As I worked with clients and made new friends at the National Trumpet Competition this past weekend, I was reminded of something fundamentally different about our company. Unlike other trumpet vendors (except Blackburn and Callet), we do not seek endorsements from clients. In fact, I have never approached a trumpet player ever in my life asking them to consider purchasing or performing on anything built by me.
This may not seem like news, but in reality this reveals the true nature of my work. I innovate, design and build trumpets because I love the entire process including making beautiful music. I believe that my work is worthy of your attention, your time and your investment without the recommendation of someone famous.
When visiting my website, reading my blog entries and speaking with me in person, you do not see or hear references to the hundreds of incredibly talented musicians who currently play my trumpets unless you specifically ask. There are no artist models with a photo attached. There is no list of great players to impress you. Instead, you are given in-depth information on how and why I have designed my trumpets to be efficient, ergonomic and custom fit to your playing preferences.
Harrelson Trumpets as a company follows a solution-driven model of marketing. We earn your trust, respect and endorsement by offering solutions specific to each and every customer. If you play downstream and want your bell to aim up, then we follow your recommendations and make design changes to fit your needs as was recently the case with a client of ours in Detroit. He drew a sketch of the leadpipe tilted down a few degrees and the bell tilted up a few degrees. His trumpet design will soon become reality.
In contrast, our display at the NTC this past weekend was in a shared room with a reputable corporate trumpet company. Two very nice gentleman represented the brand and Jen and I had nice conversations with them throughout both days. We were quickly reminded that corporations truly hold sales numbers over almost everything else in the equation including the customers. This is the reality of big business. Owning a large factory with hundreds of employees takes on life of its own and the bottom line does in fact become more important than almost anything else on a regular basis.
The corporate process of recruiting new endorsements is equally as interesting. When an artist came into the room, the corporate guys were quick to make jokes about how the artist would be better served if they would endorse their brand over the competition. Sadly, Jen and I later remarked that this must make the endorsed artist feel less important and more like a tool to achieve sales.
If you look at the history of endorsing artists, athletes and clients over time, you will see the trend that larger companies do this to increase the bottom line. When you think about most product transactions today, people don't really want to think too hard on options, quality or even the drive behind a company. It is easier to see that you are getting the same product that was endorsed by someone you admire. This is also a safe choice since your friends also admire this person and you can all feel like you belong in this way.
But why not think for yourself? Why not consider products and purchasing on a deeper level? Why not investigate and discover what advantages one product has over another? I challenge you to consider any and all companies offering high quality products. And I especially recommend digging deep into those who offer no endorsements.
I build some of the best products in the world and not one of my CNC machine tool dealers will give me a discount on my next machine purchase based on my talent, exposure or ability. Yet I am more than happy to spend $200k or more for their products because I have done my homework and know the machines are the best on the market. Ironically, the most successful American CNC machine tool company today constantly advertises who is using their equipment while they have the reputation of being the least accurate, least reliable and least efficient tools available.
We don't endorse our clients with free instruments like our competitors. Our clients are the best of the best and they come to us excited to invest in their new custom instruments. Then they turn around and endorse us! I believe this happens because we truly care about each and every client. We are all family in this pursuit to achieve greater results on one of the world's most demanding instruments.
Summit Trumpet In-depth Overview
The Summit model is where I spend most of my time developing, building and answering questions. On average, I take over a dozen orders for some version of the Summit trumpet every month. This includes variations designed for Jazz, Orchestra, Big Band, Solo, Symphonic Band, Commercial, Lead, Latin and Brass Quintet. Today, I will discuss the advantages of the Summit model, the various options available and I will make comparisons to other trumpets available from within my own offerings and those of other manufacturers. This is your opportunity to discover the incredible potential available to you in the form of an instrument I named after the highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains. I continue to invest my life into this ever-evolving expression of trumpet design, which may well be one of my life's greatest achievements.
Is the Summit Trumpet truly a custom horn?
Yes! In fact, every Summit is custom built to your exact specifications. And the Summit model offers more custom options than all other trumpet builders combined. This is a true statement and I've done the math. If you take every custom option available from every single company worldwide, you are left with a fraction of options when compared to the Summit.
A personal consultation is included with every order
Almost every client has a conversation with me directly to clarify options and expectations. This ensures that I build exactly what YOU want in terms of playability, tone, projection and aesthetics. We also discuss the model variations to find a balance between efficiency, price and wait time. The more efficient models like the Summit SWE and Summit One require more time and machining whereas the standard Summit is usually the quickest build time available.
Which line of Harrelson Trumpets is right for you?
I personally recommend the Summit line of my instruments over the HT, Bravura and Gravity lines for the following reasons:
What is the difference between the Standard, Jazz and Lead models?
There is no difference in build or overall design when ordering these three variations. The real difference is only the way you configure the leadpipe, bell, tuning slide and trim options. The Standard Summit IS exactly the same as the Jazz and Lead versions. I have given them different names since trumpet players are accustomed to seeing these words in the model descriptions. I could generalize by stating that most Classical players use a specific leadpipe and bell, but in reality that configuration may be the perfect setup for a Jazz or Lead player. So I refer to all of these models as the "Summit" trumpet.
What is included on a Summit trumpet?
Just about every option is included on all Summit models and here's the list of choices:
What is not included?
There are a few items you may consider adding depending on your preferences. These may include custom finishes, extra text, graphics, art, special bell bends, custom bracing shapes and just about anything you can imagine.
What are the prices of the various Summit variations?
The entire Summit line is the most reasonably priced instrument available today when you consider our custom options, service, playability, energy efficiency and quality. There is no competing model available anywhere in the world and thus the Summit is in its own class.
How does the Summit compare in price to other brands trumpets?
Comparing the price of other brand trumpets has always been a lesson in advertising. The general rule most corporations follow is to maximize profits while maintaining or gaining market share. This means charging as much as possible, while reducing production costs. Corporations are focused on convincing people to buy a product, which makes sense since they are in business to make money. All of the major manufacturers do this by advertising endorsed artists heavily regardless of the fact that you do not play the same as the person pictured in the advertisement.
I am also in business and have employees to pay, machines to maintain and numerous expenses. But the major difference is that I have devoted my life to the design, manufacture and performance of trumpets. My heart has been in this since I was 16 years old. My goals are primarily to offer the very best solutions to musicians at an affordable price while making the process and products extremely fun and rewarding for all. I have built this business from the ground up with no investment capital, just my own two hands, my mind and complete dedication to my own very high expectations.
Investing $4695 in a custom Summit trumpet is a very different experience when compared with other manufacturer options. You could purchase a Bach or Yamaha from a discounted online dealer for less than a Summit. Or you could purchase two or three Summit trumpets for the price of one Monette!
And purchasing your Summit trumpet is easy with flexible payment options. After your initial $500 deposit, you have the option of making monthly payments in any amount. We require 50% of your balance when your order is ready for final assembly. And your final payment is due when your horn is ready to ship to plating, lacquer or you in the case of a raw brass finish. Considering the build process is normally 4 to 6 months, you can create your own payment plan that fits your budget or simply make two payments at the end of the build process.
Here is a short list of other brand trumpets and current prices:
How do we compare value?
This is entirely up to you as value is subjective. You may want to consider factors such as who designed the instrument and when. Almost all manufacturers' trumpets were originally a copy of the French Besson, which was designed over one hundred years ago. There was some really cool experimentation happening throughout the 40's-60's, but the vast majority of options today are almost identical to one another and not much different than what was offered in 1970.
I have re-designed the trumpet using the latest technology including Computer Aided Design and Analysis, Ultrasound and Spectrum Analysis while incorporating Standing Wave Efficiency technology. Being a professional trumpet player in all genres for most of my life, I have built and played over one thousand different configurations within my own line of instruments. And I have owned, disassembled, carefully measured and re-built over 300 of the most popular trumpets available today. I have first-hand knowledge of almost every trumpet designed in the past 100 years that is not locked away in a museum. This includes the latest designs by the most advanced builders in the business. I have owned, measured and tested seven Monette trumpets and dozens of horns from the best current European manufacturers. What can I say? I like to do my homework.
You could also compare value within the manufacturing processes. This topic brings many manufacturing techniques into question as consistency and accuracy are usually sacrificed for speed and a mirror-like silver finish. I have devoted a great deal of my blog to addressing the issues prevalent in mass manufacturing today so feel free to discover these on your own. My manufacturing processes included extensive use of CNC machinery with glass scales to ensure consistency and high accuracy. I personally build every trumpet from the programming and running every machine down to hand fitting every single piece by hand before I solder and test all components. My name is on every horn and I want you to be proud of my work.
Where do we start with all these options?
At first glance, the sheer number of options available may seem overwhelming. I assure you, this is more fun than you think. There are no right or wrong answers when choosing components and I will guide you through the entire process. It's almost like designing a custom home and the goal is for your horn to feel like coming home. The following is a brief overview of every option included on all Summit trumpets including links to resources within the HT website.
There is a leadpipe and bell configuration to meet the demands of every player. I will walk you through the options that will best fit your needs helping you make the final selection.
Understanding Bell Options
This in-depth overview will help you determine the bells that will best fit your needs.
The latest SWE tuning slide options include styles A, D and R. Style R designates the "Ripples" design that matches the new SWE Bell Crook available on all Summit trumpets ($600 option).
Finishing your trumpet in silver, gold or lacquer may be preferable if you want a clean appearance. Mixing brushed and polished accents in any combination is common except in raw brass. Adding clear lacquer preserves the original finish preventing tarnish. Silver will tarnish over time, but much more slowly than raw brass. Adding carnauba wax to brass and silver finishes will also prevent tarnishing. Gold plate never tarnishes and looks great in a brushed finish, but the price is considerably higher.
5MM Modular Mouthpiece
With over a million modular configurations, the 5MM will allow you to play dark to bright, soft to loud, broad to focused and it is included with every Summit trumpet.
Your choice of tapered or cylindrical shapes in two diameters, the AGR Receiver is available plain or with text and/or model logo engraving.
A full set of 9 AGR Inserts is included with every Summit trumpet. After you have had a few weeks to acclimate, we will send you 9 more inserts in your choice of venturi and size to continue fine tuning air flow, flexibility and slotting.
Including with every Summit, your name or a small graphic may be engraved or milled into the receiver, top bracing or trim kit. In addition, you choose what will be milled into the top bracing. The standard setup includes the Harrelson logo, Leadpipe and Bell designations on the top and the build date and Denver, Colorado on bottom.
We now offer 4 water keys including the Saturn, Harrelson, Pollard and Amado designs.
Ergonomic finger rings are pictured in most photos on this website. Variations include the pinky rest with or without an open ring, cylindrical rings in 1/3" and 1/2" and the following custom styles; Flames, Summit One, Skeletonized and Ergonomic Arch.
Top caps are available in standard recessed 1/2", classic 1/2", tapered and low profile versions. Updated photos will be added to our website soon. See our Facebook pages for a sneak preview!
Bottom caps are available in standard cylindrical and classic styles in sizes ranging from 1/4" to over 1". We also offer numerous designer options including tapered, tapered groove, grooves and the new organic curves styles that will debut this coming summer. Updated photos will be added to our website soon. See our Facebook pages for a sneak preview!
Finger buttons are now available as a solid one-piece brass design in two sizes and two shapes and two modular variations. Updated photos will be added to our website soon.
Finger Button inlays options include everything from vintage dimensional glass to shells and semi-precious gemstones. We literally offer over 200 inlays and we perform extensive lapidary work in our Minneapolis shop. Updated photos will be added to our website soon. See our Facebook pages for a sneak preview!
Third Stop Mechanism
We now offer 4 options to keep your third slide from falling onto the floor. The spring ball stop is the most popular allowing you to set a tension screw once. Then you simply pull the slide with extra force to remove for cleaning or greasing. The screw stop is a much improved version of the industry standard. The latest design is a black delrin plunger allowing slide removal with one simple pull. The last option is the black band, which is requested from time to time, but not recommended.
Every new Harrelson Trumpet includes a full 12-month guarantee. You may exchange your trumpet for full credit towards another new Harrelson Trumpet based on your original invoice amount, allowing you to upgrade to a more efficient or different configuration without risking any of your investment.
How will you set up your Custom Summit trumpet?
Feel free to share your ideal Summit trumpet configuration by leaving a comment. I also encourage you to check out my Facebook pages "Harrelson Trumpets" and "Jason Harrelson" where you can share ideas with current Summit trumpet owners.
When I was nineteen years old, attending St Olaf College in Minnesota, I had this brilliant idea that I would drop out of school and start building trumpets for a living. No one in my inner circle liked this idea including my closest friends, parents and professors. They opposed the idea for many reasons, but I suspect it was mostly because they knew I was serious. Seemingly everyone in my life suddenly clung onto fear of the unknown as I left school and began something entirely new. It was as if they could all see a massive wall cloud laying in wait, ready to attack as I was oblivious to the dangers of walking across the plains alone.
Twenty years later, I enthusiastically "build horns for a living" just as I had imagined. In contrast to my original vision, Harrelson Trumpets has grown to encompass far more than I could have ever comprehended as a young person. I don't mean to say young people are not capable of understanding multiple disciplines including business, engineering and physics. But the diversity in trumpet-related knowledge, experience and understanding required to produce a Summit trumpet or modular mouthpiece is far beyond what most of you are willing to endure even in the form of a detailed essay.
When I look back on the last twenty years of my life, I wonder how time has gone by so quickly. And at the same, it almost seems to have happened in slow motion. Sometimes I feel like I have spent fifty or even one hundred years learning, even though I can count to twenty. Waking up every day with the same overall goals in mind is a serious physical and mental exercise. Fine tuning my understanding of physics in all its forms while complimenting these principles with the human experience to discover solutions to problems previously unidentified is my life. My scientific process is both objective and subjective as I always test every idea personally by creating music with my innovations.
Many of my friends and colleagues are highly respected professionals each in their own discipline including engineering, physics, leadership, medicine, law, business, government, manufacturing and the like. Each of them has dedicated their lives to their chosen field of study, many of them with obvious passion to learn more with each coming day. In a sense, they are living their life's work in balance with family, friends and all of life's other opportunities and challenges and I strive to do the same.
Yet is amazes me when someone visits my shop and asks, "Did you give everyone the day off?" because I am the only person here. The assumption is that there is a building full of busy factory workers turning out trumpet parts day and night. There are only five of us at HT and I am the only building trumpets, mouthpieces and accessories. Jen designs and manages all media and social networking. Christine works closely with individual clients to better understand the solutions we offer. James S. cleans and puts the final touches on trumpets and accessories. And James Knabe travels around the country offering trumpet clinics while working with individuals on trumpet solutions.
For many years, the same question came across my desk again and again, "Who builds the trumpets that you brand as Harrelson?". The answer was always the same, I build Harrelson trumpets myself.
Other common questions include requests to reveal:
What does this have to do with shortening the wait time to receive your new trumpet or mouthpiece? I'm glad you asked! My efforts specifically in the production of trumpets and accessories is cumulative overall. Almost everything I do in the realm of production is aimed at creating highly accurate repeatable processes. Over the past five years, I have improved so many design elements and production processes, that the time required to build has diminished while the quality has increased considerably.
A trumpet I build today is not equal to one I built last year or ten years ago. The trumpet I deliver today is designed to be more versatile and efficient with SWE Technology and the Adjustable Gap/Venturi Receiver. And the improved production processes ensure every trumpet is machined to a much higher level of precision than previously possible. Considering that everything I produce is precision machined and not cheaply mass produced, time is my most valuable asset.
Now that my new Denver location is up and running at a higher level of production and accuracy, your wait time for most trumpet models and components will be reduced considerably. The only exclusions are orders requiring physical redesign like art trumpets, the Satchmo Summerfest yearly model and the new Bravura flugelhorn.
I am very excited to be exhibiting at the National Trumpet Competition at Messiah College next week and for the first time in history I will have 6 AGR Summit trumpets available to play. And looking towards the International Trumpet Guild Conference in May, I will offer 10+ AGR Summit trumpets in various configurations and over one thousand 5MM Modular Mouthpiece options. These innovations could solve the majority of your equipment challenges in just one day.
Just over two weeks ago marks my first public performance with other musicians in over four years. And last Friday night, I performed two sets of Jazz tunes with several of my clients/friends in the Twin Cities, thus marking my second performance in recent years. Both gigs were extremely fun and I'm honored to have been given these opportunities.
Considering that I praise trumpet in every way, you may wonder why I haven't performed in many years and the explanation may surprise you. I have been suffering memory loss due to recurring strokes since I was a child. Yes, I am referring to a physical event where blood flow is blocked and my brain tissue is damaged. With every stroke, I lose short term and sometimes long term memories as well as many abilities most of us take for granted.
My last major stroke occurred in my sleep the morning of May 11th, 2012. I awoke to a strange sensation that I could not describe. After testing my fingers, toes, arms and legs, I determined that I had a major stroke and proceeded to call for help. This is when I realized I could not speak as the left side of my face and mouth did not move. So I texted Jen, my long time business partner in Harrelson Trumpets, asking her to take me to the hospital. It just so happens that she was on vacation with her boyfriend several hours from Minneapolis. It was then that I realized I would have to drive myself to the hospital.
You see, I lived in the HT shop for several years and on this morning I knew that an ambulance was unlikely to locate me within our industrial business park as I could not speak my location. And I had built a secret apartment within the building that was intentionally difficult to find. I was considering the possibilities of my situation wondering how much time I had before there was permanent physical damage to my brain. In my weakened state, I had lost the sense of time, but knew I had to get to the hospital.
Standing up was incredibly difficult as the left side of my body did not respond to commands. I balanced myself on my right leg and then fell to the ground. This happened several times until I reached the front door to the shop and then my truck. I didn't have time to practice driving nor did I know where to find a hospital as I was immediately lost when I left the parking lot. My brain no longer processed information based on memories of places, symbols and words. That was mostly gone and I could feel the last pieces of my mental ability fading quickly.
I truly do not know how I typed "hospital" into my phone gps, but somehow it gave me directions and I did my best to follow them. The gps computer voice said to turn left and I remember thinking to myself, "which way is left?". I had to look at the map from the top view and match it with the roads in front of me to better guess directions of left and right. Eventually, I realized I was completely lost. No matter how many times the gps gave me the next direction, I could not remember what was just said, nor could I guess if left was one direction or the other. But miraculously, I saw the hospital and drove across some parking lots to get there. Looking back on this day, that was the longest 8.3 miles I have ever traveled.
I pulled myself inside and attempted to tell the emergency room nurse that I was suffering a stroke. She handed me a clipboard and asked me to fill out some papers. When I looked down at the words, they looked like macaroni squirming around on the page as if they were living cartoons, all equally shaped and sized. I collapsed on the floor.
I'll save you the details of my hospital stay and eventual recovery and get back to the title of this entry, "Re-learning Trumpet". In the months after this event, I faced many challenges that may seem unreal to most of us. In just a few hours, I had lost almost my entire memory. I had forgotten how to read, write, walk, talk and play trumpet. I could not even interpret one single symbol. Looking at a stop sign literally made me dizzy and nauseous. Every symbol, no matter how simple, a letter, a number or a logo no longer had any meaning to me and would be interpreted the same way, as an organized series of cartoon macaroni squirming around. And the same was true of sheet music. I could not even remember the names of my friends and family members.
I picked up a trumpet on the day I was released from the hospital and sailed from low c up to double high c and immediately felt exhausted. A few days later, I realized I no longer knew how to play any songs, melodies or even a series of notes. That information was now disconnected from my conscious mind, inaccessible to my fingers. I had forgotten how to play trumpet even though the right side of embouchure still worked fine.
Strangely enough, the mechanics of just about everything remained while the organized conscious human commands were missing. I re-learned the use of my left arm and hand fairly quickly, but would easily smack it into walls and tools daily because my brain did not remember that I have a left arm. After careful thought and slow movements, I taught myself to use my left side again. In fact, I use my left arm and hand for tasks far better now than before the event. But it took patience, time, practice and very careful programming to recover so quickly. I can now close my eyes while holding my arms out to my sides and make any two finger tips meet in front of me. I know this sounds simple, but after enduring a major stroke, many people never recover this much facility.
In reality, I've suffered dozens of strokes throughout my lifetime and several have been serious like the one mentioned here. I've also endured heart attacks and one pulmonary embolism. These are all due to two birth defects, one in my heart and one in my brain, both of which I had no knowledge of until this event in 2012. Before that time, I would go to the doctor time and time again complaining that I suspected having a stroke or heart attack only to be dismissed as a hypochondriac based on the seemingly physically fit state of my body. Never had any doctor tested me for a heart or brain defect based on my symptoms regardless of the fact that I continually asked for these tests.
So my life has been a 39-year-long series of building skills, knowledge, understanding and wisdom and then forgetting some or most of my progress on a one to two year cycle. Now that I am aware of my physical limitations, I follow a very careful set of rules that hopefully prevents most or all future events as previously mentioned. I am extremely fortunate to be alive and truly wake up every morning overjoyed that I will live another day of beautiful life experiences exploring all that this amazing world has to offer. I have always been that person you meet who is making the most of every minute as is inscribed in the leadpipe of my own trumpet, "Carpe Diem Oculus Aperire" which means Seize the Day with Eyes Open.
Many of you are re-learning trumpet or maybe you're learning for the first time. The rest of us are likely doing our best to continually learn new techniques, music, musicality, harmonic progressions, etc. We're all in the same situation, challenging our current knowledge and understanding to hopefully reach a new level of musical wisdom.
My life has been an extreme version of learning, forgetting and re-learning, which could be why I tend to see the fundamentals of physical realities so easily. I have forgotten the names, places and societal attachments of objects, processes and tasks so many times that I only see the physical reality. For example, I truly see a shirt as something you wear to cover your body and possibly keep you warm or cool depending on the weather. I have learned that button down long sleeve shirts are acceptable in more formal situations while t-shirts are less expensive thus better suited for building trumpets in since getting them dirty is more logical than dress shirts. This seems simple enough, but consider adding writing to the shirt. If my t-shirt advertises a company, I have to look it up to know anything about that company. I had to look up the wing symbol on shoes as I forgot the brand Nike. The same has been true of almost everything. I learned just last year that the Grammy awards are for music. I cannot remember the names of any other awards or with what professions they are associated.
Now apply this way of seeing the world to performing trumpet. I do not remember which music is popular, so I am learning to play all types of music at the same time. I literally turn on my XM radio or Pandora and choose any channel, then I listen and play along. I find myself playing AWOL Nation licks in my Jazz solos and I have no problem improvising with Cake, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Taylor Swift or Journey.
Apply this approach to choosing a mouthpiece. I do not easily recall why I have played previous mouthpieces so I simply use the one that achieves the best results. However, I have re-learned that I was originally taught to only play Bach mouthpieces. More specifically, I was told to play a Bach 1-1/2C as is written in the front of my Arban's book by my former instructor. However, Bach mouthpieces cut into my thin lips easily, reducing my endurance and my lips are clearly better suited to a slightly more shallow cup size. Further, I have six liter lung capacity and an aperture controlled embouchure meaning a larger throat is more comfortable offering me greater dynamic range. By forgetting who told me to play a Bach 1-1/2C and simply believing that suggestion, I have moved into a mouthpiece that far better fits my needs as a player both physically and musically.
How does this approach apply to proficiency on the trumpet? Well, ask yourself the following question, "What could you play if you forgot all of your previous mistakes?". My answer to this question is ANYTHING. I have literally forgotten the feeling of making mistakes in the practice room, in auditions and on stage for the vast majority of my life. And now that I play trumpet more often, I realize that my mind must have somehow been trained to deal with this reality as I still forget my mistakes in the conscious negative sense that many of us hold onto when attempting something difficult for the second, twentieth or even thousandth time. Forgetting that you made the same mistake over time is likely the key to success.
Take that idea one step further. I don't even see mistakes as negative, ever. When I observe others attempting something challenging and see negative facial expressions along the way, I wonder what is going on and why. Has our world become so self-conscious that we are thinking about inadequacies within the performing experience?
I should also mention I do not watch television nor have I ever watched tv since banning it from my life when I was in 6th grade. From what I gather from family members, I stopped watching tv to prevent myself from being tainted with the unwarranted expectations of others. The story goes something like this, I heard a diet coke ad on tv and jingle said something about drinking it for the taste. I apparently did not like the taste of regular or diet coke and this commercial was so popular that I stopped watching tv. In fact, I stopped drinking soda altogether as a result of reading about the common ingredients and their effect on the human body.
Ask yourself why people drink so much pepsi and coke. Is it because of the taste or did the advertising seep into your reality over time? How many times do you estimate you have unintentionally heard a coke or pepsi ad? Is it possible that you consume some products based on the subconscious cues you have learned through clever advertising? Why don't you drink pure clean water since it is better for you? Now imagine erasing all remnants of social bias from your reality. I drink water at every single meal, every day of the week. I do this because it works best with my body and likely because I do not have any bias towards other commercialized beverage options.
Apply this to playing trumpet, but imagine that YOU are the source of your own advertising. Every time you've ever attempted slurring from C below the staff directly up to A above the staff is probably stored someplace in your brain. How many times did you play this particular slur perfectly? How many times did you land on a G or experience some form of an out of tune A? And how does your collective memory of these experiences reinforce your next attempt? Your history on this slur is similar to advertising. If you have a long history of playing it perfect, then your mind is most likely going to imagine another perfect instance in the future. And if you've missed it too many times, you may automatically doubt your ability to perform this consistently.
So how do you forget so that you may re-learn? Well, now that I don't have memory loss as frequently, it is easier for me to remember my own mistakes. However, I don't see missing a wide interval as a mistake. Instead, I simply hear where I landed in relation to my target and make slight changes on the second attempt. I almost always nail it the second time as I objectively gauge my efforts and fine tune my performance system. If I were to log in my brain one of two options; 1) a mistake or 2) a perfect score, then I'm operating on a scoring system rather than real-time feedback.
The difference between "scoring" your performance abilities and "real-time" feedback in the way we approach anything is extremely important. I suspect the reason many of us are scoring our abilities is that we compare ourselves to other players. Today, more than ever before, we can hear more great and poor examples of trumpet performance on YouTube, websites, blogs, forums and other online and live sources. But how does that teach us to perform better if we only compare? I'm all for learning to do something better, but my goal is to be me, not the other person I heard on the internet. Scoring every interval, attack, range, endurance and the like is not necessary and could be counter-productive.
I prefer "Real-time Feedback", which is to say I am listening to what is being performed by others and myself and then making small changes in my performance system to intuitively achieve results that reflect my intent. If I want to play a perfect slur from low C to A above the staff, I forget about everything in the world and monitor my air flow throughout my body. I focus on the aperture formed by my lips and remember the experience. If I overshoot the note, I make adjustments and let a little more air flow on the higher note. If I hit the G below the A, then I simply let less air out on the higher note. But I never think, "Oh man, that was embarrassing, I wonder how many people noticed I messed up that interval?". In fact, I don't really care what anyone thinks about me hitting the interval less than perfect. I simply listen while monitoring my body and adjust as I play all night long.
I know this blog entry is very different than my usual technical information-based entries. But I wanted to let you know that half of my approach to trumpet playing (and everything in life) is based on the human experience. Learning to forget what is not helpful to your progress is probably the most important concept you can ever incorporate into your life. I encourage you to forget negative reinforcements, replacing them with real-time feedback that is neither positive or negative. It is simply information you interpret to better the next experience.
Figuratively speaking, too many of us fall down when learning to walk and then simply fear falling again. Remember that falling down is nothing more than the result of gravity combined with the human experience and any of us can learn to run, jump, somersault, flip, cart wheel and with a human wing suit, we can fly. Imagine what you can do with a trumpet!
Inventor, Musician, Educator and Founder of Harrelson Trumpets, Trumpet Momentum and Harrelson Momentum.