Book Review: “Free Play,” by Stephen Nachmanovich

Free Play doesn’t deal directly with music practice, but it is nevertheless an important book for anyone interested in music (or other arts, or life). I strongly believe that improvisation benefits practice. To me, improvising is an essential musical skill, one possessed by musical greats (Hussein, Bach, Shankar, Beethoven, Duke, Mozart, etc.), and is practiced in musical traditions all over the world, as well as by young children who haven’t developed some of the fear associated with improvisation in those overly focused on the written notes. Remember when you drew letters over and over as a young child, taking great care (or not) with the shapes? Now imagine that despite all that practice time forming letters and sounding out words, that you never (ever) spoke extemporaneously. Crazy, right? To me, that’s about the same as practicing scales over and over until they’re memorized, but then never using that tonal material to improvise. Crazy talk! At the end of this review is a link to an mp3 of my improv group Meh! playing an improvised story with Nachmanovich.

Book Review: The Musician’s Way, by Gerald Klickstein

I’ve read (and re-read in many cases) most books out there on practice and this is one of the best, hands down. Klickstein is a classical guitarist who performs throughout the U.S. and internationally and is a professor at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

My favorite 2 aspects of the book are…

Book Review: The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green

The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green, with Timothy Gallwey

15 chapters
225 pages
This book is based on Gallwey’s quite successful title, The Inner Game of Tennis. What is striking and admirable is that Green didn’t just write a knockoff cribbed from Gallwey’s book. After meeting with Gallwey about the project, they decided Green should live with (and teach) the principles and then write the book. Three years later, Green was ready and this book is the result.

Book Review: The Art and Technique of Practice, by Richard Provost

Without Unceasing Practice nothing can be done. Practice is Art. If you leave off you are lost. ~William Blake (1757 – 1827)
Book Review: The Art and Technique of Practice, Richard Provost (1992)

Provost’s take on practice is simple and easily digested. Lots of white space on the 56 pages, and that’s a good thing, especially if you’re starting out. The book is an excellent primer for those new to practice and contains a wealth of basic information. The book’s got 6 chapters:

Book Review: “Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner

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,…

Book Review: The Music Lesson, by Victor Wooten

Ever heard of Victor Wooten? He’s a bass player best known for his amazing work with banjo master (yes, that’s right, banjo master) Bela Fleck. Wooten has written a book about music called “The Music Lesson,” but before we get to a review of the book, you may be wondering about Mr. Wooten’s credentials if you don’t know of him already. Watch beyond the first 50 seconds of the following vid and you might be amazed (you could well be amazed before that, too):

Book Review: Outliers: The Story of Success

No, it [excellence] doesn’t start with talent, it starts with love. —Malcolm Gladwell on Jimmy Kimmel Live (1-13-09) Luck is what you have left over after you give 100 percent. —Langston Coleman   The zeitgeist in the world of practice is the 10,000 hour rule, a fact that first appeared in Ericsson’s research into excellence….

Book Review: The Talent Code

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book. ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero, statesman, orator and writer (106-43 BCE) Wear the old coat and buy the new book. ~ Austin Phelps   Despite what Cicero seemed to think 2,100 years ago, I think it’s great that everyone is writing…

Book Review: Talent is Overrated

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book. ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero, statesman, orator and writer (106-43 BCE) Wear the old coat and buy the new book. ~ Austin Phelps Book Review Colvin, Geoff (2008). Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World Class Performers from Everybody Else. Portfolio/Penguin:…