Sunday, February 27, 2011

Considering giving up playing the trumpet and cornet.

I am considering giving up brass playing and this article is a bit of "thinking aloud". I play the trumpet, cornet and a bit of french horn. The issue has been brought to the fore by the end of my commitment to my brass band. I had agreed to play with the band till March this year so with March coming round I have a free hand to decide what I am going to do. This may be a shock for some of my friends, but I did come close to giving up a few years ago and the reasons have not gone away:

  • My playing is inconsistent and I don't have enough time to practice to improve this. I do 15 to 30 minutes per day, but being in a flat I am restricted with what and when I can play. I find the state of my playing frustrating.
  • A lot of the playing I do is helping people out who are short of a trumpet. I don't get much out of doing these gigs other than feeling that I have helped someone. I get very little musical satisfaction from it. I have two of these gigs in the next month.
  • I am interested in producing a good sound and nice tone. This means I tend to play on equipment that is less easy to play accurately on. I have considered switching to smaller mouthpieces, but its not really me and I think my strength as a player is my sound.
  • None of the trumpet or cornet playing I do has any artistic flexibility. In my other musical activities I write arrangements, have a small audience for my work and have some influence in encouraging other people to try new things.
  • I will give up playing eventually. Everyone does. Going out while I am still playing reasonably well makes some sense.

The problem with all of this is that I have been playing since I was ten years old. If I stop playing there is no going back  (its like an athlete giving up running, I would never get back to the same level). I also went through a complete embouchure reset a few years ago which was incredibly hard work and I would not want to feel that I had wasted all that work. My music is also part of my social life.

Don't get me wrong. My trumpet playing is actually still pretty good. Given a couple of weeks notice I could bang out a decent performance of any of the baroque concertos or a cornet air varie. I am just not enjoying playing as much as I used to and any enjoyment is being outweighed by the work involved.

There is also the opportunity cost. I am getting frustrated that my other musical activities never get done because of the systematic daily practice I need to do on cornet.

I do need to think about this carefully before I make a decision, but in the mean time I need to think about what I am going to do with two band and two orchestral concerts in the next month or so.