One of the revelations I discovered while researching The Practice of Practice was that some musicians–like Erin McKeown who turned me on to the strategy–use composition and multi-tracking, or looping, to improve. Trumpet Wizard Adam Rapa breaks down why using multi-tracking is so good for your practice from a blog post over at the fantastic 21st…
Just a quick heads-up about a free songwriting course over at Coursera, taught by Pat Pattison, from Berklee College of Music.
Erin McKeown first opened my eyes about how practice can be very different depending on the kind of music you’re making. The kind of creative approach Erin uses to get better is covered in more detail in Chapters 26 and 38 of “The Practice of Practice,” available on Amazon. Below is a recording of my 2011 interview with Erin, talking about how she gets better.
Sting talks below about overcoming writer’s block. When we see these luminaries of music, it often appears they have no struggles, that music simply flows from them. But that’s not the case, most of the time. Music is work. A labor of love, to be sure, but still, a labor. A labor fraught with error and the necessary correction; a labor fraught with being (or feeling) “stuck.” Listening to Sting talking about being “stuck,” I thought of the Beethoven’s Opus 69 manuscript below and what every professional musician I’ve interviewed has said about being stuck…
Songwriting as a means of practice is a great idea! The engagement with the sound you’re making goes deeper than when you practice scales, or other techniques, because you own (on many levels) the sounds you’re creating. And you don’t have to have special skills to do it, just dive in and start figuring it out.
When I asked Nicholas Barron about how he practices, he said, “I never practice.” I was intrigued, because the dude can play guitar and sing, and has clearly spent a lot of time doing it. Over the course of the next 90 minutes, he shared the details of what “I never practice” means to him. Performance-as-practice is a focus Nicholas shares with a lot of pop musicians.
Nicholas Barron is a soulful Chicago singer-songwriter who looks like Vince Vaughn (but funnier), and he sounds like the love-child of John Lee Hooker, John Hiatt, and Joni Mitchell. James Taylor called Nicholas “undeniable” at New York Times’ Emerging Artists Series in 2007. Nicholas’s songs are playful, thoughtful, and heartfelt. I’ll tell you a little about his performance-as-practice approach.
Check out the vid of one of his more popular tunes, “I’m Not Superman” below.
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. Hans Zimmer is an award-winning film composer and music producer. You can seem more pics…
Music is unique. The more I know about how it works, the deeper it gets; the better it becomes.
~ Erin McKeown, from the Interview
Check out what the excellent singer-songwriter Erin McKeown has to say about music practice. I’ve been a fan of Erin’s since hearing Distillation in 2000. Erin plays guitar, piano, drums, and bass and has recorded albums. I learned of her through one of many interviews with Erin on NPR, this one on The World Cafe, a most excellent show hosted on WXPN in Philadelphia and hosted by David Dye. Great stuff! Erin’s got 12 albums out, and they’re all worth owning. My favorite 3 albums are Distillation, Grand, and Hundreds of Lions.
Well, I’ve got a few interviews in the can and will be editing and processing them in the coming weeks. The next post to this podcast will have an interview with Nicholas Barron, singer-songwriter from Chicago, followed by interviews with classical trumpeter Colin Oldberg (principal trumpet w/ the Hong Kong Symphony Orchestra), Singer-Songwriter Erin McKeown, jazz trumpeter Chad McCullough, and the most excellent Chicago Symphony Orchestra Tuba player Rex Martin. There are more interviews in the works, too, including (tentatively) Ingrid Jensen, Bobby Broom, and Josh Ritter. Stay tuned. When that first one is posted, be sure to subscribe to the iTunes podcast feed to download future interviews automatically. The first one should be up by mid-March.