improve them. I am glad you have such a love of music, good luck, and keep fighting!

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