Not “Can You?” but “Do You?”

Different Practice Objectives

When it comes to assignments in our private lessons, it’s important to know what the objective is for practicing that assignment. While some assignments have as their final objective acquiring the ability to perform a certain exercise or piece of music, other assignments are more about spending time doing the assignment. The first type of assignment enhances your musicianship by expanding your capabilities. The second type of assignment is more about creating a musical environment that helps you grow into a more natural performer.

In this context, natural performer means someone who’s performance has become more second nature. One of the best explanations I have found to describe this sort of naturalness comes from the preface of a book titled Keys to Natural Performance for Brass Players by Robert Weast.

Natural performance is abundantly with us. Consummate artists display it every time they perform, although many would insist on being anything but “naturals.” This term commonly refers to those who from the first do everything right. These are rare individuals, indeed. “Natural performance” as used in this treatise refers to the way or path leading one to reach his full potential. It is the way that allows one’s musical ability to become freely and completely expressed. Natural performance is the result of nearly perfect synthesis of mind and physique. Its antithesis occurs when the conscious mind attempts to direct the intricacies of physical action. This is the realm of the unmusical player.

Becoming a more natural performer opens the door for us to experience music performance on a higher plane. We get there by literally living in an environment rich with musical stimuli. That environment includes listening to and reading about other musicians. It includes spending time rehearsing and performing with musicians who are better than us. But it also includes spending time executing certain exercises and musical works in a way that causes us to change the way we think about music.

The latter falls into the second category of lesson assignments. When the objective of your assignments is to create a musical environment, the assumption is that you are already capable of executing the material. It is no longer an issue of can you play the exercise or can you perform the music? When the purpose is for creating a rich musical environment, the question becomes, do you practice the exercises? Do you spend time playing the music?

Ironic Shortcomings

This is where some of the more advanced trumpeters may find themselves cheated in the end. If the student can already play an exercise of the second type, that student may think that continuing to practice is a pointless waste of time. He can already play the assignment! Why practice it again? If the student cannot recognize the importance of musical environment, then he may neglect to practice those exercises and/or more environmentally beneficial music. He will then be cheated of the success that comes with living a life in a rich musical environment.

I have seen this problem with some of my more talented students. Some things come easier for them than for other students, so they make the mistake of assuming this means they don’t have to practice what they are already good at. For music and exercises that fall into the first category, they are correct. If they can already play the music, it is sort of pointless to invest time beyond what it took to learn it the first time. But they fall short of the mark when they apply that same logic to the other assignments from the second category.

Learn to recognize which category each of your assignments belongs to. When you recognize an assignment as being in the second category, when you understand that it is meant to create a beneficial musical environment for you, practice that exercise regularly long after you feel like you are finished and can already perform it.

About Eddie Lewis

Eddie Lewis is primarily known as a Christian free-lance trumpet player in Houston, TX. Eddie makes a living playing trumpet, teaching trumpet and jazz improvisation, writing trumpet music and authoring trumpet books. His second book, Daily Routines for Trumpet, is used regularly by thousands of trumpet players around the world. If you would like to purchase some of his CD's, feel free to visit our online music store at
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