Lessons from a Master teacher
Effective Practicing For Musicians By Benny Greb Book Review
It arrived, I've read it, I'm about to try it out for 90 days and see what happens to my drumming.
Benny outlines the rationale of organized practice is a humorous and unique way. The preamble until you get to his EPM systems chapters is good sense and common knowledge among professional musicians. But it gets interesting with his practice system.
Let's start at the beginning.
Organizing your practice space. He recommends imagining the setup of your perfect space, then assess your situation and arrange you space as close as you can to this ideal. I can now say my space looks different. I'm up and running now with 3 flicks of switches, boot my DAW, load the preset and Bingo, I'm ready to go. Books are in place, pencil and journal are ready. Up next a kitchen timer, I'm going to use an old iPhone for this purpose. Benny Greb has some true insights into learning.
1. Quickly name your favorite musicians of your instrument.
2. Now note what you admire about each of them.
3. Now consider your top 3 choices.
4. Now rate yourself 1 to 10 on your skill with the qualities you admire in their playing. Do not give yourself a 5.
5. Now when you practice, practice those to improve those qualities.
6. Buy his book.
Stayed tuned for the results of his 90-day practice regime.
A musician's career goes through a number of periods
1. Student: learning the craft and skills needed to make your mark
2. Neophyte: finding a place to get started
3. Journeyman: paying the bills, dodging distraction
4. Leader: making our mark
5. Teacher: helping the next generation
1. Find new folks to play with. I did it a decade ago, it's taken me around the world. Got me out of more than one rut. The picture above is one example: Preservation Hall New Orleans, yep that happy guy is me.
2. Change instruments. I teach piano, I live for the drums. An instrument I took up over a decade ago. It changed everything. Made all the old jazz and rock repertoire I'd be playing for years new again.
3. Musicians don't retire, they just change bands. Good advice from a forgotten source. Just be gracious as you step aside into less demanding formats. The pressure is off, have fun.
4. Teach the younger generation. Be open to learn from them. Help them, but realize they are entering a different world than the one you are leaving.
5. During these times, the world's best are mostly sitting at home. Call them, book a class or two. They'll be happy to hear from you, you'll be happy to have met them.
6. Learn a new musical skill from a reputable source. Good deep. Check out Berklee online: Individual Courses | Berklee College of Music
7. Play music with your spouse. Suck it up, have fun. Especially if they are not professional. The feeling is great. I know firsthand.
Have a great year,
Artist or Musician?
At the risk of an oversimplification: Artists create and lead, musicians execute and follow.
Art is about nourishing a unique vision, developing a creative imagination, the courage to persevere in the face of apathy, and craft. All the while keeping the Zeitgeist front and centre. And hustle, lots and lots of hustle.
Being a musician is about skill, teamwork, employability, gear, more skill, and the willingness to serve.
The training does share some similarities, but the outlook is completely different. Artists are often mavericks, employable musicians are always team players.
Let's play a game. Make a list of 10 musical adventures that would inspire you to get busy, get moving, and stay at it. Then pick one from the list and get going.
My 86 year old father just signed up for cello lessons, the first since high school. They are going well. He can barely speak of anything else. He called up the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and asked for a recommendation. He got one.
My wife, who will be retired when this is published, just completed her first violin exam at the Royal Conservatory of Music. It was a big success. She could barely wait to start the next level. See this link for a full description. My first violin exam - David Story Online Toronto Piano Teacher .
In the reality series "Travels With My Father, "daddy" is 80 and he's game.
So, if you are healthy enough to move, get moving I say.
I'm off to practice,
Meaning a Life. Shortly after the book appeared, the poet Michael Heller praised its sensibility in the New York Times Book Review: it “has that rarest of qualities in an autobiography, a story of lives refusing to be victimized by experience."
Easy for me to promote. I've a job, my health, my ability to still play, my social circles of musical colleagues, my hopes and dreams.
Regardless of those "privileges", we are ageing musicians. The circle of opportunity is closing. It's difficult to renew our fan base when our cohort is slowing dwindling and to potential younger fans we look like their dads or worse, granddads.
We Boomers are going out swingin', rockin', poppin' scrappin', and tootin'. No stopping us.
What have we overcome to keep playing?
(I've compiled this list from the experiences of my students, jamming colleagues, and jazz camp buddies.)
I'm going to go and practice.
"I dwell in possibility" Emily Dickinson
Good question. Over the last decade I've been to jazz camps, jazz workshops, and jazz conventions in Canada, USA, Italy, and Poland, All of them were unforgettable experiences.
The thought of being in a small enclosed space with a bunch of senior citizens and college age kids is a non-starter for me. Hanging out on Bourbon street on a Saturday night taking in the all sights seems like a distant hope. Jamming in the French Quarter or a New York basement just sounds dangerous.
Even when a vaccine arrives this thing is not going to be over if lots of folks refuse to take it. Herd immunity will take longer if a significant portion of the population refuse it.
If we want to return to our former life as musicians we must support and follow all the health directives. And, encourage others as well.
In the meantime stay safe, be smart, work out, network daily, encourage your discouraged friends, hug your spouse, and practice like mad.
Repertoire, repertoire, repertoire.
Learning to practice healthily
This week I had the pleasure of advising a student on how to prepare for post-secondary studies in music.
He asked me about practicing at the Olympic level, so to speak. I practiced, age 43 for 4 years and logged about 5000 hours. I completed my Grade 10 and ARCT, the highest levels of classical piano, at the time, offered by the Royal Conservatory of Music. I currently spend one to two hours a day on the drums. The big ambition of my aging years. So, I know something about practicing.
We start with warnings: Injury from over practice and neglecting physical fitness. If you are an aging professional musician, you’ve likely had some firsthand experience with pain or worse.
The real reason musicians are dropping out of music schools | CBC Music
Still Battling an Illness, Jarrett Ends His Silence - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Steps before practice:
Steps on the bench
Away from the bench
End of 1st lecture. To be continued next week.
"Without desire, there is nothing to work with"
So much proverbial ink has been spilled on the topic of motivation and motivating the unmotivated.
"Intrinsic motivation is motivation that is animated by personal enjoyment, interest, or pleasure. As Deci et al. (1999) observe, “intrinsic motivation energizes and sustains activities through the spontaneous satisfactions inherent in effective volitional action."
Author: Emily R Lai
Cited by: 83
Publish Year: 2011
This is an interesting article for all musicians and teachers. Some of the research driven theories covered include the role self-belief or " self-efficacy plays in success. Self-efficacy is the “judgments of how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations”.
And, the role of the desire to achieve an end for it's own reasons and the desire to impress, or draw favorable attention to one's self. As stated in the article, "mastery goals" or "performance goals". Intrinsic and extrinsic.
Regardless of the type of or nobility of the the desire, the strength of the desire leads to action or "volition". In other words getting off one's butt and moving forward in the belief it is possible.
David Story: Professional pianist, drummer, composer, and educator. Well into his 5th enthusiastic musical decade, David works with adults pursuing musical dreams in the autumn of life, while he maintains an active presence in the Toronto arts scene.