We all want to get better, which means we’re all on the same path. When you see someone whose music blows you away, the tips below are part of what they did to get there. No matter how impossible it seems, you can do it, too. Follow these 7 guidelines:
Trumpeter George Recker used to say, “If you can’t sing it, you can’t play it.” It’s great advice. Here’s some similar great advice about singing and playing a horn, as well as several other great practice suggestions from Ted Nash, one of the great players (they’re all great) in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Check this one out! What a great idea, especially the ability to synchronize the beat across a group. How about 75 of them for a concert band? Or 20 for a jazz band? Maybe they would cut a deal for large orders like that. I’d ask them, if you’ve got the money. Or even four…
There is a new tool that can help you acquire better rhythm for yourself in a fun and easy way: Mo Rhythm Africa, from San Diego percussionist and teacher Monette Marino. More on the app below, after the video.
The amazing Dr. Carol Dweck explains how your belief about intelligence profoundly impacts your motivation to learn, the depth of your learning, and your persistence in the face of failure. In music, Dr. Bret Smith discovered similar findings. Lots more in Chapter 6 of The Practice of Practice (free shipping in the US).
Just a quick heads-up about a free songwriting course over at Coursera, taught by Pat Pattison, from Berklee College of Music.
Setting goals is one of the most powerful things you can do to get better at music or anything else. Some people write them down, some just have a vague idea of what they are, but we all have goals for nearly everything we do. Goals are covered in more detail in The Practice of Practice, but here’s a quick run-down. Goals are like the cool animated GIF of a Sierpinsky fractal above: there are goals within goals within goals. It’s goals all the way down. The usual advice is to break goals down into long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals, but you can and should dive deeper, and consider smaller goals.
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.
One of the most important chapters in The Practice of Practice–chapter 6–has nothing to do with practice directly, it has to do with what you think about musical talent. Is musical ability “natural,” a gift of genetics? Is it something you’re born with? Something you either have or you don’t? Or is musical talent earned through exposure and effort? Your answer will have a profound impact on your practice: your motivation to practice, how you approach practice, whether you persist in the face of challenges, and how deeply you learn when you do 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.
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:
Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.