Bill Evans is a genius whose ideas about music, and his music itself are still fresh and invigorating and necessary. Evans played piano on the best-selling jazz album of all time, Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue; he was nominated for 31 Grammys and won 7, including a lifetime achievement award. There are too many gems from Evans in these 5 short videos to list, but some of the good stuff include Evans’s thoughts about the universal musical mind, composition vs. improvisation, learning to improvise, and so much more.
Pianist Kenny Werner’s book Effortless Mastery has helped a lot of people who struggle with the fear of performance. He’s started a new blog, and part of the blog is a series of videos on how he practices. I’m excited to hear and watch these videos, and encourage you to check them out the first three below.
Imagine you’re on stage, with an audience quietly listening, and when the conductor gives the orchestra the first downbeat, they begin to play another concerto, one you have not prepared. What would you do? You can watch what Maria João Pires did below.
This is what comes of good practice. The intonation, beauty of tone, and expression in this performance of Der Ring ohne Worte is absolutely stellar.
Jacob Collier sings and plays all the parts in this amazing video clip. He also arranged this version of Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing. Apparently he also edited the video. Some serious skill. Wonder what his practice routine is like….
The title of this post says what I feel. Talk is cheap. If talking about music sufficed, music would not be. I’ll shut up now. Well, almost. Props where props are due.
Reinier Voet and company (w/ Rob Stoop on accordion) play Django’s beautiful tune, Anouman. Mr. Voet’s web site is here.
Here are 12 practice suggestions from Master Marsalis. Each one could be the subject of a book on its own. After the vids, I’ve added suggestions to consider below each of Wynton’s rules. Some will be covered more thoroughly in the book, “The Practice of Practice.”
Meet young accordion queen, Yeime Arrieta Ramos. Her playing is great, and her attitude is even better. I’ve been writing about Flow states lately, for a chapter in the motivation section in The Practice of Practice. Young Ms. Ramos could be a poster-child for Flow. I’d love to hear more about her history and how she practices. Her musical companions, who also seem to be around 10-12, are also pretty amazing musicians. Anybody see the Smithsonian documentary on her? I think I’ll go check the Smithsonian app right now. Here’s the video of Yeime Arrieta Ramos:
When I asked Nicholas Barron about how he practices, he said, “I never practice.” I was intrigued, because the dude can play guitar and sing, and has clearly spent a lot of time doing it. Over the course of the next 90 minutes, he shared the details of what “I never practice” means to him. Performance-as-practice is a focus Nicholas shares with a lot of pop musicians.
Nicholas Barron is a soulful Chicago singer-songwriter who looks like Vince Vaughn (but funnier), and he sounds like the love-child of John Lee Hooker, John Hiatt, and Joni Mitchell. James Taylor called Nicholas “undeniable” at New York Times’ Emerging Artists Series in 2007. Nicholas’s songs are playful, thoughtful, and heartfelt. I’ll tell you a little about his performance-as-practice approach.
Check out the vid of one of his more popular tunes, “I’m Not Superman” below.
Wynton Marsalis is a musician who knows how to practice. As a younger man, he was equally at home in front of a symphony orchestra playing the Haydn concerto, or laying down some serious jazz with Art Blakey. Check out Wynton’s discography for more evidence. For a while now, he’s turned his full attention to traditional jazz…
I’d like to share this old video with you that documents Gypsy guitarist (and fiddler! I hand no idea) Dorado Schmitt teaching his son, Samson, who looks to be around 10 in this video. They’re playing one of Django’s solos over his tune Minor Swing, no small feat. It’s a great example of teaching and learning for many reasons.
Few musicians I’ve talked to have ever been taught how to practice. We’ve all been pretty much on our own. When teachers do influence us, it’s by making reasonable and very specific demands that make it clear exactly what is to be practiced if not exactly how to go about it.
The metronome is a pretty useful tool. At a workshop, jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas said he gave up practicing with a metronome because it’s too mechanical and he felt rhythm and beat was more organic, less mechanical and unyielding. I get that, and agree, but I’ve found the metronome to be useful for especially challenging…