Estimated reading time: 17 minutes
Table of contents
- Thoughts About Mastery
- Thoughts About Thinking
- Smart Habits For Practice And Rehearsal
- Four Kinds Of Knowledge
- Applications of Practice And Rehearsal
- Working With Others
- A Suggestion For The Hard Core
How do you identify your uniqueness, or how do you find your voice? Practice and rehearsal are the defining exercises of improving creativity in your chosen art form.
It is a scientific fact that every one of us is different. We are a distinctive combination of genes inherited from our parents. Our variety of genes has never happened before, nor will they happen again. We need to find our unique voice to be identifiable. Your circumstances, challenges, and strengths are what you are. No one else has our story.
There is a massive cacophony of artists seeking to be recognized. The question is – how do you separate yourself from the rest?
You already own your monopoly. It is YOU, L.L.C. Exploit your talent.
A musician’s ultimate commodity is practical knowledge; on top of that, place execution. Practice and rehearsal are integral to gaining a practicable foundation.
Thoughts About Mastery
There are a great many thoughts about mastery. Your uniqueness is not up to philosophical debate. Master yourself. Find the inner calling that inclines you to embrace your chosen craft. Make it dominate your thoughts and dreams. Develop the passion, the connection of your desire.
There are going to be setbacks and obstacles. There may be different forms of pain: finances, emotions, relationships, and your headspace. You will need resiliency and grit to master who you are and what you want to become.
The task you have set before yourself is analogous to a living, breathing organism. Surviving and thriving will require flexibility and adapting to many different circumstances. Someone would delight in eating you. How do you avoid being eaten?
Unfortunately, I’m still working for the man. While it has benefits, it is a huge distraction from my true purpose. I consider that part of the challenge and reward: learning how to master myself despite having a job.
Thoughts About Thinking
Intention and attention are the components of focused practice and rehearsal; applying them boosts our awareness. We exhibit individual inclinations towards particular preferences.
Since I speak artists specifically, I refer only to artistic inclinations.
Consistency theory is defined roughly as part of our human psychological makeup wanting to maintain balance in the thought process. An oversimplification? Yes.
We want consistency between our senses, experiences, and cognition. It suggests we have beliefs that are motivators to behave in specific ways. Our attitudes influence our triggers and how we think about them.
I am always trying to identify my triggers.
We have all had to recognize and address mental fabrications or thought distortions.
You may feel you have a lack of self-control.
Maybe you believe you can’t change, or, perhaps life is good enough and you don’t want to change.
There is commitment involved in becoming a great artist. Will your friends judge you as not having fun any longer? Will they accept your choices as to how you are spending your time? Is your family ready for this?
Are you going to have to sacrifice everything to reach your goals? Is it worth pursuing?
Remember this – your thought distortions may be lies you are telling yourself.
Practicing is a form of meta-cognition. Thinking about thinking, knowing about knowing, being aware of awareness. Meta-cognition includes using game plans for learning and problem-solving. Skill development comes from learning about learning and then developing a game plan. It’s about recognizing the need for awareness and regulating that knowledge.
Smart Habits For Practice And Rehearsal
I am going to delve into the psychology of practice and rehearsal. I will be presenting some mental techniques that are pretty darn effective.
Change is challenging. Change can go against the grain of Consistency Theory. The attempt of transformation disrupts the equilibrium of our mental landscape. Applying cognitive techniques can help make necessary changes in our attitude.
Beware, being passive in our actions can lend itself to form barrenness in our mental capacities.
Practice And Rehearsal Should Be Clearly Defined And Detailed
Consistency is what matters most. Don’t think of your choice to practice as an isolated incidence. I spent years in this trap.
Think of each choice as a decision you will make repeatedly.
Your choices are measurable and readily determined. Tracking progress is an excellent way to measure the increase of technical skills. Implementing simple progressive steps is a practical methodology. Most tomes of musical instruction follow some step-by-step progressions.
Your choices are attainable, something that can be accomplished with hard work. KISS it. Keep It Stupid Simple. Less mental energy is spent when tasks are broken down into smaller components. It’s far easier to string together simple pieces than to try to grasp the whole.
Your choices are relevant and aligned with other goals. For example, in creating unique parts for original songs, I often develop an exercise that helps me master that part.
Your choices revolve around many applications. Look at the big picture. How do your practice decisions contribute to your overall success? Think about this: the shortcut to building new practice habits is attaching those to existing habits.
Your choices are time-based and linked to a timeline. If you are under the guidance of a teacher, then you are receiving assignments. Whatever time frame you are on, your assignment should be done or closer to completion.
Priorities In Practice And Rehearsal
How do you know what priorities to set in place for practice and rehearsal?
The crucial things belong to long-term goals. We want to achieve those.
It’s easy to follow the path of least resistance. Our brains want to maintain balance, which is the easy path, i.e., Consistency Theory. Focusing on priorities can disrupt habits and thought processes. For me, this is happening all the time.
In practice and rehearsal, I like to exercise an idea called ‘Eating The Frog’. I recently learned this term, but I have been utilizing the concept for years.
The analogy is this – If I eat a frog for breakfast, what worse could happen on that day? In my daily regimen, I seek out that which is weakest in my execution. It doesn’t take too long to find. I grind it out till my brain relaxes, then I move on to the other frogs I have eaten earlier in the week. It turns out, by eating frogs, I move to higher levels of execution at a more rapid pace.
Asking the right questions is super important. What are your goals? What are things urgent and non-urgent? How about productive time slots? Where are they? What can you compromise? Are you open to change? How will you handle uncertainty? How will you measure the value of what you are doing?
There are all sorts of methodologies out there. Take time to research what works for you.
Inspiration can influence your practice and rehearsal habits.
The Latin word for inspiration is inspiratas. It means to breathe into; inspire. The Greek word is émpnef̱si̱. I can’t pronounce it, but it implies brainstorming, brain wave, afflatus, infusion. I am some what illiterate. Afflatus means a divine creative impulse or inspiration.
What are your sources of inspiration?
My parents gave me a phonograph when I was five. It played 45’s and 33 RPM albums. What I remember most are the Martial Music and Classical Music albums. I can recall John Phillip Sousa and the Marine Corp Anthem, but Classical Music stood out. To this day, Classical Music allows me to exhale.
I wanted to be a conductor because of my love of the genre. I would stand in front of my phonograph and mimic the actions of conductors I had seen on television. Conducting as only a five-year-old could do.
The piano came into my life at seven. My grandmother was a fantastic pianist. Mom has reminisced about her abilities through the years. My grandfather was a talented multi-instrumentalist. Not only did he play piano, but everything else under the sun. He played Dixieland Jazz in the 1920s. I suppose my Grand Parents inspired me. My parents moved their Kohler-Cambell 1917 Upright Grand into our house to help me learn how to play. The piano is integral to my musical experience. It doesn’t mean I am any good.
Identify The Why
So you are going to make this commitment. Why are you going to do that? Do you want to become more proficient? Like me, tired of embarrassing yourself? Want to live up to the expectations of your peers? Do you desire to blow people away?
It’s all ego at this point. Honestly, that is part of it. You can’t escape the vanity of what we do.
Hey, Mom, look at me, no hands!
We want to be humble; yeah, right.
There is no compromising your craft!!!
What is your reason for spending excessive time and resources becoming better at what you do?
Action Fuels Creativity
So you have had that epiphany; the idea that was brilliant and creative? Can you identify its origin? Was the source from practice and rehearsal?
We see most things through the lens of the familiar, a part of our habitual, daily rituals. Our subconscious takes notes on all the objects and circumstances we encounter. By interacting with our environment, inspiration is a default result of all this interactivity. Practice and rehearsal are a conduit for creativity and inventiveness.
Four Kinds Of Knowledge
Let’s apply the four kinds of knowledge to creativity, practice, and rehearsal.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
You begin to show interest in pursuing the art form. You’re not too sure whether it will be a good fit in your life. It may be the pick feels good on your fingertips, or the mouthpiece sets right on your lips. As the bow glides across the strings, there is that sensation of joy. The brush warms your soul, or the clay scintillates your hands. Passion begins tickling your brain, the possibility of ‘what if’ teases you. There may be no idea in your head about how bad you are; you may not care. It feels right, and that is all which is essential. At this point, only more of the experience is what you want and need.
You Don’t Know What You Know
This is the point where a person may think they are better than they are. There is great danger in a bit of knowledge. I spent years dwelling in this place. This is a place where flights of inspiration can have a powerful effect. Yet it seems the creative revelation you experienced at one time is currently beyond your grasp. You know you should be able to repeat the experience but, the execution is fleeting. A desire for more ability starts to creep in.
You Know What You Don’t Know
When you arrive here, you have a pretty good idea of the path you need to take. The rubber meets the road: every exercise requires tons of concentration. Sometimes you are thinking about the placement of each particular note. You learn to listen and visualize the beginning and end of each voice and its correlation in time. You are now understanding the structure and learning how to calibrate melody. The components become less challenging to execute.
You Know What You Know
When you are at this point, the subconscious is active. You can perform at a decent enough level without actually thinking about it. High levels of articulation are part of your creative output; this is where mastery can begin.
Applications of Practice And Rehearsal
Slow it down.
If you’re like me, the introduction of a new concept creates mild forms of stress. The first sign of stress is that my limbs start to twitch. Being a drummer, my left foot starts to vibrate. I might think I’m relaxed, but that left foot’s vibration can start a chain reaction of stress throughout my entire body. The leg tightens up, causing an arm to do the same. The next thing, my back becomes rigid. Rigidity is the enemy of fluidity.
A great help is to engage the fore-brain; this is where higher learning dwells. This part of the brain merges our senses and controls motor response.
I can create highly emotional feedback loops when I am learning new concepts. In many instances, I verbally command different body parts to obey me. That left foot starts dancing; I must control it. My goal is to guide my sympathetic nervous system from overreacting.
The introduction of new concepts can cause my brain to tighten. I want to work through this by repeating the exercise until the inside of my skull relaxes. When relaxation happens, I know there is evidence of a new neural connection.
Slowing down the exercise allows the brain to assimilate new information more correctly, with more precision. That’s what I want.
Think About It, Man!
Think about the skill you are trying to develop. Your brain will try to hold on to its belief in Consistency Theory. The exercise you are trying to learn is not yet part of the brain’s neural network. There is going to be resistance.
Learning new stuff requires adaptability. The decision of closed-mindedness requires less effort than to be open-minded. How do you overcome this? Think about your goals. How will you act upon this new skill after developing it? How will its acquisition further your abilities? Can you visualize its attributes?
Act On it
Execute the exercise. Utilize the previous applications. Repetitio Studio: Repetition is the Study. It’s going to be difficult; it almost always is. It’s going to get easier after repeating it many, many times. You are creating a new neural highway. Your brain would instead choose to use pathways it knows and favors. Fight through it.
You have thought about the why; now you want it. Just Do It!!!
Recognize The Results Of Practice and Rehearsal
Measure what is measurable. How do you do that? How do you measure the results of practice and rehearsal? Simple – by listening.
I am astounded at how few musicians listen. For a group ensemble to function, each person must know where the other group members are in the performance.
My first band instructor, Mr. Peterson, taught this in Junior High School band class. It was the very first thing of which he taught. From day one, Mr. Peterson stressed that we needed to listen to what was going on in the performance. Open up your ears.
Want to move quicker in your development of skill? Record your rehearsal. Haven’t got a recording rig? I’m guessing you have a smartphone. Set it back in the room and press record. You will be surprised how much audio definition today’s phones have.
Want to go even faster in your development? Turn on the video feature and record. Now you get to see and hear your performance. You may not like the results, but you just measured progress.
For The Truly Fanatical…
Want the band to get tight faster? Run the audio and cameras and play to a click track. Make sure the click is audible in the room. Watching and listening to play-back, it will become apparent who knows where one is and who doesn’t.
Get ready for contention. Those persons lacking a belief in the truth might argue the metronome is flawed. Sixty BPM is sixty BPM. It is a law of physics that can’t break, plain and simple.
Want to get tight the fastest? Slow the click track down to half speed. Good Luck!!!
Get prepared. I almost always warm up before practice. Running scales, sitting in front of the TV, is excellent. You want that stuff to be mindless, right? You want that subconscious to take over, right?
For more profound practice and rehearsal, get away from distractions. Get to an isolated place, away from the rest of the world. If you are like me, you have a studio space. If not, find somewhere for you and your craft, just the two of you. The best marriages are where two people spend quality time with another. Approach your art like a marriage, till death do us part.
Take extended time, make it an event.
How do you practice? Do you approach rehearsal as if setting down to a fine, multi-course meal? Is practice like fast food, picking up a burger? Is your practice mindless because you think a little, quick snack of junk food will please that hunger?
Sometimes there isn’t time to eat a meal. A little practice is better than none. If you have time constraints, focus on one thing and one thing only. A quick bite, if you will. Your subconscious will do the rest.
Back To It
Remember, I talked about television. I will spend an hour working only on sticking techniques, watching one of my favorites, a time-tested movie or documentary. Metronome, of course; do not forget the metronome.
Then it’s on to the kit. I work between two and three hours trying to reach the next breakthrough. We are all able to learn something new every day. It doesn’t mean you will master it, but you can grasp enough to start again tomorrow.
I spend the last half hour working on the joyful, the stuff that gives me absolute pleasure.
I wish everyday could be spent like this. That’s the goal.
Working With Others
We human beings have some pretty incredible attributes. All animals communicate, but we excel at it. Because we are social animals, communication has been our top survival skill.
We work together well in groups, even with those unfamiliar to us. We find ways to work together and solve problems. It’s the tribal thing.
Humans can communicate pretty well if we want to. Life is about living a constant negotiation. Part of having a conversation is to practice compromise. Even walking across the street is a negotiation. Part of the conversation is staying flexible; what works best for the group.
One of our gifts is imagination; we are pretty good at it. Creativity, coupled with using opposable thumbs, makes the human species formidable.
Who Do You Work With?
Personal integrity is a foundation of trust. I search it out in others and hold myself accountable. Why trust others if I can’t trust myself to do the right thing? Likewise, why would people have confidence in me if I exhibited a lack of accountability? It’s a two-way street.
Successful collaboration requires confidence in the other team members. If we are going to function at an optimal level, there must be trust. The imperative is the group’s more significant success. Progress happens when team members do the right thing for the group and themselves. With these actions and behaviors, there is cohesion. When there is inter-group integrity, unity in purpose facilitates success.
Band rehearsal is as much social as it is physical. Rehearsals are often spent exchanging stories, laughing, and enjoying the company of others.
Rehearsal is a time of detachment. Locking out the outside world is ideal. Practice can contribute to a healthy mental state. If it’s not, you might want to re-think what you are doing.
A Suggestion For The Hard Core
Years ago, I read an article about a Bette Midler tour. Preparing for the tour involved eight weeks of rehearsal, then four more weeks on a sound stage. You and I haven’t the resources for such commitment, but there you have it. Do what you have to do.
I’m great on quotes.
Teddy Roosevelt – “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
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