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 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 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 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 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."


  1. Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to share your knowledge to others over the internet. Keep up the good work, it is much appreciated.

    I discovered your blog 3 weeks ago and have read every word in it (multiple times). For 2,5 weeks I am following the sing, buzz, play concept to increase my level of awareness of the music.

    I hope (believe) to be able to tell you good progress in the course of time.

    A very thankfull trumpet player

  2. This is absolute gold.

    I was fortunate enough to have worked with Mr. Jacobs and I know that every single statement in this blog is spot on. So far I have learned much more from brass players than from fellow flutists. Thank you very much.