Words I Say When I Teach Trumpet

S*%! Phil Says...

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a student about when I first began teaching in quantity. That was fall of 2001. I feel comfortable saying at that time my playing was at a high level and uniquely mine. My experience teaching one on one however was non existent. 

I was very aware of how much of my vocabulary seemed borrowed. I would channel so much directly from Charlie and Jeff and other influences. I wondered when that would change. I wondered when it would sound like my voice. 

For better or worse after 17 years and 80,000 lessons or so I have a voice. All of the below has been said and often better by others but these are in my voice. 

In no particular order I’ve made note of some of the things I often say. Perhaps one or two will strike you in a new and different way. 
  • Relax your mechanism.
  • Accuracy depends on structure
  • Only attempt each note once.
  • Don’t react to the past. Play the present.
  • Air comes before sound.
  • Don’t play “faster”, instead play the same in less time.
  • Time and pitch are not subjective.
  • Rhythm depends on beat.
  • Always play like its right
  • Confidence is a role you play.
  • Notes are only forward. High and Low are meaningless words.
  • Choose science instead of superstition.
  • Zoom out and observe your story.
  • Correctness of embouchure is determined by the beauty of the sound it creates.
  • If you’re smart your future self will thank you for today’s practice.
  • Act like you’ve learned something since sixth grade.
  • My patience is faster than your impatience.
  • “Breathe” has a different meaning when the trumpet is in your hand. Train the connection.
  • Make calmness the first goal.
  • Be willing to start over every day.
  • You don’t buzz your lips...the air does.
  • Acknowledge the beauty in your imperfection.
  • Don’t be boring.
  • Play good trumpet.
  • Respect your fatigue.
  • You get stronger while resting.
  • Lack of familiarity and difficulty are often confused.
  • Less thinking more reading
  • You don’t need to remember it. You need to see it!
  • Don’t mark it. It’s already marked.
  • Always search for the overlap of ease and beauty.
  • Even with the slide in you’re still playing leadpipe.
  • Retreat to a point of calmness and control.
  • The answer is hiding in the search.
  • There was something you didn’t hear yesterday. Look for it today.
  • Before you can be beautiful you have to turn in the right answers.
  • The discipline to be correct will make you stand out in a room full of mistakes.
  • Risks are exciting.
  • Don’t confuse completion with mastery.
  • Ask for better and you’ll get it.
  • Adreline increases with excitement. Sweating increases when running. Don’t be afraid of your biology
  • Breathe with awareness and energy.
  • You are unique and valuable. Make a sound that reflects that.
  • Chase the experience.
  • Your playing isn’t something that happens to you like the weather.
  • Be correct.
  • Decide what you want.
  • What are you playing and why are you playing it.?
  • Dont keep re-solving the same problem.
  • You won’t win a chili cook off with everyone else’s recipe.

It's Not A Daily Routine Unless It Happens Daily


I am constantly battling with the conflict of two realities in opposition.  One the one hand, I have to teach trumpet truth to my students.  The simple truth is they will thrive on a daily trumpet routine when approached mindfully with good form every day.  I immerse them in this reality from their very first lessons, often at the young age of ten or eleven.  The opposing reality is that the high achieving kids with the most potential are likely the busiest.  Frankly...this is all of my students.  They are truly spectactular kids.  Especially true in their high school years, they are more often than not involved in Jazz Band, AP Classes, Athletics, Marching Band, Orchestra and any number of other cool collegiate application space fillers.  How to deal with the reality of their very real time constraints is a constant struggle for us on both sides of the learning equation.

The routine I'm demonstrating in the following two videos is the current evolution of 16 years of experimentation in around 70,000 trumpet lessons that I have taught.  In the first video I'm alone talking through my ideas and demonstrating while the second is with my new 11th grade student Grace in her very first trumpet lesson with me.  I love that it's her first crack at hearing these specific ideas and you can see how quickly she puts them into action.  She is VERY teachable. Her former teacher Bob Barnett who has moved was an expert at setting kids up right and helping them fall in love with the trumpet.

This brief routine can be accomplished in ten to fifteen minutes and goes a long way to allowing the trumpet player to start the day from scratch with responsive lips and a ringing tone.  Unlike longer routines I've experimented with there is less temptation to rush through and lose form and concentration.  I've walked through this sequence in about 150 lessons in the last two weeks and overjoyed with how the students have embraced their time with it.  Even on their busiest days they can do at least this.  Even if it's at the end of the day it will serve to help them end the day with response so their tomorrow is less difficult.  It is not a warm up.  It is not a warm down.  It is a routine.

If you have any questions about the hows and whys I'd love to hear from you.  I made these videos as a reference for my students but hope they can be helpful for any guests here as well.

- Phil

The Art of Learning
— Josh Waitzkin