When Do You Get to STOP Practicing?

And the thing is, no matter how good you get, you can continue to improve and deepen your understanding. Embrace the struggle, enjoy the process. The obstacle is the path.

Here’s what that unending practice sounds like from Pat Metheny.

Stare With Your Ears

Hardenberger is working with young trumpeter Elizabeth Fitzpatrick. First, notice the difference in tone and musicality between Ms. Fitzpatrick and Mr. Hardenberger. Pretty amazing. But what’s really helpful is what Hardenberger tells her about listening.

Feeling Stuck in Your Practice (and Getting Unstuck)

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…

The 10,000-hour Red Herring

You’ve all heard it by now: all the talk and focus on the 10,000 hour “rule,” from people like Malcolm Gladwell, and the researcher who originally published the study with the finding, Anders Ericsson, whose theories are not without opposition in the academic world. If you haven’t heard of this finding by researchers Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer yet, it goes like this: it takes 10,000 hours of practice to reach expert-level performance, whether it’s in sports, music, chess, or x-ray diagnostics. But the 10,000-hour rule is a red herring for several reasons.

Samskar, Chicken Embryos, and Places of Practice

Zing-Yang Kuo was a biologist who was interested in investigating behaviors that were thought to be instinctual, or innate (his early research on this topic was in the 1920s). He studied chicken embryos, because it was believed the distinctive pecking behavior chicks show immediately upon hatching was an instincutual, innate behavior. Zing-Yang Kuo believed that labeling a behavior as “innate” or “natural” or “instinctual” didn’t help anyone understand the behavior. He watched chicken embryos develop by coating eggs with warm vaseline, rendering the shells translucent. And here’s the thing:

Where You Practice Matters: Ogle Hans Zimmer’s Lair

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…

Mr. Bean’s Imaginary Drum Set, or, Mental Practice

Here’s Rowan Atkinson with a pretty funny skit. It’s like he’s mentally practicing drums, and we get to hear what he’s hearing inside his head to hilarious results. Enjoy, and use this to remind you to inject mental practice into your own practice routine.

Performance as Practice

Headed north up to do a gig with my quintet Swang and it got me thinking about how performance figures into practice. We’re doing some recordings tomorrow and I know that playing a gig the night before will help our playing a lot. According to a lot of the folks I’ve interviewed, performance is considered a…

Improving With Improv

To me, improvising is like speaking a language spontaneously, whereas only reading music and re-creating the music others (or yourself) have written is like reading a book or a story out loud. The reading is scripted, whereas the spontaneous use of language flows where it will, especially if it’s in conversation with another. If you’re new to improvising, it’s a simple thing to do.

Resolutions, Goals, and Music Practice

In astronomy, we’re searching for other planets that might be earth-like in what’s known as the Goldilocks Zone: not too hot, not too cold, but just right. There may even be a galactic Goldilocks zone. As far as short-term, immediate goals go, the Goldilocks Zone is a goal that will make you work, make you think, make you strive a bit beyond your current abilities, but which you can achieve in the time you’ve got. If you’ve got 15 minutes, pick one easily-achieved short-term goal and pursue it. All this abstraction isn’t all that helpful, so let me give you a real-world example.

The Fruits of Practice Sound Like This: Maurice André

One of the most foolish and embarrassing musical moments for me came in my senior year of high school at a music festival in Alaska for which I played (mangled is a more appropriate term) this piece that Maurice André plays below so beautifully below: The Concerto in Eb by Johann Nepomuk Hummel . I was unprepared for the demands of this very difficult piece, attempted it without help or a teacher (there were no accomplished classical trumpet players in Sitka), and with inadequate practice (I was still flailing away at the piece just before the performance, yet another lapse in judgment). Anyway, the poor adjudicator complimented my accompanist, the wonderfully helpful Peggy Brandt, but that’s about all he could say. It still stings. The only good thing is that I learned a thing or two in the process. It reminds me of a hilarious recording of the Hummel sent in for pre-audition to the Boston Symphony. Hear it here. (from trumpet bloopers)

Podcast Ahoy!

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.