The Fractal Nature of Goals and Music Practice

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.

Compose Yourself: Songwriting & Composition as Practice

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.

Place and Practice: Singing Into a Waterfall

Where you practice matters. For example, singing at the top of your lungs into a waterfall might be the perfect place to practice is you want to become a great Pansori singer.

Intangible Asset No. 82 is a wonderful documentary that tells the story of Australian drummer Simon Barker’s quest to meet a Korean shaman, master drummer, and grand-master improviser Kim Seok-Chul. During Barker’s journey he meets some interesting characters, including Bae Il-Dong, a Pansori singer who practiced for seven years by singing into a waterfall. Intrigued? In this preview, Bae Il-Dong will be the second person you see and hear. He’s hard to miss.

Getting Loopy: Elijah Aaron covers TLC’s “No Scrubs”

Loop pedals are such a great way to have fun while you practice, no matter what instrument you play. You hone your rhythmic skills, you focus on a short snippet of music at time, you can layer these snippets to your heart’s content, and best of all, you receive immediate feedback. Here’s Elijah Aaron showing us how it’s done right, with a cover of TLC’s No Scrubs

Tiny Desk: Big Awesome. Laura Mvula Concert

Live music is great for practice motivation. When you hear a musician perform live, you get the real deal. No auto-tune, no studio manipulation, just a person, communing with her muse, and letting you share the experience. Live music is a gift that keeps on giving. A great performance (and even a bad one) can give your practice a shot in the arm. Laura Mvula’s Tiny Desk concert is wonderful (video below).

Small Percussion: Perfect Gift for Musicians

Check out trumpeter Lee Morgan and alto saxist Wayne Shorter play small percussion on this killing performance by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. They’re playing Dizzy Gillespie’s tune, Night in Tunisia. Gotta be one of the best versions around.

Jymie Merritt’s burning fast bass solo is accompanied by some precise hits from all the small percussionists (starts @ 4:00).

The next several posts will focus on the small percussion instruments below and will include videos explaining techniques for these small instruments you can easily toss into your gig bag.

Happy Birthday, Jaco

Jaco Pastorius is one of the more influential musicians of the 20th century. If you’re an electric bass player, you know Jaco is the most influential musician of the 20th century.

His sound and musicality changed how the electric bass is played. You can still hear Jaco’s sound, his techniques, and his licks in many different styles of music today, from hip hop samples to hard rock to jazz and pop. Check out his discography, and don’t forget to search for Weather Report, too. The tune below is on one of their best albums, Heavy Weather.

Universal Musical Mind: Bill Evans on Creative Process and Self-Teaching

Bill Evans is a genius whose ideas about music, and his music itself are still fresh and invigorating and necessary. Evans played piano on the best-selling jazz album of all time, Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue; he was nominated for 31 Grammys and won 7, including a lifetime achievement award. There are too many gems from Evans in these 5 short videos to list, but some of the good stuff include Evans’s thoughts about the universal musical mind, composition vs. improvisation, learning to improvise, and so much more.

Less Talk, More Music

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.

Essential Music Books (age 14+)

I’ve read every practice book out there (most of them twice), and many other music-related books besides. Here’s a compilation of the best of the best. Great advice and excellent writing. If I’ve left out a favorite of yours, let me know in the comments. I’ve done extensive reviews of most of these titles. Look for the link, or go here.

Lots of food for thought in these books for players of every level. These books should be in your music library. The order in which they’re presented reflects my own loose ranking system. The first one is the best. All of them are good.

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.”

Yeime Arrieta Ramos: When She Looks Asleep, Her Accordion Playing is Most Dangerous

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: