Consistently Inconsistent!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Soppy, Dec 3, 2004.

  1. Soppy

    Soppy Member

    I am starting to get really really really fed up with the un-believable level of in-consistency I have when playing. I've always had it, but this week has been awful.

    I know everybody has good days and bad days, but I take it to extremes. Some days I can be amazingly good (that's not supposed to sound as big headed as it does :) ), and other days, I play incredibly badly. It's can be a whole host of things that go wrong. Tone, range, lip flexibility, tounging or fingering can all go wrong. Some days it's just 1 thing, others it might be 2 or 3. Tounging and fingering never seem to be a problem at the same time, but tounging and tone often are for example.
    I do exactly the same warm-up every day, so it's not that that's causing the difference. The problems with tone may sometimes effect just one instrument (I play Bb and Sop Cornet), or sometimes both. I try to appoach every session with a similar attitude too. But like I said, this week has been awful. I finally cracked a piece I've been working on for months on Monday, but was awful at band on Tuesady. I was able to play far better in the freezing cold playing carols on Wednesday (hitting top B's in carols when it's that cold is damn hard, and I did it easily, but on Tuesday at band, I couldn't get near one! ), and last night at a school concert I played even worse than at band on Tue! I stopped playing I was so bad, it was embarrasing. It's impossible to make progress when you can't be remotely consistent. I am a decent standard too (I play Sop in a 1st section band, and I'm only 17), which makes it worse.

    Anyway, does anybody else suffer this kind of problem? Anybody got any solutions (other than not play at all, because then I'd be the same all the time :) )?

  2. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    All i can suggest to you and the problem i see is you are changing the size of the mouthpiece to often between SOP and Bb Cornet also the instrument as well.

    Try and stick to one instrument, it so you can get constant pitch all the time that could be the main problem you have got.
    That is my view.
    I hope this will help.
  3. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    :-? Why?
    Surely the problem lies with just swapping between the instruments more often to get used to it... There's plenty of people who play both!

    Soppy: Don't drop one if you need and want to play both instruments.... that's just an easy way out in my opinion.

    Keep patient and chilled and don't let it get to you so much :) It'll come, but not overnight.
  4. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    My advice would be to find a good teacher and have how you play analysed. From there you will be able to work out some practice routines that will help bring some consistency into your playing.

    Also, don't set unreachable targets.. be realistic about what you want to achieve. Improvement in brass playing (like most things..) isn't linear.. you spend a long time getting a bit better, then suddenly after a short time you get a lot better.. kind of goes in Cycles..

    Remember, continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.....

    Changing between Cornet/Sop probably not the problem, most professional players swap between trumpets of all keys quite regularly.
  5. Kerwintootle

    Kerwintootle Member

    I went through the exact same thing last year. I was completely inconsistent. Some nights were fine but others I played horrendous. I was absolutely sick of it.

    I would often play a difficult bit and think to myself 'hey, that was great' then the next lot would be pants.

    But one night I just decided to stop worrying about what people thought of my playing and just concentrate on getting each and every note right. So, now I just concentrate on the job in hand and don't analyse what people think of my playing. To be honest, since this 'revelation' I haven't looked back and my playing and my life have changed so much.

    So, really I think the problem is not necessarily to do with your mouthpiece, technique etc I think it is in your thinking of playing. Be open minded and just enjoy what you're doing, don't torture yourself about what happens when you play.
  6. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    I'm no superstar player, but I agree with Alex there...I went through a similar phase recently too. Was so worried about what people thought of my playing, I started to over-analize everthing I did, and if I played a duff note or something didn't go right I spent the next couple of minutes cursing myself and not concentrating on the job in hand.

    So I had a bit of a re-think and stopped worrying about others, started thinking about what I was doing, and started enjoying it more. I think I'm much more consitant now (I'm just bad now rather than being between bad and terrible ;) ) and playing much better.

    So...don't beat yourself up if you have a bad night...stay confident...keep practicing...enjoy your playing...and don't worry about swapping instruments either - you should be able to do that without too much bother.
  7. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    I am assuming that you have discussed your warm-up routine with a good teacher, just to make sure that you are not doing anything that could be detrimental to your playing.

    Everyone has "off days," it goes with the territory. The trick is to get your off days so that they are still better than most people's good days:D

    Sensible warming up (and warming down - equally important and often forgotten about) is a very important part of playing, as are regular practice sessions. Even when doing the endless parade of Christmas concerts, you should still try and work in some personal practising to keep up the technique and stamina.

    As for the instrument swapping - are you using similar mouthpieces on each? I find that when I make drastic changes to the mouthpieces I find myself having problems. I play Bb trumpet, C trumpet, D trumpet, Eb trumpet G piccolo trumpet Bb/A piccolo trumpet, Bb cornet, Eb cornet, flugel, rotary Bb trumpet and more - I use basically the same sized rim for everything, with the cup depth changing depending upon which instrument I am playing, intonation and range requirements.
    The way I have worked at swapping instruments is to practice swapping instruments. When I am doing a proper practising schedule I have the majority of these instruments out and I pick pieces to play one each, at random. I could go from a flugel ballad to a baroque piccolo trumpet concerto, to orchestral excerpts on the C, through to a cornet air varie - my playing brain has become accustomed to the changes, but you need to know what you are doing on each. I have (in the past) spent considerable time getting to know the intracacies of each instrument - this takes time, but is worth it. You end up knowing all the intonation problems of each instrument and you can pick up each one and know what it is going to do for you.

    The familiarity of the mouthpiece rim means that my lips don't have to adjust, it is purely a change of mindset.

    With concentration, multi-instrument playing becomes almost normal. I have done a brass ensemble concert where I used 7 instruments in the first half alone! You don't get the chance to warm up on each, you just pick them up and play :D
  8. lewis

    lewis Member

    It might sound very simplistic (and it is) but do you practise long notes? The most boring thing in the world I know but I always find it's the most helpful thing to do when my consistency goes. 15mins a day is more than enough, and really control every note. This might not work and some of the other suggestions sound very good as well, the most sensible does seem to go and get some professsional advice, but long controlled notes (doesn't have to be in the gods either) can't do any harm.
    Good luck
  9. Soppy

    Soppy Member


    It's not the instrument swapping that is the problem. I do use very differnet mpc (Schilke 10B4 for the Sop, and a Sparx 3 for the Bb), but I've been swapping instruments for years now, and using different mouthpieces for 1year too. I practice both every day too. I don't normally play one staight after the other though, but when I do, it's not bad. I just sometimes find, if I play the Sop first, the Bb might sound a tad thinner and brighter than normal. But it is sometimes like that when I play the Bb alone anyway. But also, that doesn't explain the incredible fingering and tounging differences either.

    My warm-up seems fine too, although I'll check when I next see my teacher (get thinking if you're reading this David :) ), but as I do exactly the same one every day, I'm not convinced that's the main problem.

    I do get really stressed when I play badly though (as you could probably tell from my first post), but I try so hard to stay positive, that it gets me when it goes wrong. Like I said at the start, I played really well on Monday, so I went to band on Tuesday thinking I'd be fine there, and it fell apart.

    I'll try not to worry about other people though, because I am always thinking about that. At school for example, I have this battle to try and get one of the music teachers to take me seriously. I'm probably the best Cornet/Trumpet player there, but he treats me like I'm the worst sometimes, so I'm constantly worried to try and play as well as I can so that he knows. So new attitude: What does a woodwind player know about Brass anyway?! :D
  10. I noticed that you played well on Monday, and then the following day played badly. Could it possibly be that you "overdid" things on Monday?.... maybe as you were playing so well you just strained things a touch in the excitement? This could cause lip swelling, which can take over 24 hours to go down.

    I always do my best to recognise when things are getting a bit strained, and back off a touch - this isn't always possible in Concert situations I realise. Pacing oneself is important when endurance isn't brilliant.

    One other thing that I am aware of, and that is salt intake............... if I have eaten a lot of salty things, ocassionally I can find that the following day my lips feel a size larger!! causing all kinds of probs. My cure - when eating salty foods - drink plenty of water.

    I think that you will solve your problem, you have had some good advise above from folks that know their business. Try not to get despondant, and look at your problem objectively.

    Good Luck
  11. Soppy

    Soppy Member

    This is a common problem. I have thought about overdoing things, but on Monday for example, I only did my normal 1hr of practice. I worked a lot harder on Tue for example, and played better on Wednesday.

    Salt. Never thought of that :) I'll try and see if that has an effect.


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