Monday, September 29, 2008

Chapter 9: Do Grasshoppers Eat Ants?

Sometimes you take the wrong moral out of a story.

I might have a chance to become the on-call bassist for Sunday mornings, and while what we play is pretty much CCM, the bass style I'm most in love with is old-school black gospel bass, so I was looking up what I could for that style. I found this post on practice on the Gospel Skillz website, covering the importance of structure and discipline in your musical growth.
Let’s take a look at how Curtis practices:

Curtis sits down at the piano and starts to play some scales. He starts on the C Major Scale and works his way up chromatically (by Half Steps) to G. After he finishes the G Major scale, he starts to think of the song that he heard on the radio. He hums the melody and tries to remember the chords. He is able to pick some of them out but not all. He then gets frustrated after 45min and starts working on some hot progressions that a friend taught him. He spends another 45min working out these progressions and trying to see where else he can take them. After he gets bored with that, he then starts working on a song he has been writing for 3 years, but just never got around to finishing. This lasts for about 1 hour. He then doodles on the piano for an hour and calls it a night. Curtis’ total practice time is 3.5 hours.

Now let’s take a look at Charlene:

Charlene sits down at the piano with her practice journal and metronome in hand. She opens the journal and looks to see if there is anything left over from her previous practice session that she needs to work on. There is nothing. So she writes the current date in her journal signifying the start of this session. She then writes “Major Scales around the Circle of Fourths” and sets her metronome at 80 bpm (Beats per Minute). She then proceeds to practice her major scales around the Circle of Fourths first at normal time and again at double time. When she’s done, she writes down the time it took her to complete the scales and the tempo which was 5min. Now that she is warmed up, she writes in her journal “Progression Exercises”. With the metronome still set to 80 bpm, she works though Major 2-5-1, Minor 2-5-1, 1-4, 1-6-2-5-1, 6-2-5-1, 3-6-2-5-1, and 7-3-6-2-5-1 progressions ALL around the Circle of Fourths. She then writes in her journal 20 min. She also makes a note that she was having some problems with Minor 2-5-1 progressions. She will ask someone about that later. Now that she has the fundamentals out of the way, she pulls out her choir book. (Charlene plays for the church choir) She writes in her journal “Practice choir song (Awesome God) for Sunday.” She puts the CD into the CD player and listens to it one time all the way through. While she is listening, she identifies the key and any key changes that may occur in the song. She then sets it back to the beginning and plays again and begins learning the song. When she is done, she writes 35 min. She reflects on the practice and feels good about it. She knows she will need to work on the song more, but she has 6 more days until Sunday. She feels that she will be ready by Wednesday, but right now she has to get dinner ready for the kids. Charlene's total practice time is 1 hour.
I confess that I went to the bottom line: Curtis spent over three hours with his instrument. Charlene spent one hour with her instrument. Curtis FTW!

Which, incidently, is the wrong moral for this story.

The correct moral of this story is that it's crucial to use your time effectively. If you can't quantify something, you can't manage it, and if you don't record something, you can't qualify something.

Needless to say, I've hit on this advice in the music-releated blogosphere before.

Needless to say, I don't really do this.

My problem at the moment is a terrible lack of direction.

Don't look so shocked. I mean, it's in the title of this blog! I've mentioned having a Telecaster, a lap steel, a fiddle, a mandolin, an acoustic guitar. I've blogged on genres from folk to jazz to metal. I've mentioned a desire for keyboards! I don't know what to focus on because I don't know where I want to go! Which is why I suck.

And knowing, says G.I. Joe, is half the battle.

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