Saturday, August 23, 2008

Practicing versus Playing

I think it's common for young Jazz musicians to confuse practicing with playing. You'll often hear people say "I don't practice, I just play and enjoy"

In this great free Masterclass, Master Jazz pianist Kenny Werner talks about the importance of practice:

What I get out of it is that it is important to practice with small, short terms achievable goals.

For example:
"I'm going to learn how to play walking bass " is not a practical achievable goal. It would be like saying. I'm going to play bass like Ron Carter.

"I'm going to nail this particular walking bass line over a ii-V progression" is better. It's something you can achieve in 1 or 2 hours.
And if indeed you spend 2 hours on it, chances are the skill will stay with you the rest of your life.

It then comes down to this:
If your practice sessions consist of playing tunes, then you are working on building a repertoire, which is a good goal, as long as you realize that it is what you're doing. And you should have a systematic approach to it.

You're practice sessions should include small ideas, licks, progressions that you MUST learn in 12 keys. That's where you see real and quick progress.
Then you can apply the new idea to tunes.
This will lead to more variety, playing each tune with a different approach, because building vocabulary, I believe, is more important than building a repertoire.

When you apply new things to tunes, It is extremely important to do it in more than one key. Probably you don't have time to learn a tune in all 12 keys, so just pick at least 4 randomly, and play through the entire tune in those 4-5 keys. This will lead to you analyzing and understanding the tune rather than just memorizing it.
I'm at the point where I'm thinking, if I'm going to learn a tune in only one key, it's not even worth bothering, there's no way I'll remember it 3 months from today.

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