[Trombone-l] Practice for what?

Roger Harvey rharvey at brassworks-music.com
Fri May 23 02:03:46 CDT 2008

Dear all,
As I contribute to the current practice thread it worries me that we  
become so involved with technical matters of playing an instrument  
that we forget why we are doing it in the first place. Many players, I  
know, just love playing their instrument. For most, I hope, it is more  
than that - it's our way of being involved in the hugely stimulating  
activity of corporate music-making. I feel that this should never be  
forgotten during the hard hours of personal practice. I sometimes  
wonder why some people continue to play as they seem not to be  
interested in music and occasionally even dislike it. I'm not talking  
about a lack of involvement with a particular piece or composer but a  
more general disinterest in music as a whole. I decided to test this  
out recently at a trombone Masterclass in a leading music college: I  
compiled a quiz of 10 substantial extracts, mainly from the core  
repertoire (Mastersinger Overture, Schubert 9, Mahler 3 etc) with a  
couple of more difficult items (Berg Violin Concert, Elgar  
Introduction and Allegro, Monteverdi Vespers). The extracts were  
substantial and typical of the composers - mostly openings - this was  
not meant to be tricky. 1 point per composer and 1 point per piece -  
max 20. 1 student got 13, all others were below, and some well below,  
half marks. My wife was taking a trumpet class at another major  
college and asked me to do a similar selection for her. 20 pieces this  
time, similarly mostly well-known pieces with a few slightly more  
testing but still characteristic pieces. One student got 1 point out  
of 40! The top mark was 17. One student failed to identify the opening  
of Quiet City (the bit before the trumpet starts) in spite of the fact  
that he was performing it a final recital in two weeks time. Neither  
of these events prove anything but it does support my theory that,  
even in the leading colleges, many students take far too little  
interest in the music that will be their daily diet should they  
succeed in reaching their goal of becoming a professional orchestral  
player. I have to ask, why spend so much time in the formative years  
of your life attempting to perfect a skill that has no point unless  
you have a strong interest in and love of music? Would an aspiring  
sportsman spend hours practicing without being really interested in  
the game itself?

I think that's a good place to stop.


Roger Harvey

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