Natural Vibrato Is Best
Every once in a while we get what we call “Occasional Students.” These are typically trumpet players who do not live in Houston and obviously cannot commit to regular weekly lessons. I have taught trumpet players from all over the world as they make an effort to meet with me while they are traveling to Texas or specifically to the Houston area.
Today I worked with a young trumpeter from California who is in Houston visiting his grandmother. As I always do in a first lesson, I asked the student to play something for me so I have an idea of how well they play. I asked him if he had warmed up yet, and he said he had not. So I said that this was a great opportunity for me to hear what he does for a warmup.
He began his warmup for me by playing long tones with a warm, very natural vibrato. Although I do not agree with using vibrato on long tones, it was a pleasant surprise to hear such a young student play like that.
Listening Comes First
When he was finished with his long tones, I asked him how much he listens to trumpet music. He was honest and told me that he listens to some trumpet music. He didn’t exaggerate and say that he only ever listens to trumpet music or anything like that. However, when I asked him who he listened to, the way he answered the question made it very clear that he wasn’t just taking listening assignments home and enduring the music as if it was just another dreadful exercise. No. It was clear to me the way his eyes lit up that he actually has favorite players and that he truly enjoys listening to trumpet music.
I have no doubt that this student’s natural vibrato is directly connected to his love of the music. And am also completely convinced that this love is not something that can be taught into the students.
I asked the student if he ever practiced vibrato. He said that he had not. Vibrato is something that always came natural to him!
One thing that I do with all of my regular students is give them listening assignments from my personal CD library. My hopes are that, by listening to the music at least once a week, they will come to enjoy it the way this occasional student from California does. But as the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” It’s obvious that some trumpet students want to learn to play the trumpet for some other reason than just because they love trumpet music. And to be completely honest, I really don’t have a problem with that. So please don’t consider what I’m saying here as a complaint. Not at all.
But I do see a great deal of contrast between the progress of those who are pursuing trumpet because of a deep connection to this instrument and those who are learning the music for other, more social reasons. It’s not so much that the ones who love the music are necessarily more talented. I’ve seen some extremely talented students who never had their hearts in the music. But the ones who enjoy the music progress so much more quickly and sound more natural than the ones who only just “like to be in band.”