There are many ways to think about our musical development. Here is one way.
Level one: The student learns to control their hands. i.e. the hands do what they are told. This takes about 10,000 hours I’m told. I believe it. I’m about 1200 hours in on my drum studies.
This level is about technique, learning repertoire, ear training, theory studies, concert going, lots of repetition etc. All the stuff our teachers are teaching us. It is about learning to practice in an efficient manner. It is about patience, faith, and hope. And lots of focused time in the practice room.
Level two: The hands do what they are told. This is where professional musicians reside. They practice to maintain and refine their skills: keeping them sharp like a prizefighter.
Level three: Artistry, hands have something interesting to say and the ability to do so. Artists operate at a high level of creativity and skill, blending effortlessly, or so it seems to the audience, their ability to wow and amaze. Oscar Peterson, Lang, Lang, Stevie Ray Vaughan live here.
Get off the internet and go back to the practice room!
Gary Burton, jazz musician extraordinaire and master teacher is giving a free course on line this month.
I'm taking it. I've watched the introductory videos tonight. Tomorrow I will submit the assignments for peer review. I will also have an opportunity to assess fellow students as they will have of me. It should be interesting.
First main points:
Improvisation is like language. It has a vocabulary which is sounds (chords and scales). A grammar, which is a harmonic progression and your ability to follow it in a logical fashion. And finally, a there is the content. Namely your ability to develop a story, in sound, in real time.
Second main point:
Sounding like a jazz musician through memorising licks is similar to memorising French phrases and heading to Paris. You may sound temporarily like a Frenchman, but it won't take long before your inability to converse becomes obvious.
I look forward to taking this up tomorrow in class with my students.
A tale of two adult students
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.