How's Your Aim?

We all struggle with time. HA HA in both ways, time in music and time to practice.

I was letting it slip away from me. I LOVE practicing. It's really a big part of my life. So recently I got organized again. Instead of my practicing broken up throughout the day, I organized it into a minimum 2 hour chunk. I can come back to it, but I need to set aside 2 hours to practice. If things get real busy I can bump that one block down to 1.5 hours. But I thought, this is what I love to do and it's the center of my life, so I should be able to set aside 1.5 hours minimum a day, if not 2 hours. With the semester over it's an easy 2 minimum. Usually I can get in more.

I've thought about a lot of things over the last month. I thought about scales which I stopped practicing and I know other pros don't practice them. However I thought about this. Scales serve ONE purpose (once you have them down), they build up your hands and keep them in shape. Whenever I get back to scales from a break they are very hard for me. They shouldn't be right? Scales should be easy for a pro. I know a GREAT piano player, George Mesterhazy (who played with Burton) who couldn't play a triad arpeggio. Why? Because he never does. He thought it was funny, and it was, because George was a MONSTER player.

So I'm back into scales and totally digging it. I mix them up on the fly and do single sticking and double sticking. But only for 15 minutes and I can feel the difference already.

I think of scales like weights. You lift weights or ride that stationary bicycle to build your muscles, right? You could go out and ride in the park or work and lift heavy stuff. But you're doing something to build your muscles. Scales are that for me.

The other thing I got back to was Parker. This was because of Joe Magnarelli. He has a bunch of Parker solos memorized and uses the solos every day to center his feel. I had done a similar thing. But for me it's about articulation and AIM. Yes we have to have good aim to play the vibes, right?

I use Moose the Mooche to check out my aim. For me it's very hard to play on the vibes. If i can play it my aim is good, if I can not play it, my aim is off! And my aim goes off every now and then. When I just came back to the tune my aim was VERY VERY off! I've played the head for 4 days now and played it slowly and have fine tuned my aim a bit.

Does anyone thing about aim like I do?

The other thing is to play a Parker solo to work on your feel. It's all there. He was such a master, I really don't think there's been anyone else really like him. Oh one other person. Bach. I just play a few bars each day out of the Omnibook for now and I feel like I'm playing the drums on the vibes or something. And I think isn't this what the instrument should feel like? It is percussion and we are using sticks.

I use an App on my iPhone called 30/30. You make a list of timers. So I have a practice list, 15 mins scales, 1 hour work on tunes and rhythm, whatever. Then for 45 minutes I play solo and record it. I don't stop. Meaning I go from tune to tune and try to make music of any kind. 4 mallets, 2 mallets, it doesn't matter. I do that for about 30 minutes and then I listen back and write in my Journal, for which I use Evernote.

I love this, and am glad I'm back into it. (about 2 weeks now). I've kept these types of things going for years now. Lately it all got away from me with doing bullshit business stuff. Which I hate and am sure most of you do also. I do practice every day, but I had to get back to being a little organized about it.

But I think practicing is like meditating. You meditate and think of nothing. If you think of something, it doesn't mean you fail. It just means you put it out of your head and get back to practicing. Same with practicing, if you get off just get back on.

I know some pros here aren't into practicing. That is of course fine. For me I LOVE doing it and it's important it's a priority for me.


Access: Anonymous


Not only do I like it, but I have made it central to my life even beyond music.

Love that last part you wrote "practicing is like meditating". That's the key! Actually, especially for jazz musicians, they are nearly identical activities at their core.

For me it doesn't really matter whether I am talking about sitting practice or musical practice. In both instances, there is a great deal of prep that has goes into the final stages. In sitting practice, it is asana that prepares the body for physical stillness without pain. In musical practice, it is scales, arpeggios, and patterns that loosen the hands to the point where they can be free to do whatever they want.

The end point of both is a state of freedom, where your mind, or chops, or mind in conjunction with chops is able to be aware of the current surroundings, respond and merge with the current surroundings, channel the energies that come up and stay in the moment. The phenomenon that Tony is referring to where the mind wanders, is referred to by masters of sitting practice and the ancient Vedic traditions as "monkey mind", referring to the inate tendency of our minds to jump around and act crazy (and need to be tamed.)

That means, as Tony said, if you make a mistake, you do NOT afford yourself the luxury of perseverating on "O Crap, I Made A Mistake" because you are already in a new moment. You can and should notice it, but not give it any meaning or even one slice of brain power because you need to stay in the moment of whatever is happening AFTER the mistake so you don't totally derail what you are playing.

In the end, that is for me the most complicated part of playing music. Staying totally in the moment, aware of what is going on and being part of its flow without worrying about what will happen or what has already happened. Getting that correct can make you the best musician you can be immediately because we all make mistakes, but that prevents mistakes from snowballing even a little.

...and of course, if one gets that correct in the rest of their life, it has myriad benefits.

Yes, practicing and meditation are very similar, or at least they should be in my opinion.

that' was great randy. i thought i was getting too geeky... i probably was, but you think like this also.

i love thinking about aim, and how I'm going to practice, what I'm going to practice. i love seeing things get better. right now I'm just playing the head to moose the mooche, examining the rhythms and the phrases and just playing it in many different ways. and I'm having a ball. i forget that and put practicing off until after this and that. and it's making me sick lately. practicing needs to be much further up on our lists i think. well, my list. it slipped a little so i was staying up late to practice, which is fine unless I'm fried then it's not fine. now I'm doing it early in the day and loving it.

I totally agree with you guys! Practise is like meditating! I didn't use to practise like that but now I do. Personally, living in Greece it was very hard for me because there are no vibes player and to be honest Greece has amazing musicians but the jazz music scene is in a way limited. Actually Tony saved my hall life with the site and the workshops because I had a reason to hope and practise. Imagine a guy from a town in Greece speaking and interact with vibes players all around the world!!!!! So my only way to improve my self as a player and eventually to have a purpose in my life was to practise everyday a lot. I studied in a local music university which I hated and I used to see other players that study in jazz instituion and I was jealous about them. What I did was to look into the universities siteS and copy the programm of study and I was trying to do the same because I was thinking that If I was at a jazz intitution I was going to do this stuff but now I am not an I need to be a good player. I HAVE TO PRACTISE!!!!!! That procedure got me well because I was into my own world of exploring myself BUT at the same time practise AND NOT MAKING MUSIC became the pyrpose of my life. I was really stressed about practising that I was thinking about it even when I was practising!!!!!! stupid of me because I realize that practise is great but discover yourself and the sound you wand to make is even greater. So I would say that go practise but always have in mind WHY you are practising because if you doing this in order to be a succesfull vibe player I think it is wrong because must thing gets in your way and you can easilly loose your creativity and also you personality. Nowdays I don't care how much I am going to practise ....maby it is 10 minutes or 5 hours or I play at the piano or listen to music or listen to solo, all of these away of the instrument and that way I practise more hours and more relaxed. Life it is too short to wonder about how may hours I am going to practise. I just try to concetrate and meditate MY OWN SOUND.

All these are my life and I don't disagrre with 2 hour limit of practise because Tony you know that I practise A LOT! Just some extra ideas about all these.

la porta!

la porta!!!

la porta in september!!!!!!!!!!!

Practice...what a concept.

Dimitris, I totally relate to what you are saying. Here I am in Albany, where there IS jazz, but because of my job and my lack of jazz connections, I spend most of my music-making time practicing. I didn't hate my music school like you say you did, but I hated that I couldn't play much jazz there. Now being out of school I keep thinking "I have to keep practicing so I get better...". I have an obsessive mindset about practicing, because even if I'm having fun unrelated to music I always think "What am I doing? I should be practicing...". Heck, I went to London to visit a friend once and we both spent each morning practicing before going on adventures. On London...practicing.
Tony, I think what you're saying about having an aim is why I have this somewhat unhealthy mindset about practicing. I am scared that because I'm not in music school, not playing in groups, not jamming with people, not taking lessons, I will not get better. My aim is to keep getting better so when I find people to play with, I can keep up and play shows and be a competent performer and inspire others. I always think "Other people my age are in jazz school and I'm not, so I have to keep practicing in my own 'school' to keep improving". I know it's not the most healthy way to think about practicing, but I can't get past it, and I still really enjoy practicing despite that pressure I put on myself, so I don't think it's too harmful. Dimitris says, life IS too short to wonder about how many hours I'm going to practice, so I really do try to keep that in mind. Just have to do a better job of convincing myself of it....

I'm with you carolyn. and i get it. you do also need to keep finding people to play with. it's hard work to do that. and yes in the mean time you keep practicing. there's lots of great stuff to practice, including dampening and pedaling.

you should find a bass player, even if it's a student (that's good). pay him a few bucks to come over and play. but make sure you're doing it. it's a process and it's a long process and you're doing it!

And I'll keep doing it, because I know it all pays off and I love it!

You have to find people to pay with even if that cost you a few bucks!!!!