Creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and erecting a skyscraper in its place. It is rather like climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections between our starting points and its rich environment. But the point from which we started out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the obstacles on our adventurous way up. — Albert Einstein
I have to make the disclaimer that reading this book resulted in a sea change that deeply affected my philosophy and approach to teaching, learning, playing, and listening to music. It came along at just the right time to make a big impact on me and because of this, I had to revisit it as I think about The Practice of Practice. In my re-reading of Werner’s book I see again a wisdom and a reverence for Music that still shines through. I still recommend the book highly.
Especially useful in this book are Werner’s thoughts on how fear can (and usually does at some point) affect one’s playing, and even the way one listens to music. Fear of any sort doesn’t result in good playing and it may well force you into quitting altogether. This is bad. If you can get a handle on fear early in your pursuit (or at any phase of your journey), you’re better off than most.
Werner’s chapters on fear start around page 51, so if can’t get into the earlier material, skip ahead to these gems which are more than worth the price of the book. The chapter titles are: 5–Fear, the Mind, and the Ego, 6–Fear-Based Practicing, 7–Fear-Based Teaching, 8–Fear-Based Listening, and 9–Fear-Based Composing. After writing eloquently and persuasively about how fear can hamstring our playing, Werner then offers a solution to help deal with the fear, which may well never go away. He offers up some meditations and ways of thinking that can help you get over those fears, and I can tell you it’s worked well for me, though I’ve altered his philosophy slightly to fit my own beliefs more closely.
The book’s focus is on jazz improvisation, but this is just a way to focus the conversation. The wisdom within these 191 pages can be used by any musician of any level. The notion that “there are no wrong notes” is something anybody and everybody should attempt to adopt in their exploration of sound. Despite the sometimes preachy nature of the book, it is one of my more highly recommended books for those who want to play music. It’s helpful stuff. Hope you like it. Hope it’s helpful.
Have fun. Good luck with your practice.