Musing on scales

Some things never change, and it can be a small comfort (of sorts).

I have fairly recently decided that after having not played the trumpet any more frequently than about 10 minutes once every two years over the past six years or so, that I would like to take it up again. It’s been a long time, and it was something that I really enjoyed as a teenager.So much so that I was on the brink of deciding to pursue music as a career (I’m ultimately glad I didn’t, for a myriad of reasons).

I went so far as to essentially bribe Fella into bringing back a horn from home for me (a great deal of bartering took place, let me tell you). Well, he’s been back going on two weeks already, and I’ve played it a few times. Just sort of fiddling around and getting used to the fact that this is something that is an accessible outlet for me (not that I don’t have enough outlets for creativity — quite the contrary, actually. I likely am one of those people with too many).
I did much to ensure that the correct method books were also brought back (Arban’s Complete Conservatory for Trumpet, H.L. Clarke Technical Studies for the Coronet, Excerpts from the Arban-Clarke Method for Coronet and Trumpet, to name a few), as well, and yet hadn’t cracked them, except to flip through quickly to see what pages and exercises had been marked off by my instructor years ago (we’re talking probably close to a decade, here).

And so he sat (yes, he. His name is Fabio). Sitting out in plain view, just hanging around. I would look over guiltily and decide that it was the wrong time of day. Or that it would be too noisy even with a mute and I didn’t want to disturb the neighbours.

My living situation is this: I live on the top floor of by building. At the end. I have one next door neighbour (we share a bedroom and hallway wall), and to my other side is the stairwell.
Come on, Briana. Get it together. Nobody is going to care what kind of terrible sounds will come out of an instrument at 10:30am on a Wednesday. Really. Really really.

This brings us to today. Actually, to about thirty minutes ago. I decided to take my balls out of my purse and start this journey of re-honing my skills as a musician. So, I decided to start with the less-terrifying-at-first-glance book (H.L. Clarke previously linked). I encounter quick (quarter note = 168 bpm) chromatic eighth-note scales.

I went so far as to find an online metronome because my timing is way off after having taken such a long hiatus from playing regularly and seriously.
I fiddle with it for a while and conclude that I don’t even remember how to break down my counting. I eventually figure it out and realise that there is no way that I will be able to play that quickly. Maybe with just a concert Bb scale, but certainly not lower register (strike one — I suck at the lower stuff. Always have), and definitely not as chromatics (strike two — hello wobbly notes, poor air support, unknown fingerings). Fuck this noise. I got frustrated and knew it was time to move on to something more at my skill level and temperament level.

So, then I cracked open my Arban and started with study one.
And so I played. For the better part of an hour (we’re looking at probably around the forty-five minute mark), which is a lot after not having done any playing in years. I did the first five studies. They were mostly whole- and half-note studies. Nice an easy. Concert key, no big deal. I enjoyed it as much as is probably possible (it wasn’t a lot, but better than what I had been trying to tackle).

I have come to realise that there are some things that never change:
I have never in my life enjoyed chromatic scales. I also don’t really enjoy whole-note scales, if I’m being completely honest (and why the hell shouldn’t I be?); when put together (as I was doing when I realised that I could possibly play the timing suggested on the chromatics, I can be pretty irritable.
I know that one day, I’ll end up playing those chromatic scales at the pace recommended (it’s part of my ‘work toward’ goals that I have and one of the reasons for getting back in), but that day doesn’t need to be today. Or tomorrow. Its time will come.

It’s neat to see that my opinion on scales hasn’t changed in what is rapidly approaching a decade and a half. Unlike my technique, which has changed, but I’ll save talking about that for another day.

b trumpet

For being so elated to have gotten it, I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to seriously play the damn thing.



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