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THE WYNTON MARSALIS 12 RULES OF EFFECTIVE PRACTICE:

1. Seek out the best private instruction you can afford.
It is important to remember that every person knows just a bit of something. In music, experience is crucial but don’t stick with the same teacher for too long. Years is good, but no more than 4-5. Try to understand what makes the teacher passionate, and ask him/her to talk about that. Then steal it. It is the only case when stealing is good.

2. Write/work out a regular practice schedule.
This is probably the hardest one to put in practice. You have to be severe and pedantic with yourself. You are the guinea pig and the researcher at the same time. I found practical to do a weekly schedule and try to explore different areas of the playing. Like the sound, expression, mechanic, speed, tempo, repertoire and improvisation. I try to focus on no more than one thing per day.

3. Set realistic goals.
This goes in pairs with your results. You got to be tough with yourself, but not in advance. Be tough only if you’re not getting any improvement. That means you set a wrong goal, or you are not practicing properly. Try to move little steps to achieve big goals. For example, if you’re are studying a new song, practice first the melody, accurately, in different keys. Then practice the scale and arpeggios of the implant key and any other tonality, if any modulation is present. Then practice ii V I relative to the key and then iii VI ii V and so on.

4. Concentrate when practicing
There isn’t much to say here. Stay tuned every time you do something with music. Feel your body INTO the music.

5. Relax and practice slowly
Well, this is true, we all know. Even though there is an interesting theory conceived by the great famous Maestro Vitale – a classical piano teacher who taught Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Maria Tipo and other famous pianists – saying that is best to start practicing a fast tune at the real tempo, with both hands together. Maybe just one bar or even half bar at the time, but at the actual speed in order to achieve as soon as possible the true sound of the piece. Try that, is not a bad idea.

6. Practice what you can’t play. – (The hard parts.)
Again, this one is probably the most philosophical and important one. The Jazz history is disseminated by hundreds of quotes saying “play what isn’t there” or “play what you don’t know”. The concept is the same. Rather than focusing on something that you are good at, just stick to those passages that are problematic. You need to linger to those keys and meters that you are not familiar with. Once you become good with those things just add some difficulties (change the key, increase the speed) and make it hard again. This is one of the best way to achieve new goals.

7. Always play with maximum expression.
I love this one. This is the main difference between an amateur and a professional player. We spend too much time in trying to play hard scales and impossible substitutions, and we forget to practice how to play the same note in 20 different way. A good tip for this one is to try to play the same melody with different moods: happy, sad, excited, funky, sexy etc. we need to be able to express feelings with our instruments. If your mum is calling you on the phone and says “hallo” (one of the most common word) you know exactly the mood she is in. You can predict what the phone call will be about. And the phone speaker is really low-fi. That’s the power of expression and inflection.

8. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
This goes in pairs with number 3. Be tough with yourself, but not too much and not in advance. But if you feel you’re not doing well, don’t lie to yourself, just admit it and practice

9. Don’t show off.
Never. Whatever thing you are doing. Not only in music.

10. Think for yourself. – (Don’t rely on methods.)
Have you ever walked into a book store and felt lost and was impossible to choose a title because of too many options? This is the same situation. Some methods are really good, but music is something that develops inside us and is also a matter of sound, so it can’t be studied on a book.
I always suggest my student to create and write their own exercises. This improves our critical capabilities and a deep thinking on how to improve.

11. Be optimistic. – “Music washes away the dust of everyday life.”
Isn’t it always better to be positive?

12. Look for connections between your music and other things.
A musician is the product of all the life experiences he/she went through. All the possible connections between your music and your person are good. Music is what you are, not what you play. The books you read,the movies you watch, the people you meet the places you visit. All this together, with your personality is your music.

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