Twisted sounds

Have you ever made a small error in a concert and thought to yourself, “This concert is a total failure! I’ve completely blown it!” Or have you been in the practice room and thought, “Tomorrow’s lesson is going to be a disaster! I always play terribly in lessons!” Or how about this one: have you ever played in a masterclass and found yourself thinking, “These people hate my performance!”

I’ve experienced these thoughts many times. After nine years of teaching in university settings, I can also tell you my students frequently express similar ideas. Not only are these thoughts unpleasant (don’t we play music because we like it?!), but they can also distance us from our music and lower the quality of our practicing and performing. Even worse, many of us self-identify so strongly as musicians that we create this terrible syllogism: I sound bad therefore I am a bad musician therefore I am a bad person.

Today I’ll show you one idea to help deal with negative thinking. It comes from the field of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and two of the field’s pioneers, Dr. Aaron T. Beck and Dr. David D. Burns. In his 1980 best-selling book Feeling Good, Burns introduced CBT to a mass audience as a tool to treat depression. Since then, these techniques and ideas have been used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Sadly, one blog post does not provide enough space for a nuanced, scholarly assessment of research in the field (academics and psychologists who stumble on this: please lower your pitchforks!). I just want to share some insights I had while reading Feeling Good that I found extremely relevant to my life as a musician. Continue reading “Twisted sounds”

Point Pelee and Grand Russian Fantasia with Toronto Winds

On Thursday, I’ll be performing as featured soloist with the Toronto Winds. I’ll be playing Howard Cable’s Point Pelee and Jules Levy’s Grand Russian Fantasia at the Atlantic Festival of Music. The festival brings students from across Atlantic Canada to southwestern Ontario, and the concert will be held on campus at Western University. Continue reading “Point Pelee and Grand Russian Fantasia with Toronto Winds”

Arutiunian’s Concerto for Trumpet

Alexander Arutiunian

In May 2001, just before I graduated high school, I was a member of the National Youth Band of Canada. This was my first real music festival and it was a huge event in my life. Not only was I amazed and inspired by the musicians I met, but I grew as a person and made friends I’m still close with today. I was hooked and came back for the next three years. Continue reading “Arutiunian’s Concerto for Trumpet”

Sunday Scales, special supplement: Brass Day clinic

Yesterday we held our annual Brass Day at Western, where I teach trumpet. Every year I offer a clinic, and this year my class was called “The Power of Scales.” Basically I attempted to summarize this series of articles over the course of an hour. No small feat!

Here is a copy of the handout I used for the clinic – I also gave the audience a copy of Sunday Scales 6: Variations Galore to give an example of practice variations. If you’re just discovering this series of articles for the first time, those two links are probably a great place to start.

Happy practicing!

Sunday Scales 19: À la mode

Last week, we discussed translating major exercises to minor. Now we’ll go a step further and look at some exercises in the other modes.

To me, modes were just a bunch of Greek names I memorized during undergraduate music theory. I never practiced them and I never played them (as far as I knew). But modes are a great stepping-stone to jazz and world music and a wonderful challenge in the practice room.

Let’s take a moment to understand the modes. Continue reading “Sunday Scales 19: À la mode”

Sunday Scales 18: Minor misunderstandings

This week we’re going to talk about minor – I’m sure you know it’s important, but do you actually practice it? In my case, I never practiced it much for two reasons: first, most exercises and etudes are in major keys; and second, the three minor modes make it confusing to translate exercises to minor. So this week, we’re going to look at a few scale patterns from previous article and show what they might look like in various minor modes. Continue reading “Sunday Scales 18: Minor misunderstandings”