The concept of being perfect can be an admirable goal for a brass musician. We all dream of concert performances where we perform with no split notes, spot on intonation, a resonant projected sound throughout, etc etc etc. But the truth is that we are all human and this isn’t going to happen every time.
Whilst not having the goal of progressing as a musician will put a limit upon how far you can ever progress, I believe that striving for absolute perfection can have a massively detrimental effect on your life as a trumpet player.
Years ago when I had just graduated from music college and I was beginning to find my feet as a freelance musician this was a lesson that I had not yet learned. As it happens I didn’t realise at the time that was moving away from focusing mostly on classical playing and becoming much more of a commercial player. When you first venture into the profession nobody knows what sort of work they will find (unless you have a laser beam focus on your end game like my college tutor Philippe Schartz!) and my moving into pit orchestras and function bands required that I learned new techniques and how to handle vastly different equipment. At this time, as well, my practise schedule had dropped significantly from the hours and hours a day I previously had for blowing hot air down a tube. The thing that really knocked me for six, though, was that I had unrealistic expectations of perfection in my performance. One split note early on in a gig would ruin my experience of the entire show. From the first out-of-tune high D until I hit the sack 4 or 5 hours later I would be ruminating about my failures as a musician and how I wasn’t going to make it. This went on for years.
Thankfully this story has a happy ending, but that can be saved for another day. The reason I have chosen to address this topic now is that I recently read an article by Clint ‘Pops’ McLaughlin in his BbTrumpet News Quarterly Ezine (Volume 14, June 2015) and wish to recommend that you read it yourself. In the article Pops talks about the difference between a “live recording” and a real live performance and how sometimes it is the minor imperfections that make music what it is. Follow this link: BbTrumpet News to read more.
Writing this introduction has made me think a lot about this topic which I am now sure that I will revisit. Please check back for Part Two!