4 Ways To Bring the Love to the Jazz Practice Room

All You Need Is Love 240x300 4 Ways To Bring the Love to the Jazz Practice RoomA few days ago I sent you a fantastic John Lennon quote about the two motivating factors in life (and music!): Love and Fear.

With a fear based approach to learning, practicing and playing jazz we experience the following:

  • Never feeling that we are ‘good enough’.
  • Always feeling rushed, that we have too much to practice and not enough time to do it.
  • Stress, tension and anxiety. Lack of focus and concentration.

All of these feelings and experiences have the effect of derailing our musical progress. They keep us back, keep us from creating and enjoying.

The opposite of that is loving our music and loving ourselves no matter what we play. When we approach music with love we experience:

  • Joy and Patience.
  • Focus and Mindfulness.
  • True Objectiveness – I.E. “Fact: I still struggle with II V’s in the key of B. I simply have not internalized it yet, I haven’t built a solid vocabulary on II V’s in that key. The only thing to do is to make a plan to master the key of B and follow through on it until I get it.”

Here are 4 practical ways you can bring to your practice room to start moving away from the fear and towards the love.

1.  Awareness is the key to ALL growth. To improve any aspect of your playing you must first become aware of your ability in that area. This is one reason why we have teachers and why we record our practicing. But awareness is also necessary for personal growth.

One of the most simple yet powerful ways to tune up your awareness is to keep a journal. After your practice sessions, gigs lessons etc jot down a few notes in your journal. How did you feel? Were you calm, relaxed, focused. Was your mind spinning thinking about all the stuff you should be better at? Was it stressful or joyful?

Doing this will make you more and more aware day by day. Overtime this will help you let go of the ‘baggage’ and start bringing more patience and love to your music

2. Acceptance. Once you are aware of an issue in your playing (or personal life) that you would like to change, you must accept that as the way it is RIGHT NOW. There is no use deluding yourself or lying to yourself. You are where you are with music whether you like it or not. By learning to accept your musical and personal limitations you actually empower yourself to improve in those areas.

Be objective and cultivate compassion for your playing. Learn to love your imperfections, your mistakes and even your downright failures. Mistakes and failures are not bad. They are simply a part of the process. You CANNOT get better as a musician without mistakes and failures. Period. Teach yourself to love them as the opportunities to learn and grow that they are.

3. Under Promise. Over Deliver. A lot of cats set their daily practice expectations way to high. For instance: “today I’m going to practice for 8 hours, work on these 9 different topics, learn a new standard in 3 keys, play through every scale in the world, etc.”

Instead they end up noodling around over a play along, playing a few major scales (poorly) and hacking their way through a few choruses of some tune they always play, but yet still can’t really play.

They couldn’t possibly get through everything on their practice routine so they don’t. They set themselves up to fail, and they do. Instead Under Promise. Choose only one or two topics to work on. Start with getting in 1 hour of solid, uninterrupted practice. And see yourself actually accomplish your goals for the day. And possibly even go beyond them – i.e. Over Deliver!

This experience will motivate you to keep going and it’s simply much more fun this way! Over time you can take the bar up and add a little more time in the shed, add more topics, etc.

It’s much better to practice less and actually improve everyday then to spend a lot of time in the practice room, have no life and NOT improve – or worse! Develop lots of bad habits.

4. Less is More. This is related to the Under Promise/Over Deliver idea. Here it is. When you practice you want everything you work on to go from ‘thinking to doing to being’. In other words everything you learn on your instrument should become internalized so it can naturally come out on the bandstand without you having to struggle, ‘try’ or think about it.

To get there you must be mindful and patient in the practice room. Being in a hurry, trying to practice way to many things and being fixated on how much stuff you still have to get through today is a surefire recipe for musical disaster.

A lot of cats will try to practice 4, 5, 7 9 hours in the practice room just because they heard the stories about Trane and Bird. I guarantee you that Trane and Bird were focused for whatever practice they did. They weren’t frantically trying to fit it all in or practice everything in one practice session. They were mindful and they were focused on mastering certain skills and topics that they were working on so they would come out in their playing on the bandstand.

Logging 8 hours of unfocused, half-ass practice is a complete waste of time.

Instead bring your practice session down to a time-frame that is as long as you can maintain concentration and mindfulness for. That might be just 5 minutes or 10 minutes. Practice like that for a week – just 10 minutes a day. Then try adding five minutes until you can focus on your practice for 15 minutes. And gradually build your concentration up to the desired amount -  which is as long as you can practice while still being focused, mindful and still enjoying it!

Also try experimenting with taking short breaks – practice for 20 minutes, take 5 minutes off. Or even try practicing for several 20 minute sessions throughout the day. Find out what works for YOU.

Remember, when you get up on the bandstand nobody cares how many hours you logged in the shed that day! They care about what your music feels like and sounds like.

Learn to love your music and your musical process. It’s actually the fastest way to become a monster jazz musician.

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