There’s that dirty ‘P’ word that every musician dreads. PRACTICE!
I first studied Piano, as just about everyone did in my small town, and I loved to practice! I had cool songs to play and some neat tricks to learn to make my technique better. It was the same when I started taking guitar lessons a few years later. Cool tunes and tricks to play them AND a teacher that played in a band! It wasn’t until I picked up trumpet in junior high that practicing fell out of favour.
For some reason practice stopped being cool. Maybe it was because there were more things competing with my time or there weren't as many cool tunes to play. When you are part of an ensemble it’s easy to fall into the trap of being satisfied to be in the middle of the group. There will be those players that look for and find cool things to play that aren’t part of the collective experience and there will also be those who are satisfied with the bare minimum. Whatever the reasoning the result was that practicing became a chore. I’m sure we all remember sitting in band rehearsal when the director asked who had practiced since last week. There were the keeners who sat there and beamed while others were gnashing their teeth, hanging their heads, and suddenly finding a new interest in oiling valves or adjusting reeds. It had become a group experience rather than an individual experience. Why practice when I can already play all my parts?
That’s where creative teachers need to step in and reward extra musical activity. As a private music teacher, I keep a library of fun and challenging things to play for all instruments and at all levels. And some of them have backing tracks so that while practice is a solo experience the student can bring the band home to play along with. My goal is to make every musical experience an individual one like it was when studying piano or guitar versus the collective experience that dulls practicing.
The next challenge is to develop a practice regimen that students not only find enjoyable and rewarding but will also foster their skills. Stay tuned for Painless Practice (part 2)