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Author Topic: Getting smoked..  (Read 2428 times)
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LLCJ103
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« on: Jun 08, 2009, 03:33PM »

Hi, I wasn't sure where I should put this at? Practice room I think is appropriate for this topic!

Has any one ever been in a situation where you are with some really great players and you're the weakest link? Today I got a good dose of what the "Rock" had cooking. Wow, I got a boot to the A**.

I was reading quartets with some rather stellar players and just about died. I just wanted to pack it up and leave, the frustration level got pretty high. I have not played for years and years like these guys. All and all I think I did ok. I am not an "ok" kind of person though. I looked at this as a major wake up call.

I was feeling kind of crappy about the experience. I realized however, that I had two ways of looking at the situation. I could have a defeatest attitude or I could chalk it up for what it was and really get busy working. I chose to really get busy in a major way. It was a very humbling experience.

I'd love to hear some war stories. I am sure many of you have a ton of them ;-) Most importantly, after getting smoked what did you do about it? This is just not about playing and getting smoked, it is also about character and making choices.

Be constructive por favor..
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« Reply #1 on: Jun 08, 2009, 06:09PM »

I was at jam session recently mostly frequented by younger guys, local players-- not really a jazz session but it goes there at times.. anyways, The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra was in town that night and two of the trombone players and two trumpet players showed up there to hang. Somehow the session winded around to some extended blues-like thing and the guys pulled out their horns and blew everyone up. Not a single person in the club could hang with those guys on blues, the most simple of forms, soemthing everyone plays. Everyone had to just sit down. The session for weeks after that was 80% blues, everyone just trying to get the space to that level again. Personally, I didn't even play with anyone for days and instead transcribed every clifford brown blues solo I could find.

Getting it handed to you on a frequent basis is good for you in my opinion. Not only does it keep your ego in check and show you your place in the world but it serves as inspiration to keep practicing. If the desire to practice isn't there after being thrown down, one probably needs rethink the way they are approaching music ( not to turn this into a philisophical discussion) You should want to be able to do that more then you should want to hide.
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BGuttman
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« Reply #2 on: Jun 08, 2009, 07:59PM »

I agree with Elijah.  Every so often I get to sit next to someone who can clean my clock playing-wise.  Good to see these folks as it deflates my ego when I'm getting insufferable (even I can't stand it when I think I'm the best player there).

What's really nice is that often these folks sit next to me and don't rub it in.  Often they compliment me when I do something well and shut up when I do something stoopid.

I try to sit and learn whatever I can when I'm put in such situations.  Free lessons are not something to scoff at.

On the other hand, it can certainly be unnerving when I'm rehearsing my big solo and the guy who wrote it shows up just as I'm beginning to play :-0
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« Reply #3 on: Jun 08, 2009, 08:47PM »

I'm in a local jazz band and at one of our performances I had a first chair part on one part where my band's 1st chair was doubling on piano. After that song we played a combined chart, and my trombone started growling during a chord while they were in perfect harmony. Made me look like a trained monkey that had found  a stocked liquor cabinet and emptied the watering hole. Interesting mental picture. Well, that's why we practice.
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« Reply #4 on: Jun 08, 2009, 09:42PM »

A while back, I traveled with my friend to her gig with a local symphony. She played second with a graduate student from another school on principal and a local guy on bass, and I warmed up with them (me on bass). It was a great warmup, they were really good player, but then they decided to do a little clinic. My friend was working on Blue Bells, so she played that while the grad student watched, and then he sightread it (no kidding) to get some articulations...
Needless to say, I just put my horn down and watched. When I got the chance to play the grad student's 88H with Hagmann, I passed because I didn't want to be embarrassed. I hate those situations! Usually I can hold my own playing a part or something, but I was totally outclassed.
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« Reply #5 on: Jun 08, 2009, 11:05PM »

I love these situations... Sometimes you're the student, sometimes you're the teacher.  The point is we are a sharing our art with other people. 

Part of my GTA position for my master's was playing trombone in the faculty brass quintet.  Talk eating crow every other day!  It was great for me. I really learned to sight-read and how to wrap my ears around the music instead of playing with a conductor all of the time.
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Will Biggs

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« Reply #6 on: Jun 09, 2009, 06:16AM »

the musical environment in which i find myself most frequently provides plenty of opportunities for humility.  i am not only challenged by excellent trombonists, but by all jazz musicians who have developed their voices and creativity. 

when i am successful, i know intimately and definitively who i am and what i have to offer to the situation and i don't budge from my assessment.  when i am unsuccessful, i become distracted by what others do well and i begin to question who i am and what i have to offer.  this usually results in shallow breathing and eventually the wheels come off as i am no longer comfortable with my physical relationship with the horn.  that is a recipe for disaster. 

even when doubt creeps into my mind, i can still salvage a sense of being successful from the situation.  i attempt to assess what positive factors in the playing of others are distracting me and whether those things are important to incorporate in my playing.  once i have it sorted out in my mind, i get to work. and, in the moment, i breathe.

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« Reply #7 on: Jun 09, 2009, 06:46AM »

This was pretty much my experience in college, when I was placed in the top Jazz Ensemble's 3rd chair.  I was the only freshman in the band (there were no sophomores either) and I was completely incapable of playing up to their level.  Every single chart was a copy straight out of the books of the pro bands (Woody, Kenton, Basie, Buddy, Thad/Mel).  After a few weeks I thought I was finally "getting it"...then one day, the 2nd Tenor Sax player turned to me and said "So...when are you gonna start playin' that thing?"

Ouch.

That was the catalyst.  There's nothing like being burned by a sax player to get you off your duff and into the practice room.  Things improved immeasurably after that, and by the next year I was playing lead.

These are the kinds of wake-up calls everyone needs to experience.
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Rich Woolworth
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« Reply #8 on: Jun 09, 2009, 06:46AM »

Seeing that you recognize this, you will get better.
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« Reply #9 on: Jun 09, 2009, 06:50AM »

Our local talent is pretty high for a hick town in GA.  Lots of retired and active duty pros haunt all the regular paid groups.  Mercer U has got solid talent, and the Macon Symphony has talent as well.  I got my **** handed to me every rehearsal in the big band, and now have a quartet that I play with.  I'm learning tenor and alto clef (I know,... but that's what 20 years off will do to you).  Two of the four are pros, and I'm on first/second parts.  OTOH I play with a volunteer band in Macon that doesn't stretch me at all.  The only learning comes from the high level groups.  Playing well is its own motivation, plus the pain-avoidance (embarrassment) reaction also motivates.
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« Reply #10 on: Jun 09, 2009, 07:50AM »

I like David Gibson's post describing playing with confidence or with self doubt.  Anyway, as a returning player in community bands and brass quintet I have had many humbling experiences.  I even have them at home practicing.  At that time I get the feeling that I have hit the wall and reached my limit.  Very shortly I begin to discover some new technique to practice and I am moving forward again.  It is mysterious how that happens.  Is it subconscious determination or even talent?  The old saying about the harder one works the luckier they get might apply.  I feel that all of the good advice about technique is readily available here and other places, and if I spend the time to read and absorb it maybe it bears fruit when I need it most.
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Jim Walker
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« Reply #11 on: Jun 09, 2009, 09:53AM »

I feel that if I'm not putting myself into those kind of situations I'm coasting. I was recently moved up to the lead chair in a rehearsal swing band I've been playing in since I came back to the horn. I was excited about it, but the music was losing much of its challenge for me ( Warrington, Osser, etc. charts). I was offered the 3rd part in a jazz rehearsal band with a much more challenging (and interesting) book that plays on the same night, and jumped at the chance. I went from being one of the stronger players in the band to being the weakest by a wide margin. I get my ass handed to me every Tues. night in this band, but not quite as bad each week, and man, am I having more fun. If you don't get your backside blistered once in a while, you're not pushing the envelope, and that's one way learning occurs.
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« Reply #12 on: Jun 09, 2009, 03:31PM »

I was at jam session recently mostly frequented by younger guys, local players-- not really a jazz session but it goes there at times.. anyways, The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra was in town that night and two of the trombone players and two trumpet players showed up there to hang. Somehow the session winded around to some extended blues-like thing and the guys pulled out their horns and blew everyone up. Not a single person in the club could hang with those guys on blues, the most simple of forms, soemthing everyone plays. Everyone had to just sit down. The session for weeks after that was 80% blues, everyone just trying to get the space to that level again. Personally, I didn't even play with anyone for days and instead transcribed every clifford brown blues solo I could find.

Getting it handed to you on a frequent basis is good for you in my opinion. Not only does it keep your ego in check and show you your place in the world but it serves as inspiration to keep practicing. If the desire to practice isn't there after being thrown down, one probably needs rethink the way they are approaching music ( not to turn this into a philisophical discussion) You should want to be able to do that more then you should want to hide.

I had that experience when I played with the trad guys. It made me woodshed on trad and reading,to the point where if I went back and jammed with them,I could hang with them on their stuff,though on the swing and more modern jazz,I pretty much creamed them,and they all admitted that.

Getting smoked not only makes you want to woodshed more,but in the end,it makes you a better player overall. I've noticed that in my playing,and during some of my street gigs when other musicians who aren't as proficient show up,I have to lay off on some of my stuff to not intimidate them.
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LLCJ103
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« Reply #13 on: Jun 09, 2009, 05:07PM »

Wow, those were some really great war stories. I knew a bunch of you guys would have your getting your A** handed to you stories!! I really liked what Mr. Gibson had to say. I'd have to say that in the situation I was in yesterday, I got really distracted by the stellarness around me. I got frustrated because I was not at their level. I crashed and burned. I started to doubt and question as Mr. Gibson described, not good. I felt like crap afterwards. I soon realized though that it was really up to me how I would handle this humbling experience. Would I be a self defeated looser and feel sorry for myself or would I just say ok, lesson learned. I chose the higher ground. It totally motivated me to get in there and continue to work my A** off, quit feeling sorry for myself and "DO"..

Today was the same deal, same stellar players, minus one. Today I felt redeemed because I said ok, pay attention and play with conviction. Get in the now. I felt so much better, spirits lifted big time.

I totally agree, being with other really great musicians is humbling and motivating. I am sure there will be other times down the road that I will get the "smack down". It sure was an eye opener for me. My teacher was ever so cool..He just told me "you get better the more you do it." No comments like, you sucked or you need too do this... just chill, you'll be ok, the more you do it the better you get. I really appreciated those words from him.

All of the replies were great, lots of wisdom out there. Thanks alot ;-)
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D Gibson
« Reply #14 on: Jun 09, 2009, 10:20PM »

Wow, those were some really great war stories. I knew a bunch of you guys would have your getting your A** handed to you stories!! I really liked what Mr. Gibson had to say. I'd have to say that in the situation I was in yesterday, I got really distracted by the stellarness around me. I got frustrated because I was not at their level. I crashed and burned. I started to doubt and question as Mr. Gibson described, not good. I felt like crap afterwards. I soon realized though that it was really up to me how I would handle this humbling experience. Would I be a self defeated looser and feel sorry for myself or would I just say ok, lesson learned. I chose the higher ground. It totally motivated me to get in there and continue to work my A** off, quit feeling sorry for myself and "DO"..

Today was the same deal, same stellar players, minus one. Today I felt redeemed because I said ok, pay attention and play with conviction. Get in the now. I felt so much better, spirits lifted big time.

I totally agree, being with other really great musicians is humbling and motivating. I am sure there will be other times down the road that I will get the "smack down". It sure was an eye opener for me. My teacher was ever so cool..He just told me "you get better the more you do it." No comments like, you sucked or you need too do this... just chill, you'll be ok, the more you do it the better you get. I really appreciated those words from him.

All of the replies were great, lots of wisdom out there. Thanks alot ;-)


the beauty of playing with great musicians is the kinetic energy that results.  great players keep their own time and play there parts with confidence.  they aren't leaning on you to be sure that they're correct.  they know.  if everyone is capable of that, then playing can be effortless....as though the notes are being pulled from one's horn.  once you experience that, you don't want to be the sad cat who's dragging down the rest of the band.

humbling and inspiring.  that's what life can be if one is willing to pay attention and use their powers for good. 

dg
« Last Edit: Jun 10, 2009, 06:12AM by D Gibson » Logged
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« Reply #15 on: Jun 09, 2009, 10:50PM »

this is an interesting tread. If we have a chance to play with really good musician its very learning. All the time I have done it, it have been very learning. So we should not be afraid of doing it. They are often nice people and only want the best from us all. I think the factor that learned me most is to play with really good musician. They can make the absolute best out of you and its really fun. I remember when I was an young student and had to play as substitute here and there for first time. I was nervous and was wondering if I could make it. When you suddenly experience thing is really working and you experience you are really in the music its really fun. It brings you up to another level. Listening around and be a part of it. Nothing in the world can be more fun.
Sometimes I got some advices when needed, but always in a friendly way. Good musicians often take care of you and you feel they want the same as you. Just play some beautiful music together. Nothing to worry about. Just fun.

Leif
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« Reply #16 on: Jun 10, 2009, 06:50PM »

I've been so totally out of my league so many times I think I'd be worried if it didn't happen on a fairly regular basis.  :-P  Funny, though, I've found that sometimes when I feel that way I later find out that it didn't seem like I was playing all that badly to others in the group. Go figure!  Don't know  Which, I suppose, is a good thing. 

At any rate, I try to hold my own, learn as much as I can from the better players (and that's darn near everyone I play with sometimes) and not let it bother me.  If I get to a point where I'm not still learning, it won't be nearly so interesting and fun.   :)
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« Reply #17 on: Jun 10, 2009, 08:52PM »

One time that particularly sticks out in my mind was subbing with a quintet at a baseball game after my freshman year of college. I felt rediculous 1) because I was out of my league, 2) because I was wearing a hot dog suit. I got my butt chewed out by the lead trumpet player afterwards...but he let me practice with them for the rest of the summer, which was cool and I started reading a lot better. It also instilled in me a sense that keeping a positive attitude and being persistant takes you a long way.
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« Reply #18 on: Jun 11, 2009, 06:03AM »

One of my mentors used to say, "Play with people as good as or better than you. That's how you'll learn."

The first time I brought Bill Watrous into town to play with my band, we launched into "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" and opened it up for the trombone section. Each guy played a chorus, and then we started into another round. I was playing right before Bill. So I play my first chorus--not too bad--and he responds in kind. On the second round I played another decent chorus, or so I thought, until Bill puts the pedal down and goes into double time, totally wiping all of us out.

At times like this, thoughts of retiring cross one's mind. Luckily I took the other tact and eventually added doodle tonguing to my repertoire. Whether on the East Coast or on the West Coast (occasionally I fly out to LA to play with his quartet), I stand next to him and blow. I still come in second (big surprise), but he makes me play the best that I can. In a musical masochistic way, I love getting my butt kicked. It only serves to make me try harder.
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« Reply #19 on: Jun 11, 2009, 06:18AM »

At times like this, thoughts of retiring cross one's mind.

That is exactly how I felt the first time I heard Bill Watrous "live" (I believe it was in 1980).  The other Trombone player I was with turned to me and said  "What do you think...more practice, or just give up?"  I had the feeling there was just no hope!
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Rich Woolworth
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