It’s widely assumed that there’s a trade-off between quality and quality—if you want to do better work, you have to do less of it—but this turns out to be false. In fact, when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.
Adam Grant, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
Courtesy of Flickr/Gwenn Seemel
As players and teachers, many of us obsess over what to practice, how to practice, and how many hours to practice. This often puts the cart in front of the horse.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Jason James
I want to share a writing exercise from composer, pianist, and author W.A. Mathieu. If you feel overwhelmed or frustrated with trying to measure success by someone else’s model, this prompt will help you define a personal musical vision.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/alexanderward12
The Playing Changes series presents and expands on concepts from my book, The Living Jazz Tradition: A Creative Guide to Improvisation and Harmony published by CMA Press.
The first article in the Playing Changes series helped you visualize and hear melodies by thinking in scale degrees. This concept also applies to hearing tonal harmony.
If you find creativity mysterious, you may be stuck in linear thinking.
Courtesy of Flickr/PunkToad
Just as doctors practice medicine and lawyers practice law, we practice music. Treating practice as tedious work in isolation for future results is a recipe for frustration, guilt, and giving up. Our practice isn’t just preparation; it is every aspect of living a musical life.
Improvisation, the most widely practiced of all musical activities, is probably the least recognized or understood. Vague descriptions like, “making it up as you go along” or “playing off the top of your head” give no idea to the pervasiveness and power of improvisation in music. Perhaps the air of mystery that surrounds it is inevitable.
Derek Bailey, On the Edge: Improvisation in Music
Photo by Steve Korn
Common myths about improvisation contribute to the “air of mystery.” I’d like to address four of them.
I meet countless musicians who are interested in musical improvisation, but are paralyzed by fear and anxiety.
Fear of sounding bad
Fear of being criticized
Fear of making a mistake
Fear of being laughed at
Fear of being called a fraud
Fear of not having the talent to be successful
Fear of failure
When confronting this multitude of fears, the path of least resistance is to hide, avoid risk, and never create original music.
Courtesy of Flickr/Justin S. Campbell
Do you have trouble committing music to memory—even pieces you have played for years? The key to success is integrating the aural, visual, and tactile elements of playing music.