33: Greg Spence Takes the Mystery Out of the Mastery

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spenceGreg Spence is an Australian trumpeter, an author and the founder of Mystery to Mastery, an online platform dedicated to removing the mysteries of successful musical performance.

Executive Summary


Three Key Takeaways

  1. Relearning new physical techniques can be very stressful psychologically because old habits are hard to break.
  2. Just say "No." Know your limits and don't take gigs you're not prepared to do.
  3. Expectation. Intention. Preparation.

Greg's worst moment as a performer

"One time I received a call from a friend of mine who was unable to play a gig which included Penny Lane with the famous piccolo trumpet solo. I said no, but he kept asking and I finally said I would do it. The music they gave me was written in the wrong key. I prepared as much as I could in a very short time. The band is playing it way too fast. Needless to say, I didn't play it very well. It was really embarrassing. 

Lessons learned from this moment: Greg ended up playing the rest of the gig and was later praised for his professionalism under the circumstances.

Quotable Quotes

  • "If you expect to play beyond yourself on the gig, you're going to be disappointed. You'll have moments like that, but you can't plan on it."
  • As soon as the sound is in your mind, the conscious mind can't bombard you with the doubt and chatter. It can't focus on two things at once.

The Hot Seat

Q: It’s 5 minutes before you go on stage for an important performance… What are you doing?

A: Try to play a little bit. Sit down with a glass of water. Have a look at the book, going over tricky parts in my mind.

Q: What’s the best performance-related advice you've ever received?

A:  Focus on the music.

Q: Can you share one tip for our listeners to help deal with stage fright? (Physical, mental, etc.)

A: Prepare. Play in front of people as much as you possibly can.

Q: What’s a non-musical activity that contributes to your success as a musician?

A: Golf and bikram yoga.

Q: Imagine you’re on stage. It’s the end of the performance and the audience is on its feet, applauding. They don’t want any more and they don’t want any less. Everything is perfect. What have you just done?

A: Last December, I did a presentation at the Midwest Clinic called "Disspelling Brass Playing Myths." Everything went great. People loved it and really appreciated. I said everything I wanted to say in a confident and fun way. I played a little bit to demonstrate concepts but it was great. Everything went according to plan.

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