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Trumpet vs. Aging



 
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John Mock
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:43 am    Post subject: Trumpet vs. Aging Reply with quote

Perhaps someone can enlighten me:

What is it, or how is it, that some players (like Ferguson and Doc Severinsen, now or soon to be 83) can play at a very high level into old age and even continue doing what they do--even out on the road--while others (Mendez, Armstrong) either stopped performing as much or perhaps suffered some erosion of their skills as they aged?

How much of it is genetic? How much of it is due to the player's practice regimen? Or their level of physical conditioning?

I play in a brass quintet with four older players, two of whom are in their 70's...which got me thinking about this.

What does one do to be able to maintain one's skill level into old age?

How does Doc do it? Does anybody know?

Is it that he loved the instrument so genuinely much that he just could never walk away or put it down? While perhaps others walk away from it once they know their skills aren't what they once were? Could it be that simple?

Thanks--

John
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Last edited by John Mock on Tue Sep 15, 2009 6:08 pm; edited 1 time in total
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_Daff
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doc is fit as a fiddle and sheds several hours a day.
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Brian Moon
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mendez had respiratory problems. Louis probably smoked too much weed. I have heard that Doc keeps healthy and practices!

Maynard was Superman.
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Smokin Joe
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stay fit and practice will probably help in those "golden years".

Joe
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Nonsense Eliminator
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aging takes a toll on strength and stamina, and lengthens recovery time. Some people may experience this less than others, and obviously some people practice more and therefore minimize the effect. However, I think the biggest factor is efficiency. You will lose power, so the less power you need to use, the later in life you'll be able to play.
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tommy t.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is my suspicion that individual difference in personality, physical history, natural ability and mental approach overwhelm any generalizations that can be made.

Nevertheless, it is an interesting subject for discussion.

At 66 I'm still 20 years from any endurance records, but I am playing better than I ever have. I have more useful range, longer endurance, improved control over my timbre, greater understanding of music theory and, in general, have learned through decades of practice and ensemble playing what is probably packed into 5 or 6 years of good conservatory and performance masters experience.

There are people like Doc Cheatam who obviously know that their technical abilities are slipping but just flat out love the instrument and the music so much that keep doing it for a public that keeps enjoying it.

Then there is my friend from the Concord Orchestra (community orchestra in Concord, MA) who at about age 50 played the Mahler 3rd very, very well indeed and thereupon announced that he could never hope to top that performance and quit playing completely.

Of course, there are some players with a point make or something to prove -- Freddie Hubbard comes to mind.

Each person has got to find their own path through the maze; wrestle their own demons; cope with or revel in their own physicallity. Talking and writting bios and history can be fun and revealling, but I doubt that knowing Doc S.'s practice routine or pulse rate, or both, will help many of us.

Tommy T.
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Babb9520
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my opinion, and this isn't necessarily consistent with the players you mentioned as they are all great, and not to mention that I am not old, i believe that how well you play into old age has to do with how you condition yourself when you were younger. If one develops one's playing into a very efficient method that does not labor your body so much as playing inefficiently (i.e. tension, muscling, etc.), then they can very easily carry those same habits into their age without ever wearing down and having to quit playing. I know that there have been some great players who, although they could play well, played inefficiently and had stop playing mid-career because of chop problems.

Just my thoughts...

Charlie
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John Mock
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies, and especially to Tommy T. for his eloquent reply.

I suspected as much.

Is it then also true that at least some of the people who play in community bands--who might "play" several nights per week--but do not have a good practice regimen at home--are suffering skill erosion because they are not doing the kinds of things one has to do to maintain or even improve the skill level?
In my case I've increased my aerobic exercise (elliptical trainer 55 or more minutes, 3 or 4 days per week plus stationary biking 6 to 10 miles on the off days) to try to lose more weight than I have been--and am noticing an improvement in my breathing, range, and endurance on the trumpet as well, though switching to the new mouthpiece may also be helping, too.

John
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tommy t.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

John Mock wrote:
Is it then also true that at least some of the people who play in community bands--who might "play" several nights per week--but do not have a good practice regimen at home--are suffering skill erosion because they are not doing the kinds of things one has to do to maintain or even improve the skill level?
John


Well, apart from everything I said, I do believe that it is the nature of the trumpet that systematic and effective practice is a sine qua nonof performance excellence. I can't recall a single example of someone who played well and wasn't affirmatively known to be a serious wood-shedder.

Personally, I aim for an hour a day, six days a week, plus two or three rehearsals or performance a week. My practice is broken into a warm-up/set-up part, an etudes or technical part, a practice current performance music or learn new songs part, and a multiple key drill part. What I do in each of those parts on any given day is specific to identified goals and aspirations. Depending on many things, my warm-up/set-up might focus on BE style pedal tone slurs or on 15 minutes of ppp above high C. My favorite key drill is to play a song completely straight through 12 keys and then modify the song into another 12 using a different scale form.

Physically, well my resting pulse during the day is around 55 -- morning pulse before rising is around 45. When somebody wants me to wear a tux in a dirty pit, I wear the one that was bought for my high school prom in 1960. Typically, I am physically active at altitudes above 10,000 feet on as many as 100 days a year.

All that said and done, I attribute my improvement in recent years to systematic practice, with conscious work toward eliminating tension and achieving effeciency, and to vastly improved equipment. I know that last item might be controversial but in fact there are more college lab band lead trumpets with good command of the double octave right now than all of the double octave players of the past put together. I think it is because modern technical knowledge, design capability and manufacturing precision has given us equipment that was undreamed of in 1960. (I may be way off, but pre-Schilke trumpet design seems to have been a process of finding a good model that worked more or less by accident and then copy it. Schilke is the first I know of that started approaching trumpet design from theory.) In addition, carefull study of the interface of physiology and trumpet physics has replaced the old master/apprentice, "do it like I do" method of trumpet instruction.

I am the direct and relatively recent beneficiary of the knowledge made available by people like Pops, Jeane Pocius, James Smiley (those three in particular in my case) and others.

I am a life long trumpet player and intended to play as well as I can for as long as I can. I am so grateful to be a trumpet player now, at this point in time, with all the resources that are available to help me enjoy my passion to the utmost.

In fact, I am going to go put on some Aebersold right now. I'm feelling so pumped by all this that I'll take yet one more stab at Giant Steps in the full speed version. (Then I'll probably go take a nap.)

Tommy T.
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ltkije1966
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally, given the choice between TRUMPET VS. AGING, I'll take the trumpet over aging any day!




Sorry, couldn't resist.

Thanks for the comments, this is enlightening as I'm approaching my mid 40's. I certainly feel the affects of aging in many of the things I do.

Scott
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Ralph
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nothing except wine gets better with age.
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tommy t.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ralph wrote:
Nothing except wine gets better with age.


Well, it's certainly the case that my shot at Giant Steps a few minutes ago wasn't all that good.

However . . .

A few years ago I discoverd fine anejo tequilas and I can assure you that, like wine, tequila may also improve with age.

Tommy T.
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Rexatious
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Louis Armstong is a special case that can give us a different perspective - that of the artist vs. the technician. Armstrong changed his playing style through the years, how much of the change was a result of less technical ability is debatable. His playing became less pyrotechnical. But from an artistic standpoint, a lot of his later playing is just as great as a lot of his earlier playing. He was basically a self-taught virtuoso; he didn't have the opportunity to study trumpet technique when he was younger, and anyone who sees a later photograph of Pops can see the scars on his chops. That said, a lot of what he did on the horn is pretty hard to replicate.
His playing in the 50s and 60's is usually more sparse than his earlier style, but there is also a lot of seriously technical trumpet playing from that era. I have recordings of Pops from the mid 60s in which he's holding some seriously long high Fs. But my point is that even at the end of his life he was one of the greatest communicators on his instrument in the world. His example for us is that the soul can still be there, even if the flesh is getting old. Same with Doc Cheatham. This gives me a lot of comfort as I stare old age in the face...
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Ralph
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tommy t. wrote:
Ralph wrote:
Nothing except wine gets better with age.


Well, it's certainly the case that my shot at Giant Steps a few minutes ago wasn't all that good.

However . . .

A few years ago I discoverd fine anejo tequilas and I can assure you that, like wine, tequila may also improve with age.

Tommy T.



Touché
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hvand
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's funny how I get more and more interested in this topic as time goes by.

The best data that I know of are the studies by Krampe and Ericsson from the 1990's. They looked at the abilities and practice habits of professional and amateur pianists (I guess they could not find enough trumpet players). They found:
    1. The physical abilities (reflex speed, strength, etc) declined equally in both groups.
    2. Amateurs practiced about 3 hours a week throughout their lifetime; professionals peaked at 30 hours a week at age 25 and declined to 10 hrs by age 60.
    3. Professionals continue to practice arduously. They do scales, etudes, and exercises.
    4. Professionals strive to improve their technical abilities.

My take on this subject is that all of us experience some decline with age. This decline may be less noticeable in professionals since they attained a higher level of proficiency. However, the good news is that our brains can figure out ways to overcome these physical changes if they are given the time.

My goal is at least 10 hours a week and each time I sit down I try to figure out ways to make it better.

Hank
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Bruin
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tommy t. wrote:
... Personally, I aim for an hour a day, six days a week, plus two or three rehearsals or performance a week. My practice is broken into a warm-up/set-up part, an etudes or technical part, a practice current performance music or learn new songs part, and a multiple key drill part. What I do in each of those parts on any given day is specific to identified goals and aspirations. Depending on many things, my warm-up/set-up might focus on BE style pedal tone slurs or on 15 minutes of ppp above high C. My favorite key drill is to play a song completely straight through 12 keys and then modify the song into another 12 using a different scale form.

Physically, well my resting pulse during the day is around 55 -- morning pulse before rising is around 45. When somebody wants me to wear a tux in a dirty pit, I wear the one that was bought for my high school prom in 1960. Typically, I am physically active at altitudes above 10,000 feet on as many as 100 days a year.

All that said and done, I attribute my improvement in recent years to systematic practice, with conscious work toward eliminating tension and achieving effeciency, and to vastly improved equipment.

I am a life long trumpet player and intended to play as well as I can for as long as I can. I am so grateful to be a trumpet player now, at this point in time, with all the resources that are available to help me enjoy my passion to the utmost.

In fact, I am going to go put on some Aebersold right now. I'm feelling so pumped by all this that I'll take yet one more stab at Giant Steps in the full speed version. (Then I'll probably go take a nap.)

Tommy T.


Great post, John, and great replies, esp. Tommy T. -- You are an ANIMAL! Man, your regimen and fitness for playing trumpet and physical activity are awesome! I'm shaking my head in amazement, man. Good on you, Tommy. Keep it up!

Herb
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jhatpro
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At 67, I feel I'm old enough to chime in on this one. First, I think that regardless of whether you play a trumpet, your longevity is primarily determined by genetics. We've all heard stories of people who had their shot of rye and cigar every day and lived to be 101.

That's just good genes triumphing over indiotic behavior. Then there are the stories of people like Jim Fixx, the runner-author who started the running craze but died from heart failure in his early 50s. Genes again.

At the same time, I believe if you've got some genes working for you it can help you live even longer if you have something you love to do that's not too crazy like base jumping or raising sharks. Trumpet playing is a good example of something with both physical and mental chalenges and psychological payoffs -- all good things to have going on as you age.

Personally, my hero is Doc Cheatham. The guy is gigging on a Tuesday and dead on a Thursday at 90 something, if I recall. No lingering illness in the hopeless ward. Just a long, lusty, musical life right up to the last bar. I like the name of that tune!
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TRUMPONIMUS
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2009 10:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Q.
Quote:
How does Doc do it? Does anybody know?

A. Practice.... Practice ... Practace ... Relax!
Play ... Play ... Play .... Relax!
THEN REPEAT! ... This has been Doc's philosophy since day one.
Q.
Quote:
What does one do to be able to maintain one's skill level into old age?

A. See above.

My feelings on this subject are fairly simple.
To me age is a state of mind. Yes, we do get older as time passes, and our bodies do tend to slow down somewhat. That's to be expected.
But it's not something to let your mind dwell on! That only makes you get older faster.
If you keep yourself actively doing the things you love and enjoy everyday, you don't have time to think of getting older. I've had a professional career as a trumpet player that I am still active in, traveling all over to perform.
I associate myself with some players older than me, but for the most part younger. I even play with a well known collage basketball pep band in the area, and all of them are old enough to be my granchildren, and in some cases even younger.
Unless you are not in good health physically or mentally, just keep doing what you are doing and enjoy it.
As the song says ..."The Best Is Yet To Come".
Jimmy
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dbacon
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2009 11:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Personally, my hero is Doc Cheatham. The guy is gigging on a Tuesday and dead on a Thursday at 90 something, if I recall."

I heard he got a sub for his Thursday afternoon rehearsal....!
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John Mock
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2009 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well a bunch of local trumpet players got to hear Doc Severinsen last night with El Ritmo de la Vida--and at 83, he's still got "it".

I saw him 8 years ago with the former Tonight Show Big Band, and the power and intensity of his playing then were simply astonishing.

He did not play as high last night as when he was here 8 years ago--perhaps a third less than his highest notes back then--but what he did play sounded fantastic. Lots of really solid, full B's, C's, D's and some E's.

Of course, I know trumpet is not all about range--that is only part of the equation. I'm only listing what he played as it might be somewhat relevant to the discussion of trumpet and aging. His regimen clearly works for him!

Though some of us will always see and hear Doc in our mind's eye fronting THAT big band, it was refreshing to see him with a small group. His command and control of the entire instrument was on display for all to hear. Though his sound at times maybe did not have the sheer paint peeling intensity typical of his big band playing, I actually prefer his sound now. To my ears, his sound was fuller or rounder last night (though he still displayed the paint peeling intensity a few times). Playing with a great band, they all had lots of solos; Doc probably gets longer breaks between solos than what one might have expected to hear with his previous bands. That said, it seems very few trumpet players anywhere could play like Doc still plays.

I'm not much of a drinker, but they say fine wine mellows with age. I'd gladly pay to see the slightly more mellow Doc again--and the band he's playing with is off the hook good--especially if you like anything latin or gypsy.

You gotta see them! We were glad we did!

In a side note, I hope I'm alive at 83, let alone on the road...

Best Wishes for Many More Doc Concerts--

John
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