Monday, December 6, 2010

One more time ( X 5 ) and other points to ponder

Greetings everyone,
I thought today I would discuss some things. Let's face it. I'm a geezer, and geezers love to talk!

I'm practicing slightly differently starting the past week. Whenever I get a new lick, example etc. together I'm making sure I play it correctly at least 5 times before I go on to something else. I've mentioned this to people before but when I was younger I was notorious for ripping through new material quickly. The trouble with that was, I rarely retained the new stuff or found a musical context for it. What made me do that? MY GIGANTIC EGO! I had to somehow "prove" I was practicing and learning, rather than getting the most out of any small thing I worked on. I now spend much longer on very small ideas, lifts, licks, etc. I'm not wasting time when I practice now, but I sure did then. Why? Because I had a) a very limited musical context for things I'd learned and b) no way of performing the new material under less than ideal conditions.

Let's explore my last 2 points. I say I had a limited musical context for what I learned because I usually learned to play the idea in a limited way. A great piece of advice the great Joe LaBarbera gives his students is to practice everything they learn at 3 different tempos and 3 different volume levels. Now, that's an easy concept to remember, but it does take some time and patience to carry it out. The benefit is we end up learning the lick much better and it will become more natural and will probably even come out in our playing organically. I know if I only practice something loud, I will only be able to perform it loudly (if at all) on the gig. If I only practice something fast, that's the only way I will be able to play it.
Imagine being able to play some speed metal lick really quietly with a piano trio. That would be very cool and we'd be getting the most mileage out of the practicing that's been done.

The second point is being able to play new material under less than ideal conditions. What are less than ideal conditions? Every gig you play baby! Think about it. In your practice room, nobody is watching us so we're not likely to be nervous. We are used to the sound of the drums and the sound of the room. We can stop whenever we want. We haven't had to get our drums somewhere and all the stresses that go with that. We don't have jet lag etc., etc, etc.
I would even go so far as to say that if we play something correctly once in the practice room once that we got lucky and it doesn't even count.

I've had some interesting experiences in the past year playing in public on piano. I remember learning a tune and usually when I start a play the chords from the root (bottom note of the chord) and move up the harmony from there. Now, in any band that has a bass player, there's not much point in playing that bottom note because it's already covered. So I worked on piano chord voicings without the root for the gig. At the gig, however, we played the tune at a faster tempo and I couldn't play the rootless voicings. I had to spell every chord from the bottom up. Why did this happen? Because I didn't know the material well enough!
All of you who have been playing for any length of time will have things that you can play under any conditions. That's why we practice. To get more and more things we play past conscious thought. Then we can fully participate in the music.

Okay the geezer is finished! For now.............

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