All of last week I was immersed in practice in all its various guises and all but 30 minutes of it was in group practice. Here are a few suggestions from my latest book, “The Practice of Practice,” to keep in mind when you’re practicing with somebody else. They’re either questions you can ask directly, if it’s appropriate (often it’s not), or questions to keep in mind as you’re listening to those you’re practicing with.
Stephane Wrembel was one of 20 stellar professional musicians who shared his take on practice with me, and one thing he said sticks out more than anything else. He stressed that there is no magic trick, no gimmick, no special technique to practice. He said, “You just have to do it.” Even after talking to so many people about practice, it’s not clear to me whether learning to practice can be taught. Everybody I spoke with said that, for the most part, they just had to figure out how to practice. It’s an intensely personal exploration. Still, I do believe that the more information you have while you’re learning, the better.
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.
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.