Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Teacher


“The primary job of a teacher is to create opportunities for success.”

“The most important student of any teacher is the one they see in the mirror.”

“A great teacher has an opportunity to influence other lives in a profound way.”

“There are many who can play instruments very well. However, a great teacher is very rare.”


“I hope to be remembered for my teaching more than my playing.”

As a young musician, I first learned of the great power of teachers to influence lives when they influenced mine. I was fortunate to have wonderful teachers in my early in my career. Jake was the most influential but there were many others. Some, like Adolph Herseth and Ed Kleinhammer, taught me by example. I never had a formal lesson, but I had profound opportunities to learn from them whenever I was in their presence.


A student at Vandercook College of Music once asked, “Mr. Rocco, Why are you such a great teacher?” I responded, “Because I was lucky to have great teachers myself.” I have always considered my work training teachers to be the most important of my career.

I once attend a lecture given by a teacher who was the recipient of “The Golden Apple Award” for his excellence in education. He spoke of the advice his mother, also a teacher, gave him when he was considering entering the education profession. She advised, “If you love history, become a college professor. If you love children, become a teacher.”


“There is a profound difference between the subject we teach and to whom we teach it.”

“A great teacher must love their students more than what they are teaching.”

We have all experienced learned scholars, who have extensive knowledge of their subject, but are poor teachers. Most often, that’s because they love their field of study more than their students.

It is understood that someone who teaches music must love music. The challenges of trying to make a living in the music profession are a test of that love. However, it is a fact that some teach music because it’s not possible for them to perform professionally. They may be highly accomplished musicians but the professional performance opportunities do not exist.

Sometimes, these unhappy performers become unhappy teachers as well. Unfortunately, they also end up with unhappy students.


“Always remember that the students in your studio, classroom, or rehearsal room are not there for your benefit. They are in your care to receive the experience of music. When you provide that experience for your students, you will also receive a great benefit.”

“As a teacher, you must continue to develop your personal performance skills. If you stop playing your instrument, you will forget why you have a career in music.”

“Let the music be your most powerful guide in teaching. If you listen carefully, it will tell you everything you need to know.”

“Sound motivates function.”

“The question heard most often by any music teacher is, “How does this go?”

H.E. Nutt

“To teach is to learn twice.”

In November 2005, The Instrumentalist magazine featured me in an article about a brass player who has success teaching string and woodwind instruments. I mention that, “My students know much more about their instruments than I do. However, I know much more about the music. That’s all I need.”

Everything I do as a teacher in a classroom, rehearsal room, or lesson studio is about helping my students develop a higher awareness of the music they are attempting to play. I consider my lack of technical knowledge to be an advantage because I’m not distracted from the music. Most importantly, I’m not distracting my students either.

Recently, one of the violinists in the Mother McAuley High School Orchestra asked, “Mr. Rocco, why don’t you ever say anything about the violin? You only talk about the music.”

I replied, “Be thankful because you already know a lot about the violin. It’s the music that you need to know more.”


“If your heart is not pounding in your chest from the thrill of what you just played, you must see your doctor. There’s something wrong.”

“Take what you learned and experienced with you. Don’t leave a single crumb on the floor.”

“I know what it is like to be a suffering brass player. Fortunately, I also know the joy of playing well. Suffering is not a requirement in order to experience the joy, but it’s an inevitable outcome for someone who does not know how to create success.”


Since his death in 1998, I have heard this remark on many occasions.

“I’m experiencing problems in my playing. I wish that Jake was still around.”

Yes, we have lost Jake's personality and the twinkle in his eyes. However, his spirit and knowledge are still with us because it lives within the many devoted students he left behind.

If you need help, ask for it anytime! (rogrocco@aol.com)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"The Think System"


“Nobody has to teach you how to whistle. It’s really very simple. You just have to think the tune to have it come out perfectly clear.“


“Keep it simple.”

“If you can sing it, you can play it.”

On several occasions, graduate students at Vandercook College of Music said, “Mr. Rocco, you are teaching “The Think System” from “The Music Man!” I was very familiar with the music, but I knew nothing about the plot.

Eventually, I had an opportunity to conduct “The Music Man” so naturally, I studied the libretto. When I discovered “The Think System”, I almost fell off my chair! Yes, I had been teaching “The Think System” for years. Also, it was nothing more than the two most important mantras of H. A. Vandercook that I had known and encouraged with my students for many years.

I immediately knew that there must have been a link between Meredith Willson and H.A. Vandercook. I asked the school historian to do some research. An hour later, he very excitedly showed me a student registration form for Stanley Willson (horn, 1941), Mason City, Iowa. Bingo!

I also knew that eventually I needed to link Stanley to Meredith. However, I was positive “The Think System” was influenced by Vandercook.

As time passed, I repeated the story to many of my graduate brass pedagogy classes. One year, a student asked, “Mr. Rocco, Why don’t we make the link between Stanley and Meredith a class research project?” I replied, “Great idea!” The next day, the same student reported that Stanley and Meredith were cousins. Bingo again!

Later, two of my students, now colleagues, presented me with an original program from the first production of “The Music Man”. It is autographed by the entire cast, and Meredith Willson. WOW!

Recently, one of those students, who has won positions with two major American orchestras, sent me the following email.

In my years of playing and teaching horn, I have learned a few truths about auditions. Many are culled from personal experience and feedback from committee members, but others are learned from Arnold Jacobs and Roger Rocco. None of these maxims are especially original, but they seem to be profound keys to success.

Audition truths

#1) Make it sound easy. Let them wonder what you can't do, so don't show them.

#2) Treat the audition like a performance. Be expressive and tell a story.

#3) Let insistence on great pulse frame your singing.

#4) Live in the moment, from your first waking moment that day
till your last note played. Don't look ahead or behind.

#5) Be a singer, not a horn player.

#6) It is vastly more essential to be mentally committed than
physically prepared.

#7) Overcome distractions!

All of these proved themselves at the semis and finals of a
recent major orchestra audition. Adversity and distractions
came in the form of equipment failure. In short, I was forced
to use three strange instruments, as my own horn had a sudden
de-soldering of the thumb key early in the day.

I borrowed two horns from fellow hornists, and even one horn
from a committee member as I walked onstage. I was able to
perform at a high level due entirely to my state of mind.
Roger had emailed me a day earlier with a mantra: "It's
just the singing!" This phrase rang through my head as I
walked onstage: "It's just the singing!" I picked up the
strange horn, and right before I committed to the first
E-flat of the Strauss First Concerto: "It's just the
singing!" How the horn responded was entirely meaningless
to me, as I was in what Jake called "storyteller" mode.

"It's just the singing!"

I didn't have the time to test the horn to know if it
were a larger bore size, more or less resistant to mine,
or even how loudly I could play without the sound edging
out. These facts are always irrelevant, and more so on
this day. I controlled what I could: my state of mind.

I am reminded of the story Roger tells of the man
drowning in a pool. His friend holds two items: one a
brick, the other a life preserver. He tells you the life
preserver will save you, but you have never seen one.
You have however seen bricks, as your house is made of
them, and feel comfortable with them.

Which one would you choose? The bricks (history of feel)
or the life preserver (singing)?

I had no choice, and in hindsight the horn breakdown
was a blessing, as it forced me to focus and showed the
committee I could deal with extreme adversity.

Made for a memorable day, one that ended in success
that I can now draw on for future use. I must say,
in hindsight, though, the distractions presented by
foreign horns is nothing compared to the distractions
of our history of playing by feel.

"It's just the singing!"


Harold Hill, the main character, is a crook. He decides to swindle the people in a small town (Mason City, Iowa) by telling them that he’s a famous professor of music. If they purchase instruments and uniforms, he promises to develop a band program. He has no intention of doing anything other than skipping town with their money.

However, he meets and falls in love with the town librarian, Marion. He decides that he wants to stay after all. As a result, he must order instruments and uniforms and teach the band how to play their new instruments. Since his educational credentials are false, he doesn’t really know what to do. After the instruments and uniforms arrive, he comes up with a “revolutionary new method of teaching music called, ‘The Think System’.”

At the first band rehearsal, and all subsequent rehearsals, Harold only asks the band to vocally sing the familiar Minuet in G by Beethoven. The band members are never asked to play their instruments because he doesn’t know how to instruct them.

In time, the parents become suspicious and investigate his educational credentials. They eventually learn that there is no Music Conservatory in Gary, Indiana and that he must be a criminal. Just as the townspeople are about to have him arrested, the band marches into the scene.

Harold instructs the band to “Think” as they play the same music they have been singing endlessly. What is heard the first time they play their instruments, is crude but the melody is recognizable. It proves that Harold is not a phony after all. Yes, “The Think System” works!


“The mechanisms of success and failure are the same.”


Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon who discovered the self image by accident. He noticed that as he surgically altered the appearance of his patients, their reaction to the cosmetic changes could be categorized into one of three groups.

1. Some of the patients experienced life altering changes. Many became more successful in their careers or they found love and married.

2. Others experienced no life changes whatsoever.

3. Although their appearance had been dramatically altered, the third group could not recognize any physical change when they viewed themselves in a mirror.

His observations eventually lead to our understanding of the mind’s ability to consciously create imagery or awareness of ourselves, any object, or sound. This imagery, commonly referred to as “Creative Visualization”, is a powerful force because it motivates a powerful response from the subconscious mind.

Maltz describes how the power of visualization can be used to create accomplishment. He tells the story of a famous golf teacher who said, “If I concentrate only on where I want the ball to go, it will go there even if I’m doing everything wrong mechanically.”


“I don’t care if everything you are doing is wrong if it sounds good.”

The obvious response to Jake’s statement is that if it sounds good, if can’t be wrong.

ROBERT CARTER (The Secret of the Ages)

“Our conscious awareness is the gateway leading to the subconscious mind.”

“The Secret of the Ages is in the power of the subconscious mind.”


“We can learn to play an instrument the same way we learned to speak language.”


“I sing the notes in my head as I play them.”

“I want you to have the (simplistic) mind of a child.”


“Playing an instrument, or doing anything else, requires complex physical mechanics. However, we must use a simplistic approach to create accomplishment.”

BARRY GREEN (The Inner Game of Music)

“Wouldn’t you like to function on your instrument with the ease of a six year old child?”


We exist in two different worlds. There is the external world that we are partially aware of through our senses. I say partially aware because we can detect only a small portion of the spectrum of light with our eyes and a very limited range of frequency with our ears. There is a lot going on around us in the external world but we have little or no awareness of its presence.

There also is a unique and powerful internal universe within our bodies. This universe provides the opportunity for us to live and function in the external world. At the conscious level, we have very little awareness of this internal world unless something goes wrong. We usually experience pain or some other discomfort.

However, the internal universe is masterfully monitored and controlled at all times by our subconscious mind in order to maintain life. It also allows our conscious mind to create accomplishments other than for life support. Although it can be argued that everything we do in the external world such as maintain a job, exercise, or acquire food is also to provide for our life support.

The subconscious mind developed immense power because the complexities of life support are much more demanding than what even the most powerful computers can achieve. The subconscious mind also has complete awareness and control over all the muscles within the body.

For instance, we understand that at all times, our heart is pumping blood, food is moving through our bodies, and we are breathing without any conscious direction. However, these functions are continuously being directed by the subconscious mind. Life support cannot be sustained without specific direction from the brain.

If we decide to move an arm and hand to pick up a glass of water, the decision of how to manipulate the body parts takes place subconsciously in response to our conscious desire to pick up the glass. It is not necessary to have an intellectual understanding of the complex motor mechanics involved in manipulating body parts.


“When we attempt to bring a subconscious function to the conscious level of thought, we destroy our ability to function.”

“Our approach to playing an instrument should be no different than the approach we use to do anything else like walking or talking.”

“We must maintain a symbiotic relationship between the subconscious (reactive) mind and the conscious (intellectual) mind. If that relationship is corrupted by our conscious interference, we lose the ability to create any accomplishment.”


“Paralysis by Analysis.”

“Think sound not mechanics.”


“The key to playing an instrument can be found in speech.”

“It is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers, but highly conscious of our musical goals.”


The subconscious mind is reactive not intellectual. It always responds honestly and precisely to the will of the conscious mind, which is intellectual. If the will of the conscious mind is powerful and vivid, the response of the subconscious will be precisely the same. The subconscious mind cannot react independently of the conscious will. We cannot consciously decide to lift our right hand and have the subconscious mind lift the left hand instead.

Problems arise if the subconscious vision of the conscious awareness is vague, confused, or non-existent. This motivates the subconscious mind to react by searching for sound rather than responding to a vivid awareness of sound. We must motivate the subconscious mind to respond through motor systems rather than search utilizing sensory systems.


“You cannot create accomplishments using sensory system. You must motivate motor (muscle) systems.”

“The nervous system is a one way street. You cannot create function motivating sensors and muscles at the same time.”


“If you don’t have a powerful conscious awareness of the sound you want to produce, your subconscious will react by searching for the awareness somewhere else. Since the mouthpiece is on your lips, it will attempt to create a feel awareness of sound by trying to convert your lips into ears.”

“The most powerful musical awareness is achieved when we mentally sing the notes as we play them.”

“Mentally singing as we play may seem like a complicated or difficult thing to do, but it’s easy if you are highly aware of the notes.”

If we ask a child to buzz the familiar tune, “Mary had a little Lamb” on a mouthpiece, they are singing the notes in their head as they play them. It requires no instruction or conscious understanding of how it’s achieved. They just do it! If we ask them to buzz an unfamiliar melody, they don’t do it. The most common question any music teacher ever hears is, “How does this go?”

Instinctively, young music students know that they can play the music if they know how it should sound. When I’m working with young inexperienced musicians, most of what I do to create accomplishment is to communicate what the music should sound like. Once that awareness is powerfully envisioned at the conscious level of thought, their subconscious reacts by doing what is necessary mechanically to realize their musical awareness.


It’s nothing more than creating and maintaining a high level of musical awareness in the conscious mind. The subconscious will react precisely to create the necessary playing mechanics rather than search for sound awareness by feel at the embouchure.


“Attempting to play by feel is like trying to drain the water from a swimming pool with a straw.”

“Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player.”

“Your subconscious mind already knows how to play the notes. It only needs to know the sound of the notes you want to play.”


Some people naturally have analytic personalities. Unfortunately, some students have analytic teachers as well. Occasionally, I have also noticed that some analytic teachers are not analytic players themselves. And, some analytic players are not analytic teachers. The most paralyzing situation is the combination analytic player and teacher instructing an analytic student. Disastrous!

Often, analytic students are drawn to analytic teachers because they are searching for false comfort rather than an opportunity for success.


“When you have an instrument in your hands, trying to find a “The Comfort Zone” is ultimately very uncomfortable.”

“Feeling good when you play is a by-product of correct playing. You cannot motivate correct playing by trying to feel good first.”

I remember when I was teaching applied tuba and euphonium at a major mid-west university. Frequently, groups of other brass students (trumpet, horn, trombone) would camp outside my studio door to listen to what was going on in the lesson. Some of the analyzers did not credit “The Think System” for the success they were hearing through the closed door.

A typical comment was, “That’s baloney!” “They have figured out what’s wrong with their embouchure and air, and eventually I will too!” Tragically, I have also heard such comments from highly accomplished professional brass players who eventually lost their careers.


“There’s nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up.”

“Sound is the criterion for how we do this and that.”


I have also heard such critical commentary as, “Yes, you must hear the notes, but you must also have a perfect embouchure and air.”




“When you accept “The Think System”, you must also reject self analysis. Like oil and water, the two can never come together. If you try to combine them, self analysis will always dominate and you will fail.”

“It is possible to have only one conscious thought at a time.”


The path to achieving success in Emerald City is not green, blue, or red. When the true path to success is clearly understood, we only have to stay on that path. The process of searching for other paths always leads to “The Witches Castle!”


The SBP formula was develop in order to directly apply “The Think System” in a powerful way.


“At times, my students and I have failed to apply the SBP formula. But the formula has never failed anyone when it was applied.”

"If someone understands how to perform, they can play on any equipment. If they don't know how to perform, they can't play on anything."

"If you are not playing well, it's because you have stopped doing what you normally do when you do play well."


“When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing then buzz. Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument.”

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Myths of Focal Dystonia

FOCAL DYSTONIA (Wikipedia.org)

“A neurological condition that causes the involuntary contraction of muscles.”

Focal dystonia is a common, but incorrect application of the term describing the paralyzing condition experienced by too many instrumentalists and singers. The condition is very rarely involuntary contraction of muscles. Most often, it’s involuntary paralysis of muscles.


“There’s nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up.”

I recall the time I first met a very fine professional trumpet player who came to me for help with the paralysis he was experiencing when he tried to play. He was in danger of losing his job as principal of a second tier American orchestra.

His first words to me were, “Roger, I have bad news. I just came from the doctor and he told me there’s nothing wrong with my chops.” I replied, “That’s the good news!”

In 1976, while I was a member of the Seattle Symphony, I personally experienced total paralysis when I attempted to play the tuba. The condition developed over a period of about two years. It took me two years to recover well enough to play again professionally. Like a person with a history of substance abuse, I have been in recovery ever since. However, recovery from such a devastating hell can be a wonderful learning opportunity! It’s a life altering experience similar to someone who recovers from a near fatal illness.

Unfortunately, very few musicians recover because they don’t understand the cause of the condition and they don’t know what to do about it. Frequently, they are advised by the medical or educational communities to give up their careers because there is no treatment. I have heard of some ill advised treatments such as cortisone injections in the lips.

I have watched some of the finest musicians in the world give up their careers because they believed what they were being told. I have helped myself and many others resume their careers.


1. The paralysis is physical rather than psychological.
2. The paralysis is not treatable.


A few years ago, I received a call from a very fine flutist who I first met when she was as a high school student. She was in her forties and had a professional career for many years. She told me that she had seen doctors and flute teachers all over the world. She was told she had focal dystonia.

I asked her to describe her physical symptoms. She replied, “There is pain in my right hand and it is paralyzed. I can barely finger the instrument” I asked, “Are these symptoms present only when you play the flute?” She responded, “Yes!” I immediately understood that she did not have a physical problem with her hand. The problem was psychological.

I remember asking her two important questions:

1. How long have you experienced symptoms of pain and paralysis? She responded,
"Fifteen years!"

2. What were you doing professionally fifteen years ago? "I was giving eighty private flute lessons per week."

It became obvious that she was influenced by the elementary level playing she was experiencing endlessly.


"After a day of giving lessons, I sound more and more like my students."

As the quality of her playing deteriorated, she became anxious and unhappy. She tried to treat the symptoms of her deteriorating tone and technique. Eventually, the flute became a "hot stove". Her subconscious mind reacted to prevent further emotional pain by creating paralysis and physical pain in her right hand. The protective reaction was no protection because it greatly exacerbated the condition.

I brought her back to the music by having her vocally sing and finger the flute. Interestingly, she had no pain in her hand unless she fingered and played the flute.

Essentially, I applied the SBP formula without the buzzing. When she was able to maintain mental singing as she played, her hand functioned without pain. As she repeated the singing and fingering process, her playing returned to normal and she was able to renew her professional career.

Adolph Herseth understood that the lower performance level of students could have a negative influence on his playing. He always said that his first duty was as principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony so he limited his private lessons to a few select students.


Since no one intentionally wills paralysis when playing an instrument or doing anything else, all muscle paralysis is involuntary. Most often, involuntary paralysis occurs in the hands of woodwind, string, and keyboard players, and with the embouchure, tongue, or breathing of brass players.

Most musicians and teachers make the mistake of attempting to treat the symptoms rather than the cause of paralysis. Misdiagnosis always leads to greater paralysis and more failure.

The first symptom of paralysis for woodwind, string, and keyboard players is usually pain in their hands or their inability to finger technical passages that were easy in the past. The first symptom for brass players is usually their inability to play initial notes in rhythm. Later, accuracy and range gradually diminish. I frequently notice that brass players, who have advanced stages of involuntary paralysis, can no longer function in their midrange or lower register. They may retain some function in their upper register.

Since this condition takes some time to develop, I have never seen it in beginners. It can be somewhat common in intermediate musicians, but the worst cases I have encountered are in highly accomplished professionals.


“Most people never realize their dreams because they are paralyzed by fear of failure.”

“Fear is motivated by an expectation of impending doom. It can only be controlled by altering the expectation.”

“If you are fearful because you are standing at the edge of a 1000 foot cliff, step back from the edge of the cliff.”


“A trumpeter’s life is risky business. No greatness can be achieved if the player is paralyzed by fear.”

“If you are fearful when you play the trumpet, you should consider not playing it.”


The emotion of fear is a subconscious protective reaction to an expectation of physical or emotional harm. It cannot be controlled by the conscious mind. If we say to someone or ourselves, “relax” or “Don’t be afraid”, they usually become more aware of their fear and even more fearful.


Physical and emotional experiences while playing eventually become associated with and influenced by the instrument.


Most people are familiar with the experiment of the salivating dog and bell by the well known Russian behavioral psychologist. He rang a bell each time he provided food to a dog. In time, a powerful association developed between food and the sound of the bell. Eventually, the sound of the bell alone caused the dog to salivate even though no food was present.


From experience, everyone eventually learns that touching a hot stove is a harmful and unpleasant experience. When it occurs, we don’t have a conscious intellectual decision about what to do next. We don’t think, “This is very uncomfortable and harmful, what should I do about it?”

There is a powerful protective reaction is the subconscious
(Mark Douglas, Trading in the Zone)that immediately overrides the conscious will, causing the hand to move away from the hot stove. It’s almost impossible to prevent this subconscious reaction from occurring.


The instrumentalist’s emotional and physical experiences eventually become associated with the instrument they are holding for endless hours. If the history is dominated by failure, they will develop and expectation of failure. Unfortunately, a brass player receives a double dose of negative conditioning from their failure. They experience both emotional pain and physical discomfort. The protective reaction in the subconscious reacts powerfully to both in the same manner.


“We always realize our expectations.”


Unfortunately, the subconscious mind reacts to protect us from experiencing the emotional and physical pain of failure by causing paralysis. This is no different than the paralysis that prevents us from touching the hot stove. In time, the instrument becomes a hot stove!


Consciously, the musician wants to create the mechanics necessary to play their instrument. Subconsciously, their mind wants to protect them from experiencing the emotional pain and physical discomfort of failure. This antagonistic relationship always results in increased failure and an even greater expectation of failure. The downward spiral eventually leads to total paralysis if the condition is not alleviated.


“The subconscious mind is infinitely more powerful than the conscious will. If there is conflict between the two, the subconscious will always win the battle.”

“When playing an instrument or doing anything else, we must always achieve a symbiotic, rather than an antagonistic relationship, between the conscious and subconscious mind.”

ROBERT CARTER (The Secret of the Ages)

“The conscious mind is the gateway providing information to the subconscious.”


I received a call from a very fine professional horn player in Chicago. He had been performing in the pit orchestra for a very successful show that had been running for several years. He said, “I have been on vacation from the show for the past two weeks. My playing has deteriorated to the point where I don’t think I can continue.”

Although we had never met, I immediately understood what was going on. Because he had been performing the same music eight times a week for several years, he began to play less mindfully. His playing became somewhat “automatic” or on “autopilot”. As a result, he opened the door for failure to make an appearance. The feel of symptoms of failure became increasingly dominant while his awareness of the music faded away.


“In addition to the poor sounds coming from the bell, the brass player also experiences physical symptoms associated with their failure.”

A friend colorfully describes the physical symptoms. “It feels like I’m trying to push a piano up the stairs when I play my trumpet.”

It’s normal for us to try to alleviate such uncomfortable physical symptoms, which usually manifest themselves in the embouchure, breathing, and sometimes the throat.


"Sound is the criteria for how we do this and that."

The horn player described the physical problems with his embouchure that he was trying to correct. Of course, I immediately understood that source of his symptoms was not in his embouchure. It was in his “state of mind.”

We spoke in the phone for an hour. I explained his embouchure malfunction was only symptomatic of problems in his conscious mind. He needed to restore his dominance to musical awareness rather than “feel” awareness.


“Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player.”

“Playing by feel is like trying to drain a swimming pool with a straw.”

“If your playing is not motivated by a powerful awareness of sound, you will attempt to motivate it with a weak sense of feel. Failure will be the only possible outcome.”


I instructed him to apply the SBP formula in sets of three repetitions until he was able to restore his ability to execute playing mechanics normally. It is important to understand that I did not discuss playing mechanics.


“Playing mechanics cannot be motivated by the conscious will because the motor skills are much too complex for the intellectual mind. Playing mechanics can only be achieved by the powerful subconscious (reactive) mind.”

“Your subconscious mind already knows how to execute the notes. Your conscious mind only needs to be highly aware of the notes you want to play, not mechanics.”


The knowledge of how to produce sound was established in his mind many years ago. And, it was still present but it needed to be motivated by his powerful awareness of sound.


“It is sound motivates function, not function motivates sound.”


“The seventh cranial nerve transmits my musical thoughts to my lips, but I don’t know a thing about how it happens.”

“I was a good brass player until my first analytical teacher came along and attempted to teach me how to play.”


“Think sound, not mechanics.”

I’m happy to report the horn player did return to the show successfully. Over a period of three years, he had about six lessons. He is now performing at the highest level of his career.



“All our life experiences are stored in long term memory forever. Memory cannot be deleted like files in a computer.”

“We cannot erase our past. It must be replaced.”

“Being chased by a tiger is fatal only if you cannot outrun it.”

“There is no cure for our bad habits. There is a treatment, which is to create new habits that dominate the old. However, if we discontinue treatment, without fail, the old habits will reemerge.”

“The bad news is that there is no cure for your paralysis. The good news is that it’s treatable and you will be able to continue your career. If you are highly motivated, you will emerge from this experience performing at new levels of excellence.”

“If you want to understand what I’m teaching you, teach it to someone else.”


“To teach is to learn twice.”


1. The paralysis experienced by so many highly accomplished musicians is treatable.

2. The treatment does not involve medications or injections.

3. Playing skills that were present before paralysis occurred, are stored in long term memory.

4. It is not necessary to relearn our playing skills. We only have to understand how to access the skills that have not disappeared.

5. Playing mechanics are motivated, at the subconscious level of the mind, by a brass player’s conscious awareness of musical sound.


"The brass player should be somewhat unconscious of their physical maneuvers but highly conscious of their musical sound."

"I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn't matter how my lip feels or how I feel."

"It's not what you sound like that's important. What is important is what you want to sound like."

MAXWELL MALTZ (Psycho Cybernetics)

“The mechanisms of failure and success are the same.”


“Climbing the ‘Ladder of Awareness’ of sound will bring you to the notes you want to play.”

“Feeling good is a by-product of playing correctly. You cannot establish correct playing by trying to feel good first.”

“Failure is permanent only if the brass player doesn’t understand how to create success.”

“Follow the yellow brick road.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Brassaphone


“I gave up tuba playing a long time ago. Now, I’m a mouthpiece player!”

“Play the mouthpiece, not the instrument.”

“It’s just a long mouthpiece with valves or a slide.”

“Play the mouthpiece in the same manner no matter where it is, in your hand or the leadpipe.”

I recall Jake commenting to me, “You have two different mouthpiece playing techniques. One technique when it’s inside the horn and a different one when the mouthpiece is in your hand. You must transfer the same successful mouthpiece playing technique you use when it’s outside the instrument to the instrument.”

At the time, I didn’t fully understand his comment. However, I knew that when I played the mouthpiece outside the instrument, my playing was always easy and I sounded good. However, I didn’t always have the same experience when I placed it in the horn.

Later, I realized that I was forced to mentally sing the notes when I played the mouthpiece alone. There was no other way to realize different pitches. However, when I placed it in the horn, my forced singing was replaced with forced feeling because the singing stopped. Failure was the predictable result.


“Feel and Fail are four letter words to a brass player.”

“Playing by feel is like trying to drain a swimming pool with a straw.”

“The instrument is just a length of brass tubing. It already has plenty of air but it has no intelligence or sound of its own. That can only come from the mind of the player.”


“When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing then buzz. Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument.”

“Practice entire sessions on the mouthpiece alone to avoid having problems creep into your playing.”

As a young tuba player, I developed a virtuoso mouthpiece technique. On several occasions, people hearing me play in a hallway or a closed room mistook me for Jake. Wow! What a compliment! I routinely played the mouthpiece for 45-60 minutes a day.

I enjoyed playing along with my favorite Reiner-CSO recordings. Actually, there were no favorites. They are all wonderful examples of the finest art of orchestral performance!

While I was a music student at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago, I frequently took long walks along the lakefront with my mouthpiece in hand.



I’m always amazed that very few brass players or wind players understand the acoustics of their instrument. In my lectures, I frequently ask, “What is the resonating element of a brass instrument?”

The surprising responses usually range from blank stares to lips or lungs. I usually reply, “Do your vibrating lips sound like a brass instrument?” “Does an oboe reed sound like an oboe?”

The obvious answer is no because vibrating lips or a reed are only the catalyst that initiates the vibration of the air column within a length of tubing. Since the air is already present within the tubing, it is not necessary to “fill the instrument with air.”


“The instrument already has plenty of air but it has no sound. Fill it with sound.”


Once I establish that the resonating element of a brass instrument is the vibrating air column, I ask students, “What method is used to vibrate the air column?”

Again, the responses range from blank stares, to “pushing air through the instrument”. Someone usually mentions first vibrating the lips but they are unable to explain how that initiates the resonance of the air column.

I explain that the process is not like using friction to create resonance with a string instrument or concussion on a percussion instrument.


“There are acoustical laws that must be obeyed.”


We must send a resonance through the mouthpiece to the air column that it can respond too, the partials of the overtone series. If the source frequency we are creating in the mouthpiece is identical (sympathetic) to a frequency of the overtone series, the air column will begin to vibrate at that frequency. If the two pitches are not sympathetic, the air column will reject the catalytic frequency, causing embouchure malfunction and resistance of breath. Unfortunately, traditional brass pedagogy is more focused on treating these symptoms of failure rather than the cause.


I remember a cutaway mouthpiece Jake used with his students to encourage them to play the mouthpiece rather than the instrument. Most of the bowl material was removed leaving only the stem, which was inserted into the leadpipe, and the rim. We would buzz the rim while fingering the instrument. This worked well if the brass player could transcend the unusual feel of playing on the rim alone.


“We must transcend physical strangeness while playing by giving dominance to music.”

Later, Mario Guarneri and others developed a device (Berp) that allowed the brass player to use their normal mouthpiece in the same manner as the cutaway mouthpiece. The advantage of these devices was that playing "feel" became less of a distraction.


A few years ago, I decided to create a simple instrument, without valves, by placing my mouthpiece in a small acoustic megaphone. I called it a “Tubaphone”. The effect was wonderful because the cone amplified my mouthpiece playing, making it easier to buzz with a resonant tone. I now refer to the tuba as a, “Megaphone.”

The Tubaphone sounds like an amplified mouthpiece rather than a tuba. However, it is the same shape as the bell of the tuba and more importantly, it dramatically illustrates the connection between playing the mouthpiece in the same manner inside or outside the instrument.


With the smaller mouthpieces, I suggest that my students go to a hardware store and find a funnel with an appropriate size opening. Some of my horn students, who use instruments with detachable bells, place the bell over the funnel for even greater amplification.



Some brass teachers discourage external mouthpiece playing because of the strange difference in feel between playing inside or outside the instrument. Also, some trumpet teachers encourage their students to buzz their mouthpiece with a leadpipe in order to duplicate the “feel” of playing in the instrument.


"When I use a megaphone to amplify the sound my lips, it's exactly the same process I use to amplify my vocal chords. I don't have any conscious knowledge of my vocal chords when I talk or sing and it's not necessary to have such knowledge when I create musical sounds with my lips. However, the powerful knowledge for singing and buzzing originates in the same area of the brain, but at the subconscious level of thought."

“We must not concern ourselves with how playing feels. We must transcend feel by having a powerful awareness of sound.”

“Feeling good is a by-product of playing correctly. We cannot motivate correct playing by trying to feel good first.”


"The key to creating success can be found in speech."

“It doesn’t matter what playing feels like. What’s important is what it sounds like.”


"We can learn to play an instrument the same way we learned to speak language."

I like to illustrate the used of the Tubaphone by playing the same music, without the use of valves, on both instruments. Sometimes, I’ll even finger the Tubaphone as if it has valves. I refer to valveless tuba playing as a “Megaphone Concerto”

Another interesting technique is to personally finger the instrument for the player as they buzz their mouthpiece inside the instrument. Once they get past the strangeness of having me finger their instrument, they can focus only on their musical mouthpiece playing.



“I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn’t matter how my lip feels or how I feel.”


“A brass instrument is nothing more than an extended cone with valves or a slide. The valves or slide have no function in producing sound and little function regulating pitch. They only allow the regulated sounds created in the mouthpiece to be realized outside the bell in a more technically efficient manner.”

“In some ways, the invention of valves was not such a good occurrence. Too often, brass players think that valves are an important element of tone production. Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven wrote technically challenging music that was performed beautifully on brass instruments long before the valve came along.”

“It’s just the singing.”

Friday, March 5, 2010

Master of Failure


“I have personally experienced your worst moment of failure. I hope you never have an opportunity to experience mine.”

“Failure is an opportunity to learn.”

“We must accept a certain amount of failure as an element of creating success. However, we don’t have to like it!”

“Although I never enjoyed what was happening to me during my worst moments of failure, I’m grateful they occurred. I now have a unique opportunity to help others.”

When a student comes to my studio, they are completely transparent. There is nothing going on, either positive or negative, that I have not personally experienced. On many occasions, I have worked with brass players, who possess impressive academic credentials, but are unable to play their instrument.

For many years, Jake did not allow a doctoral degree program on tuba at Northwestern University.


“If you can play, you don’t need an advanced degree. If you can’t play, I refuse to allow a piece of paper as a substitute.”

I frequently asked, highly credentialed but struggling students, what their former teachers said about their failure. I recall one particular response.

“He didn’t understand why I couldn’t play and he also didn’t understand why he could.”

In every instance, their former teachers were excellent brass players themselves, but they didn’t understand the failure of their students.


Here is a question I commonly ask students of all ages and stages of development after we have created some success in a lesson.

“Has anyone ever said anything to you about air or embouchure?”

The reply is usually, “Yes!!!”

My response is always, “Have I said anything about those words to you?”

The replies vary from, “NO” to “I’m not sure.” Sometimes they think I did, so they respond by explaining what someone else said to them. I quickly remind them that I said nothing about air or embouchure. I follow up with the question,” Was it necessary for me to discuss those words for your success?” The obvious response is always, “No!”




“There’s nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up.”

“Paralysis by Analysis.”


“Take in a large breath every time you breathe.”

“Breath can only be motivated by the player’s concept of sound,

“Sound motivates function.”

“While playing, we can only have a vague awareness of air at the conscious level. However, we can have a vivid awareness of sound.”

“When you treat only the symptoms of failure rather than the cause, you will create more failure.”

“Embouchure malfunction and breath resistance are only symptoms of a problem with the brass player’s state of mind.”

“There are many fine brass players in the world, but great teachers are rare.”

“Too often, applied brass teachers are hired solely for their performance ability.

It is wrongfully assumed that if someone can play an instrument well, they will also be successful teachers. Teachers should be evaluated on the success of their students as well as their own playing ability.”


The Double Barreled Shotgun

When the air column of a brass instrument rejects the vibrations that are being created in the mouthpiece, the player experiences emotional pain and physical discomfort. Rejection occurs when the air column cannot accept a non-sympathetic frequency.

The unpleasant physical symptoms of rejection are embouchure malfunction and breath resistance. Most often, brass players and their teachers attempt to correct their embouchure and air.


“There is plenty of air creating the bad sounds coming from your instrument. If your problem was the lack of air, there would be no sounds.”

“In all my years of teaching, I have never encountered any brass player with an embouchure problem. However, I have met many who think they have a problem.”

I recall the time in 1973 when I found myself working daily with some very insecure brass players in the Honolulu Symphony. It was an unfamiliar experience because I was accustomed to playing with some of the finest brass players in the world in Chicago.

Gradually, I began to notice a deterioration of my tone, it was becoming more difficult to play, and I was losing accuracy. I also noticed that my chops didn’t
“feel right”, tonguing was difficult, and I was no longer taking in large breaths.

My playing felt uncomfortable and insecure so I was not a “happy camper”. Jake was five thousand miles away so I was on my own. Incidentally, the very same thing happened to my successor in the orchestra. Later, I was able to help him recover also.

Over the years, I noticed a problem that occurred with some of Jake’s students, including myself. When we went off on our own, we tried to bring him with us! That would have been wonderful if we brought the “musical” Jake. But too often, it was “analytical” Jake. He always told his students not to analyze themselves when they played. However, we all new we were being analyzed by him.

As I began to analyze why my chops, tongue, and air were not functioning, everything began to work less and less until I could not play at all. I was not strolling down the “Yellow Brick Road” to Emerald City. I headed directly for the “Witches’’ Castle”.

At age twenty-six, I was young and motivated enough to find my way back from total devastation. My personal process of recovery gave me exceptional insights into what causes failure and what is necessary to create success. If I had known then what I know now, there never would have been a crash.


“It’s normal for us to want to treat the symptoms of failure if we don’t understand the cause.”

“If we truly understood the cause of our failure, there would be no failure.”

It’s also normal for us to want to eliminate or prevent physical discomfort or emotional pain. There is a protective reflex in the subconscious mind that wants to protect us from physical and emotional harm.

Unfortunately the reflex which prevents us from touching a hot stove can eventually have the same reaction to the instrument in our hands. The negative conditioning increases in time as the player creates a history of failure. In time, they may become partially of fully paralyzed.


“Once negative conditioning is established it cannot be undone. It must be replaced with positive conditioning.”

“Positive conditioning, associated with playing an instrument, can only take place if there is a history of success playing the instrument.”



“Self analysis motivates the sense of feel which stimulates very weak input to the brain. As a result, playing mechanics are inhibited rather than encouraged.”

To create successful note execution, we must encourage motor function which is the stimulation of output from the subconscious brain. Successful output can only come from the subconscious because the mechanics and awareness’s involved are much too numerous and complex for the limited intellect of the conscious mind. It is possible to have only one conscious thought at any given moment.

Unfortunately, traditional brass pedagogy encourages self analysis. It is not necessary to study lips in order to produce sound just as it isn’t necessary to study vocal chords to do the same. We don’t study the mechanics of breathing in order to breathe and we don’t study the tongue in order to speak or chew.

It is our desire for and awareness of accomplishment that motivates the mechanics necessary to achieve whatever we want.


“I order products but I don’t know a thing about how they are delivered.”

“The key to playing successfully can be found in speech.”

“I want you to have the mind of a child.”

(The Inner Game of Music)

"Would you like to play with the ease of a six year old child?"


“When we play an instrument, we must use the same simplistic approach to creating the complex physical maneuvers that allow us to successfully do all other functions in life, such as walking and talking.”


When we talk, it’s our conscious awareness of the sound of words that motivates the mechanics necessary to realize speech. We are not consciously thinking about air, vocal chords, or the tongue. As children, we didn’t learn to speak language by consciously studying mechanics. Given enough time, our subconscious mind figured out the mechanics based on the motivating awareness of sound.

We have all heard stories about very successful musicians and singers who never had a lesson in their lives. For example, I’m reminded of the great Cuban trumpeter and pianist, Arturo Sandoval.


“I was a very successful brass player until my first teacher came along.”

“We must give dominance to music, not an instrument.”


My personal recovery, and that of the many people I have encountered in the last forty years of my career, has been motivate by an altered state of mind.

That alteration was to become much less aware of how playing feels and the awareness of playing mechanics to becoming committed to the awareness of sound. That is how I created success in the past before I drifted into the abyss of mindlessly using the sense of feel as a motivator of playing mechanics.


“Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player.”

"Playing by feel is like trying to drain the water from a swimming pool with a straw."

When I finally realized that there was nothing wrong with my embouchure, lungs, tongue, or fingers, I became liberated to focus all my energy on the sound I wanted to produce.


“The brass player should focus 90% of their intellect on the sound they want to produce. If they do, there will be only be a peripheral (10%) awareness of how playing feels and what we are doing (mechanically).”

"It is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers and highly conscious of our musical goals."

“It’s not what you sound like that is important. What’s important is what you want to sound like.”

“I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn’t matter how my lips feels or how I feel.”


“If you can sing it, you can play it.”


“When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing, buzz, then transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument.”

“Sound is the criteria for how you do this and that.”

"Think sound not mechanics."


"The first teaching point is tone."


For many years, I have prescribed a formula of vocally singing and buzzing in sets of three repetitions. The sets are repeated until the awareness of sound is powerful enough to transcend all distractions, including feel and the mindless collection of brass tubing in our hands.


“At times, my students have failed to apply the Sing, Buzz, Play formula, but the formula has never failed them when they did apply it.”

“We must create a history of success in order to create an expectation of success.”




Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Internet Lessons


You are right on track! Bravo! At the conscious level, you must be totally free of the influence of the instrument and how to play it. That allows your subconscious to be free to do what is necessary to execute the notes. It's how we function doing everything else in life.


Yes, I have been telling my students for years to play one note at a time. That's how you play the mouthpiece outside the horn.


There is no problem for you blending in with the traditional Chinese instruments as you play a non-traditional instrument if you compensate for tone in your personal practice.

In your personal practice, produce the sound that we usually associate with the horn playing Western music.

Remember that louder dynamic levels and full resonance are healthy for your playing. Balance is very important.

Herseth: "When I'm playing Mozart in the orchestra, I practice Bruckner. When I'm playing Bruckner in the orchestra, I practice Mozart."

Insecure playing in the pit can have a negative influence if you allow it. Herseth didn't teach very much because he knew that his student's playing would have a negative influence on him. Jay Friedman says, "At the end of a long day of teaching, I sound more and more like my students." It didn't seem to bother Jake.


Don't baby yourself too much with the range studies. You can convert bad sounds into good sounds but you can't convert silence into good sound.


You don't have anxiety and expectations of failure on the mouthpiece alone because it's very forgiving of incorrect pitch. Instead of a single air column, there are infinite air columns. No rejection!


When the mouthpiece is placed in the horn, the party's over. If your pitch is not very accurate, the air column will reject the notes you are trying to send to the horn. In time, the rejecting air column triggers protective reactions in the brain (fear, pain, anxiety, paralysis) that sabotage your ability to function. The instrument itself soon becomes a negative influence.

Just because the modern instrument has valves doesn't mean that it's any different from a natural horn or Alphorn. It is essentially a long mouthpiece.

I know you play the mouthpiece inside the funnel. Try playing it an inch outside the lead pipe of the horn. Gradually move the mouthpiece sound closer to and into the lead pipe. You will make the connection! It's a great liberating experience!

Jacobs and Herseth were completely free of the influence of the instrument. Brain would play on garden hose and funnel.

RR: "It's just a long mouthpiece with valves." "Play the mouthpiece not the instrument."


You need to remind yourself at all times and under all playng conditions. There is never a moment when you are not capable of doing what is necessary to succeed. It may be easier or harder at times, but you can always do it.


When you don't like the sound coming from the instrument, it's because your are listening to the wrong horn. Jacobs said we always have a peripheral awareness of the sound coming from the instrument but it should not dominate our awareness. He said 80-90% of the awareness must be internal (mental) rather than external (ear).

Giving dominance to the external awareness involves input to the brain through sensory awareness. However, in order to produce sound on an instrument, we must have motor function which involves output from the brain. It's always a one way street.

What is coming out the bell of the horn is an honest reflection of what is going on mentally.

Jacobs: The instrument in the hands is a reflection of the one in the head.

One of my students once called his trumpet a lie detector.

RR: There is no reason for you success or failure other than your state of mind.


Emotions can dominate the rational mind. The rational mind can control emotions by altering the conditions that are causing them. If you are fearful because you are standing on the edge of a cliff, simply step back. You can have the same control if you can use the power of CV to imagine that you are no longer in danger. The subconscious mind does not distinguish between reality and a powerful belief.


Don't play the show in the pit anymore. Place yourself in the comfortable environment of your practice room at home.

I told you that I now longer play the tuba. I play the mouthpiece because I have always been a very successful mouthpiece player. I don't allow the tuba to influence my mouthpiece playing.

RR: "You cannot erase your past. You must replace your past."

The replacement must become dominant over time. Until that happens, you will find yourself in what I call the "Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome". Fluctuating between old and new habits. The old habits took a long time to establish so you have to be persistent to establish new habits.


In the last email, I talked about creative visualization as a daily routine. Much of my personal practice is CV. That is I think about the state of mind necessary to play the instrument away from actually doing it. When I do pick up the instrument, I can perform immediately.

I noticed this with Jacobs, Herseth, Charlie Geyer, Dick Oldberg, and Dan Gingrich. Nothing prevented them from doing what they wanted to do.

The great violinist Fritz Kreisler was once asked, "Maestro, you play so beautifully. Why don't we ever hear you practice?"

His reply was very revealing. "Just because you can't hear it does not mean that I'm not practicing."

Creative Visualization is a repetitive form of communication with the subconscious based on the use mental awareness that can involve any of the senses (visual, auditory, touch etc.). Since sight is the most powerful sense, it receives the highest priority in the brain. We learned how to talk because of the auditory awareness (language) that was repeated to us as children. We learned how to walk because we repeatedly received visual images of others walking. It took some time for the subconscious to determine how to realize the awareness that were being received by the subconscious mind.

Creative Visualization is a powerful force to achieve goals by visualizing them mentally over time.

Three years ago, my goal was the hew house. I'm amazed that I was able to sell the old house and make it happen in this economy. I remember having a powerful vision of what I wanted to accomplish.

You should be thinking about your professional and financial goals for the end of the show.

Creative Visualization is the development of a state of mind to achieve a future goal. "Now" is the state of mind to achieve an immediate goal. Some goals are immediate, some are longer term, and some are both.


Playing the horn involves a state of mind to produce an immediate result but you can also have long term goals to achieve a different result in the future. The important thing to to have control over your state of mind to achieve anything.

Negative emotions (fear, anxiety) are powerful hindrances to achieving a state of mind that allows us to reach our goals. They evolved to take over our state of mind to protect us from pain or harm (fight or flight syndrome). The problem occurs when we allow these emotions to dominate us when there is no pain or harm.

I suspect that the physical pain that you feel in your lip is a subconscious reaction to an expectation of fear or anxiety.

Even though that expectation was in the past, it's still stored in memory and will emerge at times. I think you will find that it will diminish as your expectation of success grows over time.

Sometimes, players experience paralysis in the lip. Woodwind players experience pain or paralysis in their hands.

Keep everything simple. Don't over analyze anything.

It's just the singing!
It's just the singing!
It's just the singing!


Even though you are competing with Dennis Brain, you don't have to expect to be there yet. Remember, everything requires time. Compete with him now, but accept the fact you are not there today. Try to be there tomorrow and the next day.

As a young player, I would compete with Mr. Jacobs everyday. One of the highlights of my career was a few times when people thought they were hearing him play and were surprised to learn that it was me.

One time when I was substituting for him in the CSO. Mr. Herseth told Jacobs, "You better come back or your 're going to loose your job!"


Long term, don't strive to be perfect. Strive to be better.

Clevenger does not strive for perfection as a horn player. As a result, he's a very accurate horn player because the music is his dominant focus. It's the music that motivates horn playing. Most players think that horn playing motivates the music.

Jacobs: "We must give dominance to the music, not the instrument."

Jacobs was completely free of the influence of his instrument because he had a very powerful awareness of the music at all times.

When you missed notes, it was because your were either singing the incorrect notes or you stopped singing for an instant. You will produce the notes on the horn 100% of the time if you are singing them 100% of the time.

As you develop your awareness of sound by imitating others, have the courage to compete with them. Yes, you have the same potential capability. The only limitations to what you can achieve are the ones you create.


Forget about the air because you don't have conscious control. Think about the sound which you do have complete control. Your subconscious will respond to your commitment to the sound with an equal commitment to whatever is necessary to produce the sound, including air.

Nothing will work as long as you are trying to focus on the air.

RR: "Sound motivates function."

Do you remember the most important thing I have ever said to my students or myself.

"There is no reason for your success or failure other than your state of mind." Your singing experience (everything!) was the result of your state of mind.


Here is a similar experience of mine that I will share with you.

I was playing the second tuba part to Zarathustra with the CSO. Mr. Jacobs and me were warming up in the orchestra room just before an afternoon performance. He was sitting about 10 ft. away directly in front of me. Of course I was listening to and watching him.

He first began playing as a trumpet player as a very young boy. When he played the tuba, he would imagine that he was still playing the trumpet. As a result, he could play in the extreme upper register with the same ease and sound of trumpet even though the tuba is four times the length. Listening to him and watching made a powerful impression on me.

Later that evening, I had a rehearsal at orchestra hall. Warming up, I sat in the same place where I was in the afternoon. In my imagination, I could see and hear Mr. Jacobs again. I picked up my instrument and astonished to experience that I could play exactly the same in the extreme upper register. It was frightening because I didn't understand what I do now.

That was a glorious experience for you. You have the power to make it happen again with the horn or your voice.

You not only must transcend the horn but you must transcend everything that get is the way of your concentration on the music. This includes any awareness of how you feel physically or emotionally.

Jacobs: "I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn't matter how my lips feels or how I feel."


I want you to stop punishing yourself for your failure. Just accept the fact that you are not doing what you need to do to create success. Alter your state of mind and do what you need to do.

Punishing yourself is just as harmful to your state of mind as someone else punishing you. When you fail, respond with action that will create success. You know what to do.

It's very hard for you to be fully focused on your horn playing since there is so much other responsibility in your life. Don't be critical of yourself. Remember your progress requires patience.

You cannot erase your past, you must replace it. The replacement process requires time.


Remember to practice the Clarke starting in a middle key first. Then alternate the keys one higher and one lower etc. Gradually increase the speed and vary the articulations. In time, when you reach the limits of the printed keys, keep expanding your range by half step beyond the printed exercises by transposing to new keys.


The singing comes from the same place in the brain if you are singing with your vocal chords or your lips. Also, the brain does not distinguish sounds we call music (singing) from the sounds we call language. It's the same.

Suzuki says, "We can learn to play an instrument the same way we learned to speak."

We learned language by becoming aware of the sound of words. We learn music by becoming aware of the sound of music. It's exactly the same process if we don't allow the mechanics of playing the instrument to infer with our dominant awareness of the music.


When speaking, we don't allow the mechanics of vocal chords to dominate the words. The mechanics is always subconscious. We must transcend the horn.

Regarding mouthpiece pressure or any other physical stimulus associated with playing the horn. You must transcend the feel. It means nothing and will continue create failure if you allow it to dominate your thoughts.


You are a very disciplined person. You must discipline yourself to concentrate only on the music that you are creating in your conscious awareness. You must let everything else go!!!!

If you are having difficulty concentrating on the music, it's because your awareness of the music is not powerful enough to dominate your thoughts. You must ascend the ladder of awareness to Emerald City. Your tools are singing vocally and buzzing externally in sets of three. SING, BUZZ, PLAY

This disciplined approach takes time to replace the habits of your past. Take pleasure in every moment of your success. Don't be too disappointed by your inevitable moments of failure.


As you create a history of success, your expectation of success will grow. As your playing grows, you will be more willing to accept the risk to move to the next level. Always remind yourself what allows your success. It's always your state of mind. You are the master of your mind.

From the first time we began to communicate about a month ago, you showed me that you are troubled by the fact that you are starting the horn later in life and that you are inexperienced.

Let go of those thoughts. Your subconscious brain will be programmed to play like a beginner and you will be handicapped forever. Remember, the knowledge that you now have actually is a tremendous advantage. How fortunate you are!!!

Don't be so concerned about your breathing when you play. You are not concerned about when you aren't playing.
You subconscious will take care of your breathing if you want to produce a full sound.

RR: "Sound motivates function."


Singing is your lifeline when you play the horn. If you are having trouble concentrating, it's because you are not in "Emerald City". Move up the ladder of awareness by repeating the external buzzing and vocalization in sets of three.


This is a promise that I make to all my students, including the one I see in the mirror every day.

If you sing the correct notes in your head as you play them, the notes coming out the horn will be a reflection of your singing 100% of the time. You can not fail.

There's the methodology for you to create an expectation of success.

Every week you tell me about your progress. Bravo!!!

The only limitations are the ones that you impose on yourself. Allow yourself to be free enough to experience the limits of the ability that's within you.

"Follow the yellow brick road."


The horn is a difficult instrument to play only if you don't know how to play it. The people who play well consistently either already have an unconscious instinctive ability or they have conscious understanding of how to motivate their instinctive ability. Players who are hit and miss have either lost their instinctive ability or they never really understood how to motivate it.

Instinctive ability is the ability to allow the subconscious, reactive mind to execute the mechanics of playing. This ability is motivated by a powerful commitment (mentally singing) to the music.


Remember that playing the mouthpiece inside the horn is no more difficult than playing it outside the horn unless you make it so by allowing the instrument to interfere with your concentration.


Playing any instrument is a very complex mechanical achievement. However we must have a simplistic, not intellectual approach to making music.

Vandercook: "Keep it simple."
Jacobs: "I want you to have the mind of a child."

Pay no conscious attention to your embouchure. Your subconscious brain is responding to your conscious awareness of sound. It will do whatever is necessary to realize the sound that you are singing.

As I mentioned before, I no longer play the tuba. I do not allow the mindless, soundless, piece of brass to influence me in any way. I have never been unable to play the mouthpiece outside the instrument. So it's very logical that I should play the mouthpiece the same inside the instrument.


Thirty years ago, most of the world was behind the quality of American and British brass players. The reason is that in the UK there is a great tradition of industrial and youth brass bands. In the US, there has been a similar tradition of concert and marching bands. In the American educational system, they start playing as early as fourth grade.

However, the existing brass pedagogy in the educational system is very misguided. There are many fine players but there are far more who could play if the pedagogy improved. That may happen in time. Actually, I can see that it has improved some but there is a long way to go.

I mentioned my frustration over the existing pedagogy to a very fine German trumpet player who was studying with me. He had studied with sixty teachers from all over the world. Nobody could really help him until he came to Chicago.
He said, "Roger, it's a small but growing army".


My last words to Mr. Jacobs before he died in 1998 was that his work would live through his students. You may now consider yourself to be a student of Mr. Jacobs. That's a very big honor!


Don't be too concerned about very precise intonation when you buzz the mouthpiece alone. The instrument will help you play more precisely when you place the mouthpiece in the horn.

The most important thing is to buzz accurate notes with a resonant sound. As your tone improves, your intonation will improve also.

RR: "Sound motivates function."

As you progress, others will hear the improvement. You will notice that your confidence is growing and playing is easier and more enjoyable for you.


You found yourself in an uncomfortable situation playing with the orchestra. You were (not now!) a beginning player being asked to play at a professional level. I remember feeling somewhat overwhelmed myself when I was very young.

I first played with the CSO when I was only 18 years old. As a result, I was asked to perform with many very fine brass players in Chicago. It was was great opportunity but I remember that I struggled to to keep up with them. I was frustrated because I wanted to play at their level immediately. However, I never gave up. In time, it got much better.


The secret of success playing the horn is to have a very simplistic approach to the complex task.

Walking and talking are very complex physical accomplishments. However, we have a simplistic approach to achieving these skills.

We learned to speak language by listening to words. We learned to walk by seeing others walk. It was our awareness of the end product that motivated our subconscious mind to learn how to realize the product over time. Nobody told us what to do with our vocal chords or legs.

The complex motor skills required to walk, talk, and play an instrument are beyond the abilities of our conscious intellect. However, our conscious mind can be highly aware of the end products of walking, talking, and playing. The conscious awareness will be communicated to the reactive mind which has the ability, or will acquire the ability over time, to realize what we want to achieve.


For three years, I imitated the sound of Mr. Jacobs and the rest of the CSO brass on my instrument. Nobody told me how to achieve that sound. I renewed it in my mind every day and worked to realize the sound on my instrument every day. We he first heard me play he said, "You sound like you already have been studying with me for three years".

RR: "Sound motivates function."

Focus on achieving the sound you want on the mouthpiece then transfer that sound to the horn. Remember that the horn has no sound of its own. You must fill it with your sound which will originate in your conscious mind and be sent to the mouthpiece if you allow it.

Yes, the funnel makes mouthpiece playing easier because of the amplification. The important thing is to understand that the horn is just a longer funnel. When you buzz the mouthpiece with the funnel, you are playing the mouthpiece not the funnel. When you buzz the mouthpiece inside the horn, you must continue to play the mouthpiece, not the horn.

Your goal is to play the mouthpiece the same no matter if it's in the funnel, Berp, or the horn.


Remember that you must start by playing louder dynamic levels to encourage tone production. As your resonance (bigger, louder sound) improves, you can begin to vary the dynamics when the mouthpiece is in the horn. However, you should always play loud when the mouthpiece is in the funnel or Berp. The reason is that you will do things to discourage tone production that are detrimental to your playing. It's not necessary for me to explain further because it will cause you to over analyze you playing technique.


There is no need to give anything up, including the horn. You just need to realize that all problem solving takes time.
That's what The Road Less Traveled is about.

The author says that the three components necessary to solve problems are need, discipline, and time. If your need to solve the problem is great, you will have the discipline to take the time to find the solution.

The development of your ability to play the horn will teach you things about yourself and problem solving that would not occur without that challenge. However, it's good thing that you have a profession which allows you to make a living while you are learning to play the horn.


I'm happy to hear that you found a funnel and that your're using it when you play the mouthpiece. You might try slipping your detachable bell over the funnel to make and even larger funnel. Maybe you have an extra bell you can use.

When you play the mouthpiece with the funnel (bell), continue to play the mouthpiece the same when it's placed in the horn. Nothing is different.

RR: "Play the mouthpiece, not the instrument."

On the first Jacobs CD, he demonstrates this by first singing a few notes, then he buzzes them on the mouthpiece outside the horn. Finally, he buzzes the notes inside the horn which is just a larger funnel.

The horn is just a larger funnel!


What is your state of mind when you play the mouthpiece outside the horn? If you are playing the melody on the mouthpiece, then you are singing the notes in your mind. The notes can only come from your conscious awareness.

It's really very simple and easy to do. You must commit only to the singing. Your subconscious will take care of the other things.

It's important that you not allow the horn to distract you from the singing when you place the mouthpiece in the instrument. That's why I don't really play the tuba anymore. I play the mouthpiece inside the tuba.

Playing an instrument is a very complex physical challenge. However, consciously we must have a simplistic approach so that we can leave the complexities to the subconscious mind. That's where all the power to execute playing the horn exists.

Jacobs: "We must be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers but highly conscious of our musical goals."

Don't be hard on yourself about not being 100% disciplined. Just do some buzzing outside the horn. Yes it takes more air to buzz the mouthpiece alone or with the berp but that's good. Take in larger breaths!

However, if you follow my advice about getting a funnel for your mouthpiece, you will find that it's easier to buzz than with the berp or the mouthpiece alone. The funnel will amplify the sound so that you don't have to work so hard to produce a good tone. It's really fun. I have all my students ( myself also!) use the funnel when they buzz.

It's just the singing no matter where the mouthpiece is. Your pitch accuracy, tone and technique will improve in time.

Here is another highly recommended reading for you.

The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck

Don't feel that you have to read these books immediately. In the future, add them to your library. They will influence your life.


Resonant means a full loud sound. Don't over analyze this. Just take in large breaths and play louder dynamics. No, never never blow air without making a sound. If you can't hear the music, play it louder. You don't have to buzz just with the music of horn players. Buzz along with anything you hear coming from the speakers.

The characteristics of low notes encourage tone production so they should not be neglected. They are the foundation of a good sound. Just be sure to play in the lower register some each day. The Clarke studies will have you play in the low, middle, and high registers.

The sweet spot is where the instrument resonates with the most sound. This occurs when the notes you send to the mouthpiece are precisely tuned to the correct pitch. Of course the pitch can only come from your mind.


You can continue to play if you are physically tired but if you are mentally fatigued, you should stop. Remember, playing the horn is 90% mental. If you are no longer singing mentally then you will be mindlessly blowing and attempting to play by feel. Your practice must be quality rather than quantity.

I think you should use the mute and the berp when you practice late in the evening. However, be sure to also have practice time when you use the berp and play the horn without the mute.

Have you heard the phrase, "Paralysis by Analysis"?

It means that you will be non-functional if you are consciously analyzing what you are doing. You must leave the analysis to the subconscious mind where the power to execute the notes really exists.

Some of the most troublesome students I have ever had were highly skilled professional (Doctors, Lawyers, Dentists) who brought their analytical minds with them when they played an instrument.

I know you are looking for a formula for success so here it is.

1. Always mentally sing the notes in your head when you play the mouthpiece inside or outside the horn.
2. Take in large breaths and play louder dynamics to encourage a full and resonant tone.
3. Challenge your technical and musical playing skills (speed, range, dynamics etc.) to new levels over time. You must allow yourself the time that is necessary to grow.
4. Keep your mind free to concentrate on the singing. You are over analyzing! Keep it simple by focusing only on the singing while playing with a big sound. You will allow your subconscious mind to deal with the complexities of playing the horn. This is no different than everything else you do in life all day long.

"Follow the yellow brick road"

Remember when you play the mouthpiece outside the horn, you are in the correct state of mind if the notes are the correct pitches and the sound is full and resonant. You are singing the notes in your head and it's not difficult to do.

Just transfer the mouthpiece playing to the horn. Nothing changes if you continue to play the mouthpiece while it's inside the horn. However, you must not allow the horn to interfere with your mouthpiece playing. Transcend the horn.

Do you remember the red megaphone that I used when I played the mouthpiece? It amplifies the sound and makes it easier to buzz. I suggest that you go to a hardware store and buy a funnel that your mouthpiece will fit into.

Dennis Brain would play the Mozart concertos by making a horn out of a hose and funnel. Think of the instrument as a very long mouthpiece like an Alphorn.

RR: "Play the mouthpiece not the instrument."

If it's too late in the evening to practice the horn loudly, use the Berp. Herseth advised practicing entire sessions on the mouthpiece alone. You must use a keyboard or piano to be sure of your pitches.

When you practice the studies, start in a mid-range key not the first key (lowest). Then expand your range by developing the next key lower and the next key higher from your starting key. Start slowly then gradually increase your speed. First slur as indicated but gradually vary the articulations.

I suggest that you begin by practicing the second and thirds studies first. Remember, you must mentally sing each note while playing. It's not just about fingering!

"Follow the yellow brick road."


I still do play professionally. However, there are very few opportunities for tuba players so I developed my teaching career because I needed to make a living. I am inspired to help others because I suffered so much myself. My knowledge about how to create success was the result of overcoming my own failure.


No, don't allow anything to control your state of mind. You don't have to be a slave of your mind. You can be the master of your conscious thoughts. If you are capable of walking and talking, you are capable of playing the horn at any time.

Technical Studies for Trumpet by Herbert L. Clarke


Fear is a natural protective emotion that the brain triggers to prevent us from physical or emotional harm. However, the part of the brain that triggers fear is reactive not intellectual. We cannot consciously cause it to occur and we cannot will it to go away unless we change the conditions that are triggering it.

The reactive brain will react the same if the triggering mechanism (harm) is real or imagined. You have fear when you play the horn because you expect to fail. When you have an expectation of success you will no longer experience fear when playing.

Stay focused on the singing and your expectation of success will continue. Remember that your goal is to create music not the elimination of fear. Elimination of fear will be a by-product of your successful creation of music but it will not motivate your ability to make music. Only your mental singing will motivate the music.

Also, you have the ability to create music in spite of your fear. You can actually use fear to bring you to a higher level of concentration on the music.


Transcending the horn means to stay focused on mentally singing the music rather than allowing your emotions or the instrument to interfere with your mind.


Here is a list of important books which will help you understand the mind.

Trading in the Zone - Michael Douglas (State of Mind and Fear)
The Secret of the Ages - Robert Carter (Power of the subconscious mind)
The Power of Now - Tolle (Controlling your thoughts)

It's just the mental singing of the music while you play.

There is no need to read the article. You understand that you can function in spite of your fear.

You have been very successful in every aspect of your life because you are highly motivated and you know what to do.


In many ways you are fortunate that you don't have a background in traditional music education on the horn. The knowledge that exists is taught by people who became teachers because they could not play well themselves.

"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

The traditional knowledge is grossly misinformed!!!

You have found yourself in a "Catch 22" situation with the horn. You are expected to perform at a professional level without the experience or knowledge to do so. This reality is causing you great stress because you are being asked to succeed at an unrealistic level. Your fear is a natural response to this situation.


The important thing is what you should do now and in the future. Please follow my advice. I promise you continued success.

1. It's just the singing.
2. It's just the singing.
3. It's just the singing.
4. It's just the singing.

Listen to recordings of what good brass playing (not just horn) should sound like. Go on youtube.com find videos of great performers such as Wynton Marsalis, Raphael Mendez, Dennis Brain, Roger Bobo and many others. They are all just singing the notes in their head as they play.


Exaggerate your inhalations of breath and play the mouthpiece outside and inside the horn with a louder sound. Do you remember my last comment about your playing on Friday? I said you finally sound like a horn player. I meant that your tone was a good characteristic horn sound.

"Sound motivates function." Read your list of "Roccoisms".

You have the knowledge to play successfully in your orchestra now. You must keep reminding yourself what you need to do. Be patient with yourself even though others are not. You must allow yourself the time that is necessary to develop your skills.


Do you get the Parade Magazine on Sunday with the newspaper? It probably comes with the Sunday NT Times or Daily News. If you don't already have it, you can still get it today.

There is an article in the magazine entitled, "Don't Let Fear Hold You Back" by the American actor, Kevin Kostner.

"Follow the yellow brick road."

Yes, my very honest talk to you on Thursday afternoon was a risk that I needed to take. My time with you was running out. I was willing to risk offending you with my honesty. I had no choice because your fear of failure was paralyzing you. Do you remember my first e-mail when I said that most people never realize their dreams because they are paralyzed by fear of failure?

With and instrument in your hands, both failure and success are exposed immediately. You can't hide behind the horn.

Nobody likes to expose their weaknesses to others. However in music and everything else, failure is an inevitable element of the process of creating success. You can achieve perfection in your professional work because you can test it before it's submitted. You cannot test your notes on the horn.


If you can accept the fact that some failure on the horn is inevitable, you will free your will to do what is necessary to be successful. The risks are to be taken in the practice room and in your lessons where the consequences of failure are minimal as long as you accept them. You do not have to enjoy your failure but you must learn to accept it.

If you don't find that acceptance, your subconscious mind will work against you by causing paralysis. Last week I saw the signs of paralysis already there. If you continue in this same state of mind, you will become completely paralyzed. You will loose all ability to function on the horn and your career will end.

Failure is an opportunity to learn. It should not become a barrier to learning.

I also learned from you last week. I was reminded that I also needed to be able to take risks. But without risk there can be no reward.


I mentioned the name of the great principal trumpeter of the Chicago Symphony, Adolph Herseth.

"A trumpeter's life is risky business. No greatness can be achieved if the player is paralyzed by fear."

I will show you the path to success but only you can walk the "yellow brick road". However if you do, I promise you will find what you are looking for in Emerald City.


You are the master of your mind. Don't allow a mindless piece of brass to take that away from you.

You only have to concentrate on the mental singing while you play. Increase your tonal resonance by buzzing loudly on the mouthpiece outside the horn first. Then transfer that sound to the horn. Remember that the horn has no sound of it's own. You must fill it with sound!

If you don't know the music well enough then sing it vocally first, then buzz, and finally send the music to the horn. Repeat the singing and buzzing three times. Repeat the sets until you are in "Emerald City".

"Follow the yellow brick road."


Anything worthwhile in life involves risk. Most people do not realize their dreams because their fear of failure will not allow them to take the necessary risks. ... played 50 auditions before winning the Philharmonic. He failed 45 times but did not allow the failure to paralyze him. Each failure was an opportunity to learn.

I describe myself as a "Master of Failure". I have personally experienced all the failure that I have ever seen in my students. I have never enjoyed my failure, but it brought me to a new level of understanding about how to create success. First, in my own playing then in my students.

You are coming to Chicago because you want to experience the knowledge that has brought your friends success. You will return to New York with a new level of understanding about how to create your own success.

I promise you won't be disappointed.


What did the four characters learn about themselves at the end?

"Somewhere Over The Rainbow" is my personal theme song.

Do you know the story of "The Wizard Of OZ"? If you have not seen the movie, rent it. What is the most important thing that is learned from the story?


You won't be fully liberated until you can completely free yourself from self awareness when you play. It's just the singing! You already are a liberated mouthpiece player! The influence of the horn and your past experiences are powerful stimuli that want to dominate your awareness.

It's just the singing!

You are experiencing what I call the "Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome" (next post at rogerrocco.com). The conflict between old Marc and new Marc. Old Marc cannot be erased, he must be replaced. You have a powerful need to be successful. That's the most important element of problem solving. What must follow is discipline and time. (Scott Peck, MD. - The Road Less Traveled)

"Follow the yellow brick road."


You have the knowledge and potential to achieve your goals. I promise if you continue on the path that we are showing you, there are no limitations to what you can achieve.

However, you must be able to commit to what we are telling you. Only your success will motivate you to do that.

Yes, people will not accept what you are experiencing unless they experience it themselves. The only thing any of us can do is to help others to become liberated also. I have been fighting for my beliefs my entire career. I will continue to do so as long as I can.

It's just the singing!
It's just the singing!
It's just the singing!

Trading in the Zone, Mark Douglas
The Secret of the Ages, Carter


The instrument is influencing your mind because of negative association over time (Pavlov-conditioned reflex).

You notice that it's not difficult to maintain concentration playing the mouthpiece alone.


You need to do 30-45 minutes daily of recreational playing on the mouthpiece away from the horn. Play along with recordings. When you place the mouthpiece in the horn, keep playing the mouthpiece rather than the horn. It's a wonderfully liberating experience to be free of the influence of the instrument. I don't play the instrument anymore. I only play the mouthpiece. I don't care where it is!

Andre because liberated from the trumpet because he could only play the mouthpiece for months at a time while in the French Army. His expectation of success was the result of the history of success that he created. He was completely liberated from trumpet playing on the smaller instruments. I did notice that the unfamiliar Bb trumpet did distract him at times.


This is a quote from you I had written on a slip of paper, tacked to my stand:

"The subconscious mind cannot distinguish between reality and a powerful belief."

Therefore, sing.


I have been thinking about your lesson yesterday. I suggest that you do a lot of external buzzing of the music. You are completely free when the mouthpiece is not in the horn. The procedure that I'm suggesting will allow you make the transfer to the instrument. It's really just a 17 ft. mouthpiece with valves. You might want to buzz near the opening of the leadpipe. Move the mouthpiece closer with each repetition.

I recall the advice I gave to a student at the end of his final lesson before the Falcone International Euphonium Competition. I said, "Do you have the discipline to follow what I'm going to suggest?" He responded, "Yes, Mr. Rocco."

I first advised him to buzz the music externally three times before playing the mouthpiece the fourth time inside the instrument. I asked him to repeat the sets
until he achieved the level of performance he wanted.

I also mentioned that it was important to first buzz three times even though he might not think it was necessary in subsequent sets.

He followed the procedure precisely and ultimately won first prize in the week-long competition. You deserve the gig so do what is necessary to get it!


Keep reminding yourself what is necessary to successfully execute the notes on the horn. You are a very fine musician but you must transcend the influence of the horn so that the music that's within you can emerge. Keep it simple. You are not in a continuing state of analysis when you walk or talk. You are free to say words and walk because you have no conscious awareness of how to do it.

You are free at the conscious level of awareness because you are leaving walking and talking to your subconscious brain. That allows you to consciously focus on the message of the words rather than the motor skills necessary for the realization of the words. You have a much richer message when you are free to function in this manner. Playing the horn is exactly the same. Jake says, "The key to success is found in speech".

You will transcend playing the horn when you are 100% committed to just the singing. If you find that, at any given moment, you are not making the commitment to singing, it's because your conscious awareness of the music is not powerful enough for your subconscious brain respond. Instead, your subconscious brain will try to seek an awareness of the sound by trying to make ears out of your lips.

Remember your tools to elevate your awareness of the music is vocalization and loudly buzzing. At first, practice the singing with music that's not audition repertoire. Practice singing Paudert, Galley, Kopprasch, and Arban first to establish your commitment to just the singing. Then transfer your commitment to singing when you play the repertoire.

You must master the singing first in order to master playing the horn. When you are able to do this, you will be free on the negative influence of the horn. The horn has no intelligence or music. That can only come from you.

I suggest that you print or rewrite this dissertation and read it several times a day to help remind you. You must have the courage to succeed in spite of your fear. Fear is a barrier only if you allow it to paralyze you. You can't control fear but you can control your response to it.

It's so simple! Just sing the notes in your head as you play them.


Bring yourself to the level of concentration where there is only the mental singing, the horn only exists on a peripheral level. Listen to the Jacobs CD where he talks about "singing in the head while playing" with only peripheral awareness of what you are doing.

Practice this by bringing the horn to playing position and mentally sing the notes while fingering. Do this in sets of three, then sing the same while executing the notes as the fourth repetition. Follow this procedure until you achieve a disconnect from the horn.

Listen to Jake discuss the problems of playing the horn versus focusing on the music of the horn. That's it! When you are free of the negative influence of the instrument ,as Jake says, "Playing is a joy!"


The reason they came to me was, like almost everyone else, they were struggling at some point in their careers. They found liberation from the influence of the instrument in their commitment to the music.

Your liberation will also be based on your commitment to the music. Remember, you can't erase your past. You can only replace it with something new. The replacement (singing) takes time because you must transcend your history of playing by feel.

If you have the patience and determination to "Follow the yellow brick road", I promise you will be rewarded in Emerald City!


Every day, I remind myself that I must mentally sing as I play. If I don't, the failure I hear coming from my instrument will be an unfortunate reminder.

There are two of you sitting in the same chair every night. The default (automatic) musician plays by feel and fails. The singing musician plays by sound and is successful. You have the power to decide which one is dominant at any moment!


Your evaluation of your audition experience is correct. If you are not singing, you will attempt to play by feel. Failure will always be the result.

"Playing by feel is like trying to drain the water out of a swimming pool with a straw."

The real test is your will to continue down "The yellow Brick Road." You can't erase your past. It will take more time to replace it.

"Failure is an opportunity to learn."

You have already proved your capabilities to yourself and others.

"Persistence is Omnipotent."


H.A. Vandercook: "Keep it simple." "If you can sing it, you can play it."

How is your mouthpiece playing going when it's outside the instrument? I promise that you are mentally singing when you play the mouthpiece alone. Mental singing is very simple and easy. You must sing and play precisely the same manner when you place the mouthpiece in the leadpipe of your trumpet.

RR: "I gave up tuba playing a long time ago. Now, I play an eighteen foot mouthpiece with valves."

Adolph Herseth: "When encountering problems musically or technically, first sing (vocally), then buzz.
Transfer the singing and buzzing to the trumpet."

"Paralysis by Analysis."

I think you are too analytical about the singing. It's nothing more than transferring precise mouthpiece playing from outside the instrument to the instrument. Don't be concerned with how loud your mental singing is.

The true measure of your singing is the accuracy and quality of the sound coming from your mouthpiece when it's in your hand or in the trumpet. The trumpet is just an extension of your mouthpiece.

I strongly suspect that you are playing the mouthpiece well outside the instrument but you become distracted by the trumpet when you place the mouthpiece inside the leadpipe. This is a common problem for many brass players.

You must transcend the influence of the trumpet with powerful singing and buzzing!

Adolph Herseth: "Practice entire sessions on the mouthpiece alone to avoid having problems creep into your playing.

Try this practice procedure.

1. Play three repetitions of a musical phrase on the mouthpiece outside the instrument.
2. Transfer your external mouthpiece playing to the trumpet on the fourth repetition.
3. Repeat the 3:1 ratio in sets until you have achieved the same success when the mouthpiece is inside the trumpet.

If can let go of your self analysis and totally commit to the music, I promise you will experience success!!!

Read my latest post, "The Brassaphone" for reinforcement.


Your transfer only lasts for a short while because you no longer continue playing the mouthpiece inside the trumpet. You stop influencing the trumpet with sound and it begins to influence you (feel).

RR: "Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player."

When you notice this is happening, take the mouthpiece out and buzz again (three repetitions).

Gradually, you will be able to sustain your mouthpiece playing in the trumpet for longer periods. Eventually, you will become liberated from the negative conditioning of the instrument and free to create sound.

It is very important that you no longer concern yourself with the mechanics of playing, air or embouchure. Focus all your attention on producing musical sound.

RR: "Sound motivates function."

"Follow the yellow brick road."


I just want to say - thank you!

The procedure 3:1 (buzz:play) you described works miraculously! I have to write it again – miraculously! Moreover, I practice on mouthpiece alone for 10 minutes and after that I take the trumpet up and I sound great! The general ease of playing is greater indeed. If I feel that I am not playing on my mouthpieces the same way, I do it when the mouthpiece is outside the horn I stop. I put the trumpet away and I play only on my mouthpiece. Every time it works!

You are right. I am sure that my problem is caused by the negative conditioning I experience when I bring the trumpet to playing position.

Can I play the mouthpiece alone for example a one week or more to liberate myself from the negative conditioning of the instrument? Is it dangerous to practice too much on the mouthpiece only?


Practice 30-45 minutes sessions daily on the mouthpiece, then play phrases back and forth with the trumpet. It is not necessary to play the mouthpiece alone for a week at a time. However, doing so is not harmful. I take my mouthpiece along when I'm on vacation.

Keep me informed of your progress.

Follow the yellow brick road!"


(student question)

Tell me why you like fingering the funnel.

I have to admit I was surprised by this idea. The brassaphone is intended to get us away from any influence of the instrument; to get us to focus on the singing alone. I don't focus on tone, volume, or intonation when I play the brassaphone. I just sing.

When I begin to finger along, I find it distracting. I start contemplating on and off about fingering, which, to my thinking, gets me away from the ultimate goal of liberation from the instrument. I don't want to think about the lips and I don't want to think about breathing either. I'm not sure what purpose fingering serves. I'd like to know how this helps you.

(RR reply)

I'm not consciously thinking about the fingering any more than if the mouthpiece was in the instrument. However, I noticed that my buzzing improved because the fingering seemed to distract me from the strange feel of the buzzing with the funnel.

It's also closer to what happens when I put the mouthpiece in the instrument. I'm buzzing and fingering. The Brassaphone is nothing more than an amplified Berp.


Today I proved beyond a doubt that the Think System works.

Long story, but basically after beating 12 other fine players, 3 long rounds,
and playing on 5 different horns (my thumb key unsoldered itself right before
the second round, and had to borrow three!), I am the new associate Principal of
the St. Louis Symphony, starting in the Fall. Thanks as always to you!

I reminded myself of your last email (RR-"It's just the singing.") constantly today, as the Think System allowed me to overcome the strangeness of these horns.


I suggest you visit rogerrocco.com and read the post, "Creative Visualization."

It's all about transcending the reed, instrument, mechanics, and feel with a powerful awareness of the music. When the music is dominant in your conscious awareness, you open the door for your subconscious mind to respond by executing everything that's necessary to to realize the music.

The real power to play the oboe or do anything else is at the subconscious level of thought. It's no different than what happens when we do everyday things like walking or talking.

If you like to read, there are a couple of recommended books on the the power of the subconscious mind (The Secret of the Ages) and how to achieve a state of mind dominated by music rather than feel or mechanics (Trading in the Zone).


1. "There is no reason for your success or failure other than your state of mind."
2. "Sound motivates function."
3. "It's just the singing."


Oboe players become too concerned about having a perfect embouchure, reeds, and fingers just as brass players pay too much attention to air, chops, or tongue.

I have often thought about a former great principal oboist of a major orchestra. I probably could have helped him years ago. When I was invited to teach in his country, I learned that he was somewhat a national hero. The lack of understanding is tragic because the problem isn't focal dystonia. It is paralysis resulting from negative conditioning associated with the instrument. Too many great musicians have given up their careers because the medical or educational communities advised them to do so.

If you have an opportunity, read the latest post, "The Myths of Focal Dystonia"


I knew him from the days when we were on the audition circuit. The problem that many players run into later in their careers is that feel begins to dominate their awareness as they age. They begin a downward spiral of reacting to alter their feel which causes more failure and a greater awareness of how they feel when they play.

When self awareness dominates musical awareness, the result is always disastrous!

One of the most destructive developments in brass pedagogy, has been the "feel good" approach to playing. You commonly hear it in the trumpet players who think they must do a 45 minute warm-up routine before they can play.


"Feeling good is a by-product of playing correctly. You can't motivate correct playing by trying to feel good first."

"Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player."


It won't take years to replace your old habits with new ones when you play the trumpet. The new habits are already established when you play the mouthpiece outside the instrument.

Soon, the trumpet will have little impact on your ability to create sound and you will become liberated from it's negative influence.

"I gave up tuba playing a long time ago. Now, I play an 18 ft. mouthpiece with valves."

"Follow the yellow brick road."


Yes, I get the picture. Having to fight pitch issues is a major distraction that impacts your state of mind. Ultimately, you begin to experience physical symptoms. It's a no win battle trying to adjust to that chaos all the time.

As your playing becomes more confident, you can only hope that the other brass players begin to adjust to you.

RR - "We always realize our expectations."

Our expectations, positive or negative, are the result of a history of experiences. In time, the expectations become associated with, and influenced by, the instrument we are holding. The environment (performance stage) will also become associated (Pavlov, Conditioned Reflex) with our history and expectations.

RR - "If we want to alter our expectation of success, we must create a new history of successful experiences with an instrument in our hands."

"We cannot erase our past. We must replace it with something new."

Your new history of success, and resulting expectation of success, must first be created in the practice room over a moderate period of time (weeks and months). The history and expectation must be significant enough so that you will be able to bring it to the performance stage.

I suggest the following approach which will require discipline.

1. Begin with simple studies such as Getchell and Concone. Gradually progress to your most familiar Charlier etudes. Avoid the orchestra parts for a while because of your expectations.

2. Loudly buzz phrases externally three times for each time you place the mouthpiece in the leadpipe in a 3:1 ratio. If necessary, repeat the set on the same phrase. As you develop single phrases, repeat the process with two phrases etc. Your goal is to transfer your external mouthpiece playing to the horn. There is no difference between playing the mouthpiece externally or internally. Transcend the difference in feel.

3. Practice 30-45 minutes a day on the mouthpiece alone. Don't have the trumpet in sight. Leave it in the case or another room. I practiced by taking a walk or playing along with everything I heard on my favorite recordings (Reiner - CSO).

4. You may want to make a "Brassaphone" by finding a funnel that your mouthpiece will fit into. Buzzing is a little easier because the funnel provides amplification.

Let's start here and see how it goes for you. I want to know how you are doing!


There is only one thing I say about air. "Take in a large breath every time you breathe."

As a shallow breather, you can play but it's harder and you never develop a resonant sound.


"Sound motivates function."

The ultimate motivation for taking in a large breath is your desire to produce a full, resonant sound. I never consciously think about taking in a large breath. However, I'm always consciously aware of the quality of sound I want to produce.

That awareness is mostly internal imagination rather than external listening.

However, the large breath must be conditioned to the big sound so you should spend a few (5-10) minutes daily following this procedure.

When you buzz and play the phrases from Concone etc., consciously think about sucking in enormous breaths and playing with loud (not forced) sound.
"Big breath=Big sound"



"When you are playing, air is not detectable, but sound is highly detectable."


"Think sound not mechanics."

Have the patience to continue to develop the new trumpeter. In time, he will begin to dominate old player more and more. You will be able to develop a higher level of confidence with more challenging music and on stage.

You are on the road to recovery. I want continued updates on your progress.

"Follow the yellow brick road."

"It's just the singing."

Avoid all other conscious awareness such as lips, breathing, or fingers by focusing only on mental singing. When you have a powerful mental awareness of the music, you communicate that awareness to your subconscious. It has the power to realize your conscious singing as you play the instrument.

ROBERT CARTER (The Secret of the Ages)

"The conscious mind is the gateway to the subconscious."


"It's just the singing!"


You already know how to play your instrument at the highest level of performance. You just need to motivate that knowledge and skill that's within you right now.

"Your mind already knows how to play the notes. It just needs to be highly aware of what notes you want to play."

Mental singing is the highest level of conscious musical awareness that you can create.


"I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn't matter how my lip feels or how I feel."

"Follow the yellow brick road."


Congratulations! Bravo!

"It's just the singing. It's just the singing, It's just the singing."

You must constantly remind yourself, it's just the singing. As you experience more success in the practice room, your expectation of success on the stage will grow.

Write those words down and keep them on your stand to help remind yourself.

It's natural to respond to the physical symptoms of failure because playing feels so uncomfortable. However, responding to symptoms rather than cause, encourages the symptoms rather than eliminating them. The more you try to eliminate the symptoms, the worse they become.

RR - "Feeling good is a by-product of playing correctly. You cannot motivate correct playing by trying to feel good first."


1. Loudly buzz phrases three times externally. Make sure your pitch is accurate but mostly focus on producing a big sound.
2. Play the mouthpiece inside the horn on the fourth repetition. Continue playing the mouthpiece even though it's in the horn. Do not play the horn!
3. Repeat the four repetition sets until you are satisfied with a noticeable result.
4. Move on to the next phrase and repeat the procedure.
5. Practice 30-45 minutes a day on the mouthpiece alone. Keep the horn in it's case or in another room. Take long mouthpiece buzzing walks or play along with your favorite recordings.

Adolph Herseth:

"Practice entire sessions on the mouthpiece alone to avoid having problems creep into your playing."
"When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing then buzz. Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument."


Sound motivates function.

Sing, Buzz, Play

It's just the singing and buzzing.


You only need to establish the full breath as a habit. This requires repetition over time.

Here is a procedure I recommend.

Practice simple music, such as Concone, Getchel, or Bordogni by phrase. Pause long enough between phrases to take in maximum breaths. If you practice this procedure for a few minutes a day, you will establish the full breath as subconscious conditioned response.

Follow this procedure for a few minutes each day. Don't be concerned consciously about regulating your inhalation. Once you have established the full breath as a habit, let your subconscious mind adjust your inhalation based on the tonal requirements of the music you are playing.

"Sound motivates function."


The first thing I want you to know is that I promise I can help you!

RR: "I have personally experienced your worst moment of failure. I hope you never have an opportunity to experience mine."

You have been reacting to the uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms of failure. It is normal to want to eliminate those symptoms. However, you must deal with what is causing such painful and paralyzing conditions in your playing rather than the symptoms.

Herseth: "There's nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up."

RR: "There is no reason for your success or failure other than your state of mind."

The good news is that the doctors told you there is nothing wrong physically.

RR: "Sound motivates function."

Herseth: "When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing then buzz. Transfer the sing and buzzing to the horn."

"Practice entire sessions on the mouthpiece alone to avoid having problems creep into your playing."

RR: "I gave up tuba playing a long time ago. Now, I play an 18ft mouthpiece with valves."

"Play the mouthpiece not the instrument."

A history of failure has been established with the horn in your hands. A powerful negative association has been created over time. Your physical and emotional pain is triggering a protective response in your subconscious mind that is attempting to prevent further pain. However, the response is causing paralysis and even greater pain.

You must transcend the horn by creating an even more powerful awareness of the music.

Early in his career Herseth's mouth was severely injured in a car accident. He was in great pain. The doctors told him to take a year off from playing to heal. His strong character would not allow him to give up the horn for a year.

When he warmed up in his home studio, he could barely play because the pain was dominant. However, he had the courage to go on the stage anyway. He discovered that he could play because his awareness of the music was more powerful than the pain. Everyone says that he ultimately became a greater player because he developed a more powerful musical mind.

I suggest that you read "The Internet Lessons" at rogerrocco.com Especially focus on what I say regarding mouthpiece playing in general and the 3:1 ratio of playing the mouthpiece outside vs. inside the horn.

You must accept (You don't have to like it!) the fact that your mouthpiece playing feels uncomfortable and may not sound very good.

RR: "We can convert bad sound into good sound. We cannot convert silence into good sound."

Practice 30-45 minutes each day on the mouthpiece alone. Play along with recordings or take mouthpiece practice walks, playing melodies (Mozart Concertos etc.) not exercises.

When you transfer to the horn, have the discipline to buzz externally 3 times for every time the mouthpiece is in the leadpipe. Most importantly, when the mouthpiece is in the instrument, continue to play the mouthpiece. Do not play the horn!


RR: "We cannot erase our past. We must replace it with something new."

Have the patience to continue on your path to success (Yellow Brick Road). As time passes, the new player will grow and the old player will fade. However, the old player will never be erased from your long term memory. All our life experiences are preserved forever. That's both good and bad news because your greatest experiences and your worst experiences can be revisited anytime.

RR: "Being chased by a tiger is fatal only if you cannot outrun it."


Tubaphone is just the name I give to the megaphone I use for tuba players. I use the generic term Brassaphone for all brass. Or I say Bonaphone for trombone and Euphaphone for euphonium etc.

It's nothing more sophisticated than a cone or funnel that the brass player can insert a mouthpiece into. However, the instrument is just a larger cone. We must approach playing the cone and the instrument in the same manner.

"Follow the yellow brick road."


Your physical symptoms are the result of your “state of mind” when playing the horn. The instrument has become a “hot stove” in your hands. You would experience trembling and paralysis if you were forced to touch a hot stove or do anything that was dangerous or very unpleasant.

When brass players experience too much failure, it’s as though someone is pointing a double barreled shotgun at their head. We experience both emotional pain and physical discomfort.

There is a protective reaction in the subconscious that wants to protect us from emotional and physical harm. Unfortunately, while the subconscious is trying to protect you from experiencing anxiety and the physical discomfort associated with playing, it’s sabotaging your conscious will. The result is causing even more anxiety, physical discomfort (trembling and pain), and paralysis (tongue).

Your natural response is to try to consciously eliminate the physical symptoms. Since they are a subconscious reaction to your playing experiences, you cannot make conscious corrections. Since your symptoms are the result of your state of mind, the recovery must be to alter your state of mind while playing.

RR “There is no reason for your success or failure other than your state of mind.”

While playing, your conscious awareness is dominated by “feel” rather than sound.

RR “Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player.”
“Sound motivates function.”

You must discontinue the self analysis in a mirror or otherwise! If you can, stop the medications. They are not dealing with the cause of your problems.

Eventually, your “feel” dominated mind will cause your subconscious to completely paralyze you when attempting to play as I personally experienced in 1976. Read “A Brass Player’s Story”.

Since the instrument has become a powerfully negative influence on your subconscious, you must begin to create success away from it. Your dominant conscious awareness must be entirely focused on the sound you want to produce.

Your powerful tools to raise your awareness of sound are to sing vocally and mentally, and to play the mouthpiece outside the instrument.

Herseth “When encountering problems technically or musically first sing then buzz. Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument. Practice entire sessions on the mouthpiece alone to avoid having problems creep into your playing.”
RR “Sing, Buzz, Play”

I suggest you read “The Internet Lessons”. I add to the post daily. You will see this posted enormously today. You must have the discipline to follow the SBP formula that I have suggested to others.

RR “My students and I have failed to apply the SBP formula. However, it has never failed us when we did apply it.”

“Play the mouthpiece not the instrument.”

“I gave up tuba playing a long time ago. Now I play an 18 foot mouthpiece with valves.”

“Follow the yellow brick road.”

RR "I gave up tuba playing a long time ago. Now I play an 18ft. mouthpiece with valves."

When you place the mouthpiece in the leadpipe of the tuba, you stop playing the mouthpiece. Do you have a Berp (brasswind,com $20?)? You can also tape a small tube to your leadpipe that you can insert your mouthpiece into.

Loudly buzz externally and finger the tuba several times before placing the mouthpiece in the leadpipe. Then loudly buzz and finger the same music in the same manner when the mouthpiece is in the horn. Don't be concerned about your cheeks, lips, air or anything other then the sound.

Another approach is loudly buzz and finger with the mouthpiece about a couple of inches from the end of the leadpipe. With each repetition (4 or 5), move the mouthpiece closer to the opening of the leadpipe until the mouthpiece is fully inserted in the horn.


A couple thoughts regarding your lesson today. The student needs to be distracted from her analytical self. Her self analysis was imposed on her by other teachers. She's not to blame!

Of course, the distraction must always be the music. I suggest that you create a powerful musical environment by singing and playing along with her. She must experience success motivated by music in a powerful manner or she will continue to try to analyze her way to success. The Witches Castle!


You don't need to buzz externally in the same register to have the same effect when you transfer to the horn. Often, I have students buzz an octave higher or lower externally because they sound better. The important thing is to transfer the same playing technique and quality of sound to the horn when you place the mouthpiece in the leadpipe.

RR: "Simplify and transfer"

If you have difficulty making the the transfer to the instrument, it's because your musical awareness (mental singing) is not powerful enough to transcend the "feel" influence of the instrument. Additional external buzzing repetitions are required. 3:1 ratio is very powerful.

It's very important that you stay focused on the the path that has brought you some success.

Herseth: "There's nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up."

"When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing then buzz. Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument."

RR: "Sing, Buzz, Play"

"It's just the singing and buzzing."

"Follow the yellow brick road."


If you consciously sing the notes in your head as you play them, I promise that you will send them to the mouthpiece and into the horn.

Your concentration level must be at a higher level when playing the mouthpiece inside rather than inside the horn because you must transcend the negative conditioning that has been associated with the instrument.

Your external mouthpiece playing is fantastic! Now, it's just a matter of transferring it to the horn.

"It's just the singing."


It's not necessary to avoid performance commitments unless you are insecure about your chances of performing successfully. If you expect to fail then it's best to avoid putting yourself and your colleagues in an uncomfortable situation. The emotional pain and physical discomfort resulting from failure will become associated with the horn in an even more powerful manner.

There is a subconscious response in the brain that wants to protect us of from harmful or uncomfortable physical or emotional experiences. The response is usually in the form of paralysis or less often, involuntary muscle contraction (dystonia). The result is sabatoge! The conscious mind wants to play the instrument but the subconscious, which is more powerful, wants to prevent the negative experiences associated with playing.

You don't need to give up playing the mouthpiece in the horn. I recommend that you play the mouthpiece without the horn for 30-45 minutes a day in a single session. To minimize it's influence, the instrument should not be in the same room.

Next, spend 30-45 minutes transferring the external buzzing to the horn. Practice short phrases, buzzing externally 3 times before playing the mouthpiece in the leadpipe. Your goal is to play the mouthpiece the same (singing and buzzing) when it's in the horn. Imagine that you are just playing a longer mouthpiece. Repeat the sets (3:1) until you have achieved success.

If you find that you are unable to play the mouthpiece when it's fully inserted into the leadpipe. Place it in halfway or one quarter. Many players, myself included, find that as soon as the mouthpiece is fully inserted in the leadpipe, the conditioned response associated with the instrument takes over. I promise that with more repetitions, you will be able to transfer your mouthpiece playing to the horn.

RR "I gave up tuba playing a long time ago. Now, I play an 18ft mouthpiece with valves."

"Play the mouthpiece, not the instrument."