C.H.O.P.S. blog


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Hunt for the
Optimal
Performance
Situation

I have been performing as a professional classical trumpet player for many years now and if I have learned anything about what it takes to be ready and confident to deliver a stellar performance it’s that preparation is key. However, our “chops” always seem to be this anomaly that no one seems to have total control over, no matter how meticulous the preparation. The best players I know all seem to say, “Prepare SO well that even if you have the worst chop day possible you’ll still be ready to knock it out of the park.”

I find that immensely unhelpful.

Every professional brass player has had the thought go through their mind when they wake up on the day of a big performance, “Yep:) my chops feel amazing. This is gonna be fun”

Every professional brass player has also had the occasional thought (be it from a chapped lips, too much playing the day before or simply having a bad hair day), “Oh *#@!, my chops feel terrible. I hope I can survive this.”

When I was at Juilliard, I found that my chops would feel less than ideal on days when I didn’t play enough the day before. When I took my first job with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, I found that playing too much would beat my face up and I started doing a lot of work without actually playing my trumpet to keep everything nice and fresh. Now that I have a few more years of experience I am starting to hone in on how listen to my body and adjust my practice in relation to how things are feeling. However, I still find myself in the occasional situation where I thought I was treating my chops well and they still end up feeling less than ideal.

C.H.O.P.S. is a journal that I keep to help me gain comprehensive knowledge of how to control my chops. My aim is to record as much as I can about how my chops feel everyday before I pick up the horn, while I am playing and after I put it in the case. As well as how much and what kind of playing I did that day and some of the general feelings of my body. i.e. are my lips chapped? do my lungs feel nice and clear? did I get enough sleep or even have one too many beers the night before?

I am confident that after a few years of this diligent scientific approach I will have the data I need to keep my chops feeling supple and strong whenever I pick up my instrument.

I invite you to read through some of the data I have collected and hopefully benefit from it as well as contribute any opinions or ideas that may help me on my quest.

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