Friday, June 7, 2013

Practice Well

The following is ostensibly about practicing music, but if you read between the lines, you might find that it's about more than that.
  1. Practicing builds patterns and habits. Patterns and habits are amazingly resilient. Make sure the patterns and habits you're building are the ones you want to keep.
  2. Once a pattern or habit is established, unless you've got everything else nailed down, don't practice it. Don't warm up with it. Don't use it unless it's time to use it. Don't let the spice become the main course.
  3. Note before notes. Before you try to play scales, arpeggios and riffs, learn to play individual notes. Draw from each note all the sound and beauty that awaits within it. Play with the textures and nuances. Learn all you can from it.
  4. No sugar coating. To really get to know your instrument (including your voice), get rid of all the things that mask and filter it. Turn off the reverb. Put away the effects. Get down to the raw sound.
  5. When playing sequences of notes, always, always, always practice with a metronome.
  6. Speed comes through slow practice. Never practice faster than you can practice well. Set the metronome at as slow a speed as is necessary for you to play each note perfectly. As you gain mastery at one rate, increment the metronome to the next rate.
  7. As you learn to use a metronome, reduce the frequency of the clicks. Go from eighth notes to quarter notes, quarters to halves, halves to wholes, and so on.
  8. If you can stay with the metronome when it clicks only once ever eight bars, you can ignore item five.
  9. When you think you're really getting it, record yourself and listen. Share your recording with others who will give you honest and constructive feedback.
  10. If you've got it, move on. Don't get stuck in your success.
  11. Know that moving on can be a challenge. If you move on sufficiently to effect optimal practice, moving on may cause you to feel as though you suck. You don't. In fact, if you didn't experience that from time to time, the thing you would suck at would be practicing.
  12. Play! Don't keep all you're learning to yourself. Go out there and play with others. If the others can't keep up with all you're learning, find those who will. As you become a great practitioner of practicing, find others who share your enthusiasm.
  13. Love it! The beauty of playing slowly is that you can love everything you play; you can drink in the nuances of individual notes. You can relish that feel of the keys or strings or valves as they interact with your fingers. Savor your practice.
OK, that's a good start. Once you've got the above working for you, we can go on to the next level.

Happy Friday,
Teflon

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