The Importance of Patience in Practice

In a Skype talk with a colleague in Bratislava (ain’t technology grand?), the topic of how to teach patience arose. Today, this talk came across the wire, addressing that very topic. Because there are an infinite number of things that need attention in our quest to improve, it can be a challenge for beginners–or anyone,…

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.

Grow an Inner Carrot, Forget the Stick

One thing the research record tells us is that incentives and other forms of extrinsic motivation don’t work very well to motivate us, nor do punishments. Carrots and sticks only work if you’re an ass. Much better is motivation that comes from within, or intrinsic motivation. And sometimes training can be a hindrance, too, as you’ll see in the vid below. Because I’m buried in research, I don’t have much time this week to post a lengthy article, but this thought-provoking TED talk is a great way to see the real-world example of how incentives often mean horrible performance, and training isn’t always a good thing. Learn the simple reason why kindergarten kids beat out MBAs in a design challenge…

Huge Chunk of Awesomeness

A wii remote, percussion, a bunch of servos and solenoids, some 12-tone set theory algorhythms (that word’s a joke, not a typo :-), looping functions, machine improvising and you get this huge chunk of awesomeness. First a performance and then how it’s done. This is so cool and amazing I simply don’t know what to say. Watch Patrick and his “band” Jazari and be inspired and flabbergasted. I wonder how he practices…..