Day 116 – Four Things I’ve Learned About Practice and Dedication

I meant to post this on Day 42 of my Project 365, but only just now discovered it forgotten in Evernote (oops). Anyway, I’d like to share a brief update on four things I’ve learned/noticed so far.

1. Practicing when I’m tired is counterproductive. If I’m tired, I am unable to focus when I’m practicing and so I’m not making any improvement. I’m just playing for the sake of playing. The same went for when I was sick. I’ve found that in both cases, it’s better not to practice at all because I start to pick up bad habits (not playing with the greatest time nor am I paying attention to little mistakes such as bad finger movement). As much as I’d like to suggest “fighting through the fatigue”, I just don’t think it’s beneficial to your playing in anyway.

2. Transcribing seems to be the way to go. Practicing etudes and scales helps with technique, but playing along to recordings helps you develop your vocabulary. You can compare it to learning a language. We first learn to speak by emulating what we hear, so why not approach music the same way? Learning grammar and studying literature come later, so I would suggest that etudes and exercises fall behind transcription in priority.

3. Clean your instrument! Especially if you’re sick. I had the flu a few weeks ago and I made sure to soak my mouthpieces and reeds in mouthwash to keep the germs from spreading. I even threw out the reed I was using during that time just to be safe. I usually give my mouthpieces a thorough wash every few weeks, but I did it everyday while I was ill. Plus, cleaning and taking care of your instrument keeps it in better playing condition too!

4. Focus and handwork really pay off. I spent the last two weeks learning and memorizing hours of music for a performance. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to do it, but I did. I also learned a few new skills that I had been avoiding because the concepts behind them intimidated me. By working out a system to “tackle” learning new repertoire and working out different aspects of my playing, I was able to accomplish them. Even after just a week of practice there was a notable difference because I was focused on improving those skills during that time.

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A Third of the Way

On Monday I will be three and a half months through my Project 365 (practicing for at least an hour everyday for an entire year). I’ve practiced through the flu, a sinus infection, work, conferences, travel, and normal, healthy days. I’ve practiced in my car, at home, and in my hotel room.

That’s 102 straight days, 6760 minutes, 112.7 hours, at an average of 66.27 minutes per day. (If you’re wondering, I’m using askmeevery to track this.)

Some days it’s easy to pick up my sax and practice, others it’s a struggle, but I haven’t missed a day.

The hardest part is starting, but once my horn is out of the case and in my hands, I can play as long as I need to – in fact, I sometimes have to set a timer to remind myself to stop!

It’s still a bit early to tell how much practicing everyday has really done for my playing, but I can hear it in little ways and it’s enough to encourage me to keep going.

And I know this isn’t a groundbreaking revelation, but it’s a lot easier to love what you do if you feel confident when you’re doing it.

What do you love to do and how have you been making it a part of your life?

Now That I’m Caught Up

If you’ve followed me here from my previous blog (eurolinguiste), you know that I love learning new languages, writing music, playing music, reading, cooking, photography, traveling and writing. In addition to this blog, Teen Jazz is where I combine almost … Continue reading

Teen Jazz

Happy Easter Week!

This last week we reached over 110 articles on Teen Jazz since August 2012. I’m really excited about the progress the site is making, all of the fabulous guest posts we’ve had on the site and I’m grateful to all the musicians who have taken the time to do interviews with us and share a little bit about what they do.

But now I’d like to include you even more.

I’m always looking for great ideas to include on the website, but there are so many different things to cover it’s hard to filter through all the different options.

So I’m asking for your help.

What would you like to see on Teen Jazz? What questions do you have about the music industry and what would you like to learn about?

If you don’t mind sharing some of your questions and ideas, I’d love to hear them…

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