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Having been a professional trumpeter, early on I learned the word “chops” as it is used to describe a player who has a powerful embouchure (the use of the muscles surrounding the mouth in order to create a sound on a wind instrument).  Here is Japanese trumpeter Eric Miyashiro providing a dazzling rendition of Over the Rainbow (that perhaps only a trumpter player could love).

Both the sound quality and video are poor in this example, but if you listen all the way through, especially the last half, you’ll hear what super chops applied to the trumpet sound like.  Eric is a disciple of Maynard Ferguson (1928-2006) who pioneered playing jazz in the upper registers of the trumpet.

With an ear sensitized to the word “chops”, I’ve heard it applied to many different skills over the years:  Tiger Woods’s golf game, Obama’s facility with the TelePrompTer, Yo-Yo Ma’s fingers on his cello, NASCAR drivers, a strong software programmer.

Here’s a question for you: Which of your salespeople have chops?  In what areas are those chops applied to winning business?  Competitive chops?  Presentation chops?  Negotiation chops?  Can you isolate any specific aspect of their approach, skill or behavior?  Can those be understood and taught to others?

One of my trumpet teachers years ago, the highly esteemed Roy Stevens, had a wonderful Great Dane, whose name was Chops.  Cute!

If you’ve got eight minutes to spare, here is Eric playing MacArthur Park recorded at a rehearsal in London.

UPDATE 12/29/2008:

I just learned that Freddie Hubbard, another trumpet king, died today.  Here is a fine example of Freddie, his own unique style, and chops galore!


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