It's amazing how much one's ear can change in just a couple short years.
I flourished as a second trombonist for a long time. First just isn't my bag, although I have been sitting first in the AWCB since fall of 2007 (mostly because nobody else would do it, iirc). I dearly adore playing third trombone, although it frequently makes me sneeze (more on that later). Second, for me, is where it's at.
In Lake Placid, I sat second trombone for the first time in two years. It took me a good three hours of rehearsal to get my second trombonist ear back. It's hard to play those middle notes and be in tune. It sucks that half of your sustained notes are Gb (or, at least, for this particular gig, they were). I had forgotten where those notes even were, so used to being on the top of the chord or wailing away up in the "higher" range. There's so much more that you have to do as a second trombonist that I had become sorely out of practice with.
First: always listen to the firsts.
Second: always listen to the horns.
Third: always listen to the thirds.
Fourth: always listen to the guy next to you.
Fifth: figure out what the hell kind of chord it is you're playing and adjust, because chances are a little adjustment by you will make the sound "gorgeous" instead of "pretty good".
On and on and on...
Listen, listen, listen. I think I hadn't realized how much I had stopped listening.
And now I've come back, sitting first again in the AWCB, and I've forgotten all the things that a good first player needs to do. As my substitute stand partner would probably attest to if he had been around two years ago, I failed almost as badly at being a first player during rehearsal on Monday as I did when I started in 2007.
So what makes the list for a good first player? A second? A third?