Friday, April 24, 2009


This past week I've been practicing at least twice as much as my usual average. This is for a number of reasons: 1) I'm trying to learn more music. 2) Recordings of a couple recent gigs really kicked my butt. 3) And I'm just trying to force a dedicated practice schedule into my routine.

The last few days I've been working on some new concepts. Ideas that keep popping in my head while performing, but I'm never able to execute them (see #2 above). The first three days of working on these concepts was like pulling teeth. My own teeth. The patterns were somewhat awkward to play on guitar, there are countless variations that confuse my brain and my fingers, and it has to be played really fast to sound right. It's just supposed to be a flurry of notes--something I hardly do when I improvise but want to have in my bag for the right moments. I stopped and asked myself everyday, "Is this worth it? Will it even sound good?"

This morning it all just clicked, at least after priming the pump a little. I could throw it into the right spots during a solo and it sounds great, exactly how I've been hearing it in my head.

The lesson here is an old one. Don't give up. I talked about it with my buddy Dave today, and he described practicing music as a set of stairs, not a ramp. It's a series of walls and plateaus. You bang your head against a wall for a while and then one morning, if you've stuck to it long enough, you'll get up to the next plateau.

If you're a beginner, you face the same obstacles as somebody that's played for 20 years. We're just in different places along an endless staircase. Whether your victory is finally getting that bar chord to sound right or you've finally mastered your melodic minor modes, we can all relate to each other. Keep putting in the hours.


David J. Hahn said...

Holy crap I sound smart.

Cameron Mizell said...

I was actually talking about a different Dave, but you can take credit, it's cool.

Heather said...

I needed that. Thanks!

Ethan said...

The best advice I got on practicing was from my old teacher, who urged me to make everything sound like music. Even if it was just scale patterns, he felt strongly that everything should be played as if it was full-fledged real life, ideally with a drum machine or Aebersold track or some other accompaniment. Even at the early stages of learning a new lick, he had me set a beat underneath it. If I couldn't nail the idea rhythmically and evenly, he had me slow the beat down until I could. Super valuable advice. Plus, programming all those practice tracks for myself laid the foundation for my hip-hop and electronica work.

ncsmn said...

that stair analogy was the best articulation of the plateaus that everyone hits practicing great way to explain the concept