Motivation to Practice: Go With the Flow

There’s a lot to like about the video of pianist Glenn Gould below. I’ve highlighted three things that happen in the video (see clips below).

As the great Robert Krulwich (of Radiolab and NPR) pointed out in a recent post, Gould appears to be deep in a Flow state, practicing Bach’s Partita #2.

Goals as Fractals and Guerrilla Practice

Hans Jørgen Jensen is an affable cello teacher from whose studio have come cello players who win in international cello competitions and garner spots in top orchestras around the world. He’s a wonderful teacher and an interesting, busy man. There were many gems to admire when he spoke with me about practice, but the one that sticks in my mind, the one that was powerful enough to make it a chapter in The Practice of Practice was the power of goals. Another chapter covers what I’ve called Guerrilla Practice: snatching a tiny fragment of practice when you can, either once a day or, ideally, throughout the day. Both are covered briefly below.

12 Rules of Music Practice (Wynton Marsalis)

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.”

RIP, Laurie Frink: “Trumpet Mom” for Many Jazz Trumpeters

Ms. Frink passed away July 13 from complications of bile duct cancer. She was 62. The loss of a great teacher is most tragic.

A Blog Supreme posted a nice tribute to Ms. Frink.

Below is a video of the Maria Schneider Orchestra playing Gumba Blue in 2000. Laurie Frink is in the trumpet section along with one of her students, Ingrid Jensen.

On The Value of Mentors: Bootsy Collins, Mark Mothersbaugh, et al.

Some good advice about finding and working with mentors from James Brown’s funky bassist Bootsy Collins, DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh, Pro Skater Javier Nunez, rapper Anwar Carrots, young impresario Levi Maestro, and Dale Crover, drummer for the Melvins and, briefly, Nirvana. They’re chillin’ and shillin’ for Scion, but there are some good nuggets of advice in there. The reason I put this up is that every single professional musician I’ve talked to about music practice has had at least one mentor who changed their lives.

Learning to Practice

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.

Have a Plan, Man! (Axiom Brass)

This ain’t your momma’s brass quintet (vid below). They play contemporary stuff and a great example is a cool section in Anders Hillborg’s Quintet that sounds like a backwards recording. One of my favorite brass ensemble pieces in recent years is the Pacquito d’Rivera’s Three Pieces for Brass Quintet, especially Wapango. Visit their web site to catch that Hillborg clip, or just spend a dollar to buy the mp3. Better yet, get the album, New Standards.

Lessons from a VW

Last Saturday at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, I went to listen to Victor Wooten give a clinic. A while ago I posted a review of Victor’s book The Music Lesson, which is up for an audiobook award. For the clinic, Victor Wooten played with the fantastic and funny bass player (yes, there is another bass player in his band) Anthony Wellington; legendary jazz bassist John Clayton showed up for an improvised tune or two. The clinic was a fantastic example of playing, teaching and telling it straight. It was so good and inspirational, I knew it would be worth sharing.

Your Plastic Brain (redux)

Learning changes your brain structure. My neurons underwent some serious alteration this weekend, all naturally induced, thank you very much. One of the world’s foremost grand masters of the djembe, Mamady Keita (vid to follow), was in Chicago to give beginning-, intermediate-, and advanced drum workshops. I’ve never had a djembe lesson before. I signed up for the beginner session and would learn very quickly what “beginner” actually meant to this crowd. Good thing I didn’t know that Keita’s definition of “beginner” is most people’s definition of, “I know what I’m doing.” If I’d known this, my stomach would’ve been in even more of a knot about showing up with little to no real djembe experience. Nothing like a good challenge to get you to really pay attention.

Deaf Musicians?

It amazes me what some people have gone through in order to play music, and it makes me realize (once again) that the passion and drive to have music in one’s life is more powerful than more paltry things like knowledge of how to practice. One researcher whose name slips me at the moment, calls…

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):

Teach to Learn

When one teaches, two learn. — Robert Heinlein If you really want to learn something you already know more deeply, there is no better way than trying to teach it to someone else. People in the Learning Sciences who study how we come to know what we know say that knowledge is socially constructed. We…