Day 14: Pull it apart and work note by note

I recorded a portion of my playing today. My intention was to listen to my tone quality as I pulled a scale apart to focus on a cluster of notes (F Major in 3rds). I was surprised to notice my tonguing was sloppy. It was so easily heard, but I didn’t know I was doing it. To be aware of our limitations, we must be brutally honest with ourselves. Recordings can be a powerful tool.

While I was listening back to the recording I remembered a great article on about two different listening modes and the importance of recording yourself. The two modes are conceiving mode, when you are creating, and evaluating mode. Creating music is a complex task and we need to concentrate fully when performing. Play and record yourself. Stop and listen to yourself.  Each action gets full attention at a specific point in time.

I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t want to get bogged down with some app that was tedious to use. But I found a simple-to-use app called “HI-Q MP3 Voice Recorder (free)” on Google Play. I simply hit the record button and then the stop button. The app automatically names the file with the day’s time and date. When I start recording I introduce what I’m going to play and then I just get on with it.

I made a note of the recordings in my Comeback Journal and will revisit the recordings in a few weeks time for a “then & now” comparison.

Day 13: Lips swelling

My lips are swelling after each session so I’m having to take long breaks. I’ve made sure my setup is good, there’s adequate pressure but not excessive, correct horn angle, and a warm-up session.

I’m using the time for ear training and working on fingerings but I feel like I need more time on the horn. This is my longest rest session: 3 hours. I’ll work on low chromatics and I’ll rest as much as I play (a favorite phrase of Claude Gordon).

Check out Jeff Purtle’s site. He actually studied with Claude!

Day 12: Saturday! Playing throughout the day

(Since I fell behind on my days, I’ve decided to jump to the current day.)

I practice in 20 minute sessions (recommended by Dr. Martin). Here’s the structure of a typical day:

  • first session is all warm-up. nothing extreme, just solid basics.
  • all other sessions contain a variety of tasks that I must cover.

In my Comeback Manual, I write out what I will cover in the session, then write in the times I spend on each item. Each session has a goal. I use the stop watch on my phone as a way to stay focused on the details. I’ll write down how my lips are feeling, if a particular exercise gave me trouble, and even the amount of time I rested between sessions. In between playing sessions I worked on my chromatic fingerings and ear training.

I hit F on the staff. If you’re a trumpet player you may be rolling your eyes. It’s ok. Range has always been a weak link for me. Actually, most things are weak links. I didn’t have solid direction when I began playing at 10 years old and I merely repeated the bad habits as I grew older. Humility. It’s good for the soul.


Day 9: Retrospective (The best lesson I’ve ever had)

Wow. The lesson progressed from one topic to the next, but all were interconnected. Things clicked for me that hadn’t before. My teacher is a patient man.

I take my Comeback Journal with me to lessons. I use the Comeback Journal to track my practice sessions, lessons, thoughts on practice, and notes I gather from the web and books. Check out James Blackwell’s article and video about setting up a practice journal. His site and YouTube channel contain a lot of helpful information.

Day 8: Retrospective (Day before Lesson)

I began to get nervous about my next lesson. Worrying about improvement distracts me from achieving my targets (you could call them sub-goals). I’ll be a much better trumpet player at the end of the summer. Today I focused on the targets assigned by Dr. Martin. Trust the process and the teacher. Don’t forget to think for yourself.

Day 7: Retrospective (Expectations and Practice)

I’ve stopped expecting improvement during each practice/playing session. Playing a musical instrument relies on cumulative effort and I realize that “day by day, I’m getting stronger in every way.”

Daily effort is important in all worthy goals/missions, but that effort needs to be deliberate. Deliberate practice is structures and each playing session is begun with a set of goals. Throughout practice I test things out. Dr. Noa Kageyama of has an excellent article on what deliberate practice is and isn’t.

Day 6: Retrospective (Ear training takes time)

I started matching the pitch of middle C and am slowly working my way up the treble clef. The race between the Turtle and the Hare is quite appropriate at this time. The interesting part of being human, is the urge to run when we can barely crawl. There is a lot of humility involved when learning to crawl.

I try to match the pitch with the mouthpiece. I use the trumpet to check my embouchure – that my facial muscles are set in the exact way I need to produce the middle C pitch. This activity provides hours of entertainment.

Remember: a growth mindset!

Day 5: Retrospective (Matching pitches with the keyboard)

I think many people prefer their comfort zones. It is humbling when I wander into new territory. I’m ignoring the inner critic that is saying something. All I know is I’m trying to match the pitch of middle C. Over and over and over.

This post would be extremely boring if I gave a blow-by-blow account of eradicating my tone agnostic brain training. I think I feel my brain cells growing. And I also played the trumpet today.

I’m keeping my front-sight focus on the assigned tasks. There will not be any Star Trek: Deep Space Nine reruns for a while.


Note: The term “front-sight focus” is from a book entitled Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed written by Mark Divine.

Day 4: Retrospective (Tone Agnostic)

My first private lesson of Trumpet boot camp!

I have had two previous lessons with Dr. Jonathan Martin in 2016 and 2017. Bootcamp will include weekly lessons. Dr. Martin (bio) has degrees from L.S.U., U.T.S.A., and the University of Iowa. He also spent four years with the United States Air Force “Band of the West.”

I brought along several of the standard method books as well several by Claude Gordon and Herbert L. Clarke. My problems are root problems and all of my assignments strike at the root. So no books needed at this time.

We quickly figured out I have no idea how to match a pitch or even tell if I was sharp or flat. Some would say this means I’m tone deaf. Later that evening I sat  at the keyboard for thirty minutes and began training my ear. So I consider my starting state to be “tone agnostic.” It was horrible and embarrassing, but there was nothing I could do during the lesson. An additional problem was holding my head and the horn at a high angle. But I have a growth mindset and feel that the tasks given to me are difficult but achievable.

As an aside: I’d like to address the possible abnormality found during my mammogram. It was this day, 5/18. that I decided if it was cancer and if the news is bad, that I would continue with my trumpet boot camp. If this was last thing I could do, I would spend my time playing the trumpet.

Day 3: Retrospective

From May 25: I received news from my doctor that a possible abnormality was found during my mammogram. I’ve since gone in for more pictures and an ultrasound. A biopsy has been scheduled June 4.

So I will add the intervening days with the title “Retrospective.”

Returning to Day 2, May 17. The three-card spread is to see the Past, Present, and Future. The Crystal Tarot deck is the source. The reading for Day 2’s tarot cards is:

  • King of Wands. This card “represents the past, and influences from the past that are affecting the current issue.”
    • I have been working on my comeback since January 2018 (playing since August 2016). “Don’t delay action once you have chosen your path.”
  • The Magician “expresses the energies around the present moment and the question in hand.”
    • “This is a time if magic and creativity in your life…You are ready to realize your full potential.” I’m taking a great leap. Stay focused and remain positive. Put in the work.
  • Queen of Pentacles “signifies the future outcome if you don’t change anything.”
    • She is the Queen of planning and executing. Remember balance – between loved ones and the work.

It looks like a lot of positive things are in store.

Thank you Cousin A for your helpful input.