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Control

Before gaining control on your instrument, and before even beginning to work for that control, you must first have concepts. These concepts become your goals, your standards while practicing. To work toward either a tiny slender pianissimo or toward a masterfully sustained, forceful fortissimo, you must first conceptualize musical situations that would call for these things.

Control means that every note speaks exactly when you want it to. That you can play with accuracy at the softest level to the loudest level in all registers. On long and short notes, between notes that are close together or far apart, with good intonation and the required articulation, without smacking into notes.

The real condition of the lip is difficult to judge from day to day. It may feel good, but it has to be proven out. Only by patient, dogged repeating of figures that are awkward (and may look simple) can the various muscles in the cold lip be reawakened, reminded, and brought under satisfactory control while critically listening for forte.

You pick up the horn, look at the music, and plan to play it. You observe the time signature and begin to mentally hum the written notes against a rhythm or beat within yourself. You understand the key and perhaps can hear the written pitches. You know the fingerings and you recall playing well yesterday. You understand something about air, embouchure, and support but you sound awful when you start. Perhaps you can’t even play a simple study beautifully. Why? As in ballet, the pretty result seen on stage is nothing more than the total of all the dry, laborious, physical procedures.

So many of the mistakes that happen are from some little thing being wrong, a slight exaggeration of any otherwise correct action. It is clear from this that one of the most important aids to playing well is to practice with care and alertness. Good routines, carefully practiced and with great effort not to miss is one of the secrets of playing well.

A certain amount of sheer determination is necessary for results on some days. When the lip is truly sluggish, stiff, or feels weak, then the player must with careful determination proceed through a warm-up routine, during this warm-up saying to himself, “I ought to be able to play these notes clearly and accurately, and I am going to!”

When the sound is bad, and the mind seems to wander, and the flesh doesn’t feel willing, then one must determine to turn such a bad day into a good one. One must proceed as though a concert were to start in thirty minutes, and with an intelligent warm-up make the lips do the work that they have previously proven themselves capable of. Never mind the bad sound and the bad lip sensations. If one proceeds with determination and intelligence to produce the notes of the warm-up routine, the sound will gradually improve as the lips find themselves.

Be more impressed by the player who sounds well in the concert after sounding badly in the warm-up than by one who starts out sounding better and deteriorates from there.

The slow, separated, and clear striking of notes breaks the careless movements of jaw and mouth muscles down to exact requirements for each note.

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