Go Go Gadget Practice

Johann Sebastian Bach (aged 61) in a portrait ...
J. S. Bach (aged 61) 

Do you think somebody who merely pushes a button to make music a musician? See the hilarious video below for a negative example, and the following one for a wonderfully positive example.

Bach once said of his prodigious keyboard skills something like, “There’s nothing to it; you just push the right key at the right time and the instrument plays itself.”

Chapter 33 in The Practice of Practice shares the title of this post. That chapter goes into more detail about using gadgets in your practice. I’ve listed some helpful software below the videos. 

The important thing with gadgetry is the willful interaction with sound, not the motor ability. Yes, there are varied levels of physical engagement with the sound-producing device, but again, that’s not the point.


Here’s a pretty funny example of when using gadgetry is NOT practice, or even particularly engaging, musically. A few seconds of watching will be enough to get the gist, and probably a chuckle or three, maybe even a facepalm:

In the following video are some thoughts and superb examples of how “button-pushing” can be both musical and engaging. The TED talk is from Ge Wang, an assistant professor at Stanford University. Wang is the founding director of both the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk) and the Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra (MoPho).  Some of the over 200 instruments Wang and his students have created are super cool, like the Twilight, demonstrated around 6:15.


Chapter 33  in The Practice of Practice goes into more detail about using gadgets in your practice. Below are five gadgets worth exploring:


Farmer Foot Drum (or foot pedal)

Loop Stations (Boss Phrase Looper; Boomerang Phrase Sampler)

iTabla Pro for practicing with drones and a tabla beat

GarageBand: Super fun and intuitive software to play with and make your own compositions, with lots of helpful tutorials on YouTube.

Audacity: Free recording, playback, and sound manipulation software. Also lots of helpful tutorials on YouTube, some of which are from yours truly.



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