Hope is not a strategy. This is a blog celebrating action in the practice room. The effective action that follows our careful deliberation and reflection. We are grownups. The time of fooling ourselves is over because time is up.
I've been exploring this topic in some depth over the years. Feel free to join in.
Here is an interesting start to our explorations: Time management
Premise: Practice time is precious and limited. It's limited by the limitations of our bodies and demands on our time from life. Therefore, wasting it with non-deliberate practice is counterproductive to our goal: playing as well as we can with the limitations we now have.
Step one: Taking stock. "How do we spend our time when we are in the practice room? Do we carefully plan out the time, or do we jump Willy Nilly from one activity to another? It has been claimed that 90% music students play a piece through once, not even stopping to correct mistakes.
( http://www.escom.org/proceedings/ICMPC2000/Sun/McPherso.htm )
Tactic: At your next practice simply record yourself on your phone. Just put the recorder in the corner and forget about it. Later in the day listen back. Ask yourself this:
1. How did you spend your time?
2. How focused were you?
3. How do you sound?
4. What did you accomplish?
5. How did you really work on problems?
If I can help you, call me.
Yesterday fourteen music students got together and played jazz. What a blast!
Next up February, Covid willing.
Breakfast piano minute is back for another round of videos. Please enjoy the peaceful daily postings.
Self assessment is nearly impossible. Our mind can play tricks on us. Research Dunning-Kruger effect for the science.
Here is a partial solution for music students.
1. Listen to professional recordings of your pieces. Frequently. You should know them as well as you know "happy birthday".
2. Record yourself and listen back to your efforts. Many students find this very difficult. I understand, but, push through the resistance. It is your best self assessment tool that you have.
3. Take lessons. Professional feedback is priceless.
If I can help you, please call me.
What happens when we practice piano everyday? Obviously we improve but let’s do the math.
Consider 2 students: John and Sally. Both students practice and arrive at class prepared each week. Each has done the following during the week.
You get the picture.
John practices 30 minutes a day. Sally 75 minutes. What happens?
If I can help you, please give me a call.
Jamey Aebersold gave a great demonstration, which was so revealing to me as a jazz teacher.
He assembled the students in the auditorium at University of Louisville. He would pluck one “lucky contestant” from the crowd to join him on stage. Jamey would then hand the musician a microphone and instruct them to sing/scat/hauler a jazz solo along with the chords he would randomly play on the piano.
Everyone could scat, some very well, others so so. But the consensus was that the “singers” could scat better than they could play. Hmmm. So, the problem isn’t in the head, it’s in the hands.
Conclusion 1: Jamey was encouraging everyone to improve their general musicianship skills on and off the instrument.
Conclusion 2: If you are a pianist or guitarist, sing and play at the same time.
Jamey's second reveal.
One morning he asks the musicians, “How many of you can play 50 jazz standards from memory?” I enthusiastically raise my hand. Looking around the room of 250+ there were very few hands joining me.
How many can play 25?
Overwhelming the answer was zero.
Conclusion #3 It’s hard to play freely when your head is in a book.
Conclusion #4 These musicians didn’t trust themselves to play without a book/sheet/app in front of them. He was happy to sell them another book.
I hope this helps you begin to think through what may be holding you back.
You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted percussionist and drum teacher.