CLICK HERE to view the video on YouTube. Click “continue reading” below to download the chart and background track or to read the script.
SUPERSTITION: Don’t Let It Rip Off Your Musical Spark!
Somewhere along the line – who knows where – I picked up the message that I’m not a fast player. That’s “superstition,” messages we pick up as kids:
- “I’m dumb,”
- “I’m fat,”
- “I’m weak,”
- “I’m tone-deaf”…
If these superstitions are not mercilessly nipped in the bud every day, they shape our self-image. They become self-fulfilling prophecies.
How do you break free of those enslaving chains, those lies about who you are, what you’re capable of?
One thing that helped me was talking with my friend, a gifted composer and musician. He told me the back story of two famous musicians we both knew back in the day. Neither was a standout at that time. But one summer, they each decided, “I’m gon’na get good on my axe!” They went into the woodshed and didn’t come out till they reached their goal.
Anyone who hears them now assumes these two famous musicians were born talents like Mozart; that they came out of the womb blessed with incredible talent. Most folks didn’t know them back in the day, when they were struggling, just like many of us are now.
Charlie Parker had a similar story. You may have heard how Joe Jones threw a cymbal at Bird when he messed up…right there on the bandstand in front of the audience. Bird locked himself in the woodshed and didn’t come out till he had transformed himself into the titanic legend who reinvented jazz.
Stories like those inspired me to reject that superstition, the bogus self image that plagued me for decades.
It’s simple with Band in a Box or Garage Band to start slow. Practice at snail tempo. Gradually increase your speed till you reach your goal.
This picture is from Kenny Werner’s book “Effortless Mastery.” It shows four challenges to being a master. Tackle them one at a time. Take a short section – we call it a “LOOP” – play it slowly until it’s error-free and effortless. It starts out like drudgery, but it gets to be a blast. When the challenge is small and doable, practicing almost becomes hypnotic. Your loops get longer, you gradually speed up, mistakes get fewer and farther in between, and before you know it, hours have gone by, and you’re playing the song like you never dreamed you could.
I’ve got a book with thousands of licks I’ve dreamed up or borrowed from the masters. If you’re looking for something to practice, try working on the chart and background recording shown above. If the tempo is too fast, slow it down to a manageable tempo using “BEST PRACTICE.”