Under-Seasoning Our Playing

One of the biggest differences between a professional chef and a good amateur cook is that an amateur tends to under-season his dishes.

The same is true of us musicians.

When I think of my own favorite musicians (trumpet players and others) and compare their playing to recordings of my own performances, everything is more. Louds are louder. Softs are softer. Short notes are shorter. Vibrato is more pervasive and intense. Bebop lines swing way harder.

We trumpet players are so focused on core sound and tone quality. Do world-class players have a better sound than I do? Yeah, but that’s not the most important difference, not at all. If I had Håkan Hardenberger’s sound and he had mine, he’d still be the one soloing with the LA Phil.

It’s worth remembering that we need to overdo things in order for them to sound right out in the audience. “Way too much” behind the bell sounds just right at the back of the hall.

And the good news is that once we form the habit of adding enough seasoning, it’s easy to keep doing it.