Warming Up

Warming Up

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book Review: Jeanne Pocius’ “Trumpeting By Nature”

So I was practicing the other evening. Just working through some Schlossberg exercises. The windows were open so I guess the neighbors could he me playing. Nothing new, I’m sure they’re used to it. But one of my neighbors is a trumpet player – Merv Gratz. I’ve written about Merv before so I won’t get into that now. But, anyway, Merv stopped by:

“Hey Man, practicing is sounding good. Hey, a student of mine brought me this book. Ever heard of this lady “Jeanne Pocius?”

“Isn’t she the Chop Doc? Doesn’t she live up in Boston?”

“Yeah well, this book is interesting. Check it out. What are you working outta Schlossberg? Man, I gotta go dig that book out. Alright, my man, lemme know what you think of the book.”

“Cool. Thanks, Merv!”

So later that night I started reading through “Trumpeting By Nature.” It’s excellent and I’d highly recommend it to trumpet players of all levels. It’s a reading book though, not an exercise book (although there are some exercises in the back). The book is really comprehensive and covers pretty much most areas of the trumpet. One online book review that I found states “Jeanne's approach is a flexible (like one's playing should be) cafeteria-style menu of information, technique, philosophy and encouragement.” I’d say that this synopsis is right on.

The book covers tons of technical/mechanical aspects of trumpet playing: info and advice on lip position, anchor spot, jaw position, hand position/grip, tonguing techniques, pivot, lip/mouthpiece buzzing finger technique, use of air. It’s really thorough. If you are prone to the whole “analysis leads to paralysis” disease (something I can be guilty of, for sure), then tread lightly here. For me, when I think too much about what I am doing physically I almost end up in a worse position than when I started. That said, this material is important and Jeanne lays everything out in an easy to understand manner, often with photos and diagrams to illustrate what she’s talking about. Very well-done and very helpful.

“Trumpeting By Nature” also includes some really sage advice on practicing, specifically efficient practicing, info on mouthpieces and various equipment, info on lip balms and recovery/injury advice. Jeanne also discusses teaching techniques and professional playing advice. All good stuff. Stuff you may have already known but the reminder is good.

Chapter 11 (appropriate for broke trumpet players everywhere) is titled “The Daily Diagnostic CHOPCHECK™: Creating and Using a Daily Practice Routine.” This chapter might be the most valuable chapter in the book. In Jeanne’s words the CHOPCHECK™ is like a “GPS system to help trumpet players navigate through their performance day.”  I like this. I’m already doing this, pretty much, with my first practice session of the day. A way to get the body ready to cover all aspects of trumpet playing. A warm-up, really. A proper warm-up. I have created my own flexible practice routine. It’s flexible because it caters to what I need on any given day. And it also caters to how much time I actually have. So this chapter was an affirmation that I am doing things correctly – for the most part. But the reminder is necessary sometimes.

So all in all, the three things that I have gotten out of this book are:

1. I am my own best teacher. I know what I need to work on. If I am honest with myself and my playing I can diagnose and treat most issues myself. Not a substitute for a good teacher, but I can do a lot of work on my own.

2. Try it three times. When going for a passage, a note, a phrase, try it three times. Once or twice is not enough. If I keep failing over and over then I will be reinforcing a negative mindset and potentially reinforcing bad habits. Three times is the magic number. Laurie Frink told me this too. The influence of Carmine Caruso and James Stamp is clearly in Pocius’ pedagogy as well.

3. I’m doing alright. For the most part I am playing the trumpet properly. I’m doing ok. When I am practicing regularly and properly, I am playing the trumpet naturally. Letting my body make the notes, not forcing the trumpet to do it. Like Stuart Smalley said “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.”

So, yes, go out and buy this book. It’s a winner. And thanks to Merv for stopping by. We have to get some duets going one of these evenings.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Bart. I talked to you back in late December '12 or early January of this year, hoping to get together and for me to get a trumpet lesson or just to talk music. I hope things are going well for you. Thanks for this blog post. I'm trying to improve and wonder why I might not be...The magic three times rule (not just for range) will be in my playing routine starting now.