Warming Up

Warming Up

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Practicing: Saving Enough For The Third Set

Last week I had a several gigs and several rehearsals. All in all, it was a fair amount of playing for me. I only get to practice 1 ½ to 2 hours (a little more when I’m lucky) a day so I need to make the most of that time to build significant strength, endurance, and efficiency so that I can handle a decent workload when my playing schedule calls for it. And when the playing schedule is heavy I need to remind myself to play smart.

After the second set of a Warriors of the Wonderful Sound gig I remarked to friend and fellow Warriors trumpeter Adam Hershberger: “I feel pretty good tonight. I feel like my chops are still fresh and I could keep going. I should be in good shape to play all weekend now.” Adam replied “yeah, you gotta always remember to leave enough for the third set.” Well, considering all of the heavy and hard playing we have to do on a Warriors gig, I’m grateful that we only play two sets at our monthly Tritone gig. Three sets would probably shred my face.

Leader and composer Bobby Zankel writes really dense and long charts. The trumpets rarely get much rest. And these are long tunes. And usually pretty long sets. And they’re loud sets. So naturally trumpet players are going to get tired. Now, most of the guys in the trumpet section play music full-time and they also teach. They are playing several hours a day more than me. They usually have better endurance than I do because of this. I’m not complaining or making excuses, but it is what it is. The other thing in this band is that there is plenty of room for solos. If I wanted to be aggressive, I could play two or more solos a set. Solos in this band can be long and you have to blow loud and hard the whole way. It can – and will - tire you out. Sometimes I just get really into the music and I want to get up and take as many solos as I can (without being a jerk to my bandmates, of course) - just want to get that music out and get off. So yes, sometimes this an ego thing too. Stand up and do your thing. Show off what you’ve got. That’s cool. There’s a place for that sometimes. Although, I generally believe that the best solos/improvisations are completely devoid of ego. The music is divorced from those connections to “me” and “I” and when that’s the case, magic can really happen.

Well, the other night Bobby told the band before the first set “let’s mix things up tonight. Don’t take a solo in your regular spots. Let someone else take it.” There are a few tunes on which I often take solos. I gave them to other guys that night. I ended up only taking one solo the whole night. It was a decent one. I had fun. Said my stuff and that was that. I was fine with it. I didn’t let my ego fool me into thinking that I needed to blow a bunch of choruses on many solos to prove my worth as a trumpet player and musician. I was content to just play my parts, take my one solo, and not blow out my chops. I was thinking about the “third set.” In this case, the third set wasn’t really a third set, but the two rehearsals the next day, and then the next gig coming up. And because I was thinking ahead I was playing more intelligently and ultimately more efficiently. It sounds like a simple thing, but it really is something that I need to be more conscious of. Playing in the moment (you never know when it will be the last) but also thinking about what is coming next and making sure I will be physically equipped to play what is required.

Save some for the third set. Pace yourself. Play smart. I need to keep these things in mind – on stage and in the practice room. Thanks for the advice, Adam!

Adam Hershberger laughing at me NOT saving enough for the third set!!