Janos Starker used to refer to the journey of developing one’s craft as this progression from the top to the bottom- over and over again. Every time you reach the top of your playing, you can then ascend into the next level of playing, but of course now you are at the bottom again. The feeling of being at ‘the bottom’ again is just as real and just as daunting as each time before. Feelings of accomplishment or accolade are quickly laid to rest when one becomes aware of how much work (and uncertainty of solutions) lies ahead. It is healthy and normal to feel this way, but each time you discover a new level of play above you, you feel like you are at the bottom. I would imagine this feeling is difficult for many- which is why many try to avoid it. Even those who say they really really really want to be the best may be avoiding the inevitable ‘bottom’ that lies ahead. They get harder and harder to experience. When you’ve been on the journey for years; when you are in debt, tired, stressed, ‘behind’ where you want to be professionally etc. it gets more and more difficult to plunge back to the bottom.
Similar to those that are successful with a life-changing diet or exercise (or elite athletes), one must develop a hunger for this new form of masochism. Like an adrenaline junkie, one must switch their mindset and hunger for the bottom. Yesterday I took a lesson with Brian Hecht who is one of the best bass trombonists in the world. He sounds amazing and is constantly sharpening the razor’s edge. His sound hold true and vibrant and wide all the way up the range. His concept of articulation is so controlled and nuanced- I had no idea how much I sounded like a stuttering Neanderthal by comparison.
I must say that everything I have done thus far on this thousand-day challenge has been a good idea. I have never sounded better and I don’t feel like I have to do any back-t
racking. That’s the good news. The harder news is how much better Brian sounded. It was painfully obvious how much more I have to do. I do feel encouraged by the impression I got that everything he did is achievable. I truly believe that I can get there. I set a goal of 500 days to have that kind of sound throughout the range. It might take another thousand- in honesty I really don’t know, but I do believe it is finite for me. All I know is I am back at bottom, and it is a good place for me to be. I will embrace it. I wonder….. how many more bottoms will I have left to experience? How many does he? How many do you?...