Practicing Tempo

I got bored with the old way – it came too easy. I worked until I could play chord changes at any tempo in any key, and then said ‘What else is there?’ Now I’m finding out. — Don Ellis, trumpeter, drummer, composer The tempo is the suitcase. If the suitcase is too small, everything…

Your Plastic Brain

A recent study looked at the growth of white matter in the brains of young adults learning to juggle. Yes, jugglers. After 6 weeks of training, and around 30 minutes of daily practice, their brains were significantly different from non-jugglers.

Software Practice Aids

If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year, killing everyone inside. —Robert X. Cringely The question of whether computers can think is like the question of whether submarines can swim. —Edsgar W. Dijkstra ——–…

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,…

Thoughts on Art and Hip Hop

Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. –Oscar Wilde. I am for an art that takes its forms from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself. –Claes…

Forget Perfection (or, No Fear)

Flight is our usual response when we come up against these fears in practice. We skim over all we have to do because there is so much. We fly through routines and exercises and try to cram as much as possible in our half hour of practice (or whatever amount) because we’re running to keep up with our desire to get better as fast as possible. This is NOT the way to go about practice because what you do learn will be of a surface nature, will not stick with you, and will probably be riddled with mistakes.

A more proper response to this fear is to recognize it, and not fall back on the flight response, but tap into the fight response. Fight it by …

Live Music is Best: U2’s 360 Show in Chicago

Usually, our experience of music is very abstract. It’s coherent sound coming out of a speaker, with no visuals of those who made the music, and not only that but the actual event of making the music is in the past, sometimes the distant past. This is why live music of any kind is such a powerful and necessary thing for your own music. To see live bodies in a room (or stadium) with you, making music, breathes life into what it means to make music. The art becomes real, palpably so, and takes on a resonance and meaning that goes well beyond a recording…

Question Limitations

Stop thinking in terms of limitations and start thinking in terms of possibilities. – Terry Josephson …… The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse. -Helen Keller…

Musical Osmosis

The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge. Elbert Hubbard (American editor, publisher and writer, 1856-1915) I often meet people who say they don’t know anything about music, or have the mistaken believe they aren’t “musical” at all. Such conversations make me think that we should expand…

When in Doubt, Leave it Out

Try to put well into practice what you already know. In so doing, you will, in good time, discover the hidden things you now inquire about. —Remy de Gourmont (French novelist/poet/playwright/philosopher, 1858-1915) ________________ It seems that I tend to write and think about abstract notions of practice and discipline and motivation and these don’t easily…

The Long Now

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. –Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967) We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch.  –John F. Kennedy (1917…

Signal to Noise

This–among other things–helps the brain grow myelin, the substance that helps neurons fire more efficiently, making you better at whatever it is you’re practicing. The best example Coyle gives is futsal, a game very much like futbol (American soccer), but in a smaller field, with a smaller and heavier ball, and much quicker. Major players in world soccer (esp. if they’re Brazilian), have used the greater intensity of the signal in futsal to improve their soccer skills. It’s also a great example of how playing a game might actually be furthering your goals. Some think playing games are a waste of time, and video games can be a great example. But what is time-wasting, really? It’s noise. And noise depends on your definitions, your context.