Deliberate Practice Revisisted
My thoughts this week.
Revised January 2023
Practicing Blue Bossa
One effective way of practicing jazz is the "Bill McBirnie method". Bill plays along with professional recordings. He has told me that he might spend hours playing along with dozens of recordings of a particular tune he is working on. Here are the videos I used to practice Blue Bossa this week on the vibraphone.
Pay attention to the articulations and the differences in the last phrase, (measures 13-14-15-16). There are interesting differences to explore.
Finding inspiration to practice
Composer Igor Stravinsky said something to the effect of: we find inspiration through work, not the other way around.
Amateurs wait for inspiration to work; professionals get to work knowing inspiration will follow. Good advice when sitting in the practice room waiting for the muse to strike before beginning.
January 12th, 2020
“We have something that is unique. We have our craft. We have our art. We have our desire.”
–Branford Marsalis, saxophonist
An activity that involves making something in a skillful way by using your hands. : a job or activity that requires special skill. crafts : objects made by skillful use of the hands.
Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author's imaginative, conceptual ideas, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power. Other activities related to the production of works of art include the criticism of art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination of art.
Desire is a sense of longing or hoping for a person, object, or outcome. The same sense is expressed by emotions such as "craving". When a person desires something or someone, their sense of longing is excited by the enjoyment or the thought of the item or person, and they want to take actions to obtain their goal. The motivational aspect of desire has long been noted by philosophers; Thomas Hobbes asserted that human desire is the fundamental motivation of all human action.
All quotes from sources listed.
Let's ponder their meanings. I can help you with your craft.
Keeping ourselves inspired
Keeping ourselves, me included, motivated over the long haul takes some effort. One way is to spend some time witnessing master artists doing their thing.
I just spent a few days in NYC doing just that.
On New Years Eve I witnessed 2 jazz masters and an upcoming young man make inspired music. How Eric Harland plays the way he does is beyond me. Chris Potter? Wow. Pianist James Francies has a left hand I dreamed I used to have.
Then I was transported by the Ailey Live troupe. The music of pianist Don Pullen was revived with a stunning group of male dancers. Followed up with the steamiest version of Ravel's Bolero imaginable.
Saturday afternoon at the MET featured conductor Sir Simon Rattle and singer Magdalena Kožená as Octavian. What delicious fun. Even from the cheap seats.
What have you seen recently?
Finding Joy in Practice
Two truisms in a musicians life.
Let's look at this further.
To be a musician, amateur or professional, is to be devoted to practicing over the life-time of music making. We live to practice. For amateurs practice must be fun, for professionals too, keeping it pleasurable helps us maintain intensity and focus over the duration of our careers.
How to make it fun?
Robert Snyder made, “A Day in the Life of Pablo Casals.” He asked Pablo Casals age 80+ and the world’s foremost cellist of his age, why he continues to practice four and five hours a day. Casals answered: “Because I think I am making progress.”
Reading some books on practicing is a great help, I own at least a dozen books. I recommend you start collecting today.
Here is how it works. Swing jazz at slow and moderate tempi plays 8th pair long short with the accent on the short side or upbeat side.
The four videos below can be used various ways. Namely scales and jazz melodic patterns as found in the music of the Bebop era. Swing melodies work well too.
If you need help, contact me, I consult video Skype or Zoom.
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.