tenet (ten' it), noun: a principle, doctrine, or belief held as truth

Welcome to my blog! Here I will share some of my thoughts on horn playing and teaching, which I think about a lot, and maybe some other things, too. Since my job (which thankfully, allows me to do a lot of playing and teaching) keeps me very busy, as does my wonderful family, I may not write frequently. My goal will be quality, not quantity!

Please share your comments.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Power of Yielding

     The idea of yielding is a powerful image for me in many areas of life, but it also has applications in horn playing.  I first came across this idea in college, in the book Thinking Body, Dancing Mind, by Chungliang al Huang and Jerry Lynch.  To me, this book is right up there with The Inner Game of Tennis on the list of must-haves for performing musicians.

     The authors discuss yielding mostly as it relates to slumps or injury.  In my horn playing, the idea of yielding reminds me not to fight it when my chops are a little "out of whack."  Maybe I'm stiff from too much playing the day before, or maybe my lips feel a little puffy from allergies, or a little thin from taking decongestants.  Instead of struggling to get it to feel "normal," I can yield a little--meaning work with what I've got--and get a perfectly acceptable result (sometimes a better result) with much less effort and frustration.

"Do the best you can with what you've got."

"Don't work the horn, play the horn."

     When it's time to play the big solo, or time for the recital to begin, you have to choose your battles, manage your energy, and do what's necessary to get the best result you can, at that moment.

     Yielding is about being flexible, and letting go of the need to be "right."  This comes much easier to some personality types than others.

     Beyond horn playing, yielding has many useful applications in life.  In many circumstances, there is great power in yielding.  Yielding is not the same as simple weakness, or defeat, because it is proactive.  Yielding does NOT mean giving up.  When you encounter an obstacle or opposing force--whether you have the upper hand or not--by yielding, you can exert control over the situation.  Thus, the power of yielding.

     I remember a really great analogy that relates to the power of yielding; I just don't remember exactly where I heard it or read it.  I think it was in Thinking Body, Dancing Mind, but I couldn't find it when I quickly skimmed back through the book.  It goes something like this...

     Suppose that a small river is flowing toward something you don't want to get wet.  You can stand in the way of the river, perhaps with a large timber, and try to stop it.  But you will quickly become exhausted, and the river will inevitably overwhelm you and continue its course.  However, imagine that you yield to the force of the water, and angle your position.  Then, you can alter the course of the river, and accomplish your goal even while the river continues flowing.

     I could ramble on about that little story for a while, but I don't want to go on too long.  I hope that image will stick with you like it does me.  I love the idea that yielding doesn't mean a lack of effort, it means less effort, and using your energy more efficiently and for better results.  By yielding, you can confront obstacles that at first seem overwhelming, and actually achieve your goals.

     Remember, this involves letting go of the need to be right, and the need to have it your way (sorry, Burger King).  Is it more important that you were the first one at the stop sign, or that you not have a fender bender in the intersection?  Is it more important that your spouse see it your way, or that you have peace in your home?  Is it more important that your horn students play from a particular etude book (Kopprasch rules!), or that they learn to be better horn players?


  1. This is great, Travis! I love how learning to excel on an instrument can teach us so many valuable life lessons. Thanks so much for the post!