I just completed the first half of my trombone practice project, and I’m definitely on a different path than I originally set out to follow. As I’ve worked on goals in the past, I’ve learned that sometimes plans go their own way, and that often that way is exactly right!
Earlier in the month, when I was feeling bad for taking some rest days, two blog posts popped up that reminded me that it’s OK if plans evolve and change. A few days ago, another change came when a colleague sent me a new technical routine to try that included several buzzing exercises. (Buzzing is the way you produce a sound on trombone, and you can practice it by playing on your mouthpiece alone.)
I had avoided buzzing exercises for quite some time, because they used to lead to tension in my neck–but the routine looked so enticing that I decided to give the buzzing a shot. Not surprisingly, my buzzing wasn’t very good, simply because I hadn’t been working on it. But very surprisingly, when I buzzed, the neck tension that once plagued my playing was gone! Without realizing it, I had conquered a very difficult problem, and this victory gave me the confidence to explore the new routine further.
Now, I’ve done the new routine for four days. The buzzing is getting good, and in turn my playing is getting better! As a result of buzzing lots of low notes, all the notes on my horn sound bigger, fatter, more open, and more in tune. But oddly, this excellent result wasn’t one of my original goals! In fact, it’s more than I was aiming for, and it came in half the time!
When I was teaching school, much emphasis was placed on students’ being “on task”. But in this experience and many others, I’ve found that some of the best discoveries are had when one veers off the path a bit, or stops to observe something interesting. It seems like, when you gather the courage to try a tricky path, the path works with you. And if you let it, the path will send you to a destination better than the one you set out to reach!