Sean Jones

Trumpeter-Bandleader-Composer-Educator

Tip Tuesday Tip: The moment before the music begins...

Have you ever been in a practice session or even in a performance when you just can't seem to start right? You chip the first note, breath wrong, start with the wrong tempo... etc? This is WAY more common than you think and happens to everyone including professionals! Here are a few things to consider when starting a performance that may help you get past this issue.

1. Don't start until you're absolutely ready to begin. Try to eliminate that "I need to start right away" feeling. Breath deeply, embrace the initial silence in the room and relax. Many of my professors advised me to "let my body drop"... basically eliminating any tension. This will help put you in a relaxed state. Also, remember this... when you're in a performance, the audience is waiting on you to take them to where the magic is. In order to do this, you have to be there first! So, I'm fairly confident that the listener won't mind waiting a few more seconds for you to find your way into the musical moments that are to come.
2. Don't play until you hear whatever it is that you're about to play. This may be the most important thing to consider before you start a improvised solo, etude, concerto... anything. "Hearing" what you play, like a lot of advice we hear, often falls into the realm of the "sound bite" or cliche and loses some of its meaning overtime. I'd like to discuss "hearing" in this manner. "Hearing" the music means that it reverberates into every fiber of your being. You don't just hear the sound, you feel its spirit, its energy... you become whatever it is that you're about to play... THIS is "hearing it". It's important to lose yourself completely in the sound of what you're about to do before you play. By doing this, you're putting yourself and all of your quirks aside in order to allow the music to speak through you. Once you surrender your control and give the control back to the music, you'll allow its power to make the right decisions for you.
3. Stay in the mindset of performance! Do you feel like the stage is a foreign, scary, intimidating place? You're not alone! The ONLY reason that it isn't for me as much anymore, is the simple fact that at some point, I began to "live the stage". In other words, every single time I play anything, with the exception of quick warm ups, I'm thinking about performing. I don't separate my practicing from performing. If you have a hard time doing this, record yourself doing "performances" of the things you're working on. If it's an etude, record yourself playing it IN IT'S ENTIRETY! A tune you're working on? Get a band together and record yourself doing a performance of it. Once you get accustomed to being in this mindset, anxiety will begin to dissipate. If you stay in a meditative mindset, always seeking to perform the music at its highest level, at some point you'll just begin to think this way naturally without much effort.

One of the most difficult aspects of performance is simply starting.

If you're able to just take your time, allow the music to resonate inside of you and take you over, chances are you'll start off on the right track! As much as you can, stay in the mindset of performance always seeking to achieve the most honest and pure form of the sound that you're hearing.


We are human and make mistakes... but, music is not concerned with perfection! It wants us to be open, ready and willing to be the right vessel for it to travel through!
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Berklee College of Music Brass Department
Berklee College of Music