In the ticker tape of my psyche, there lies reoccurring firewood for my ruminations — daily, weekly, monthly or yearly rotations of thought that inhabit my mind.
How long these subjects and themes crash on my couch will vary. Sometimes, they move on and find a new place to sleep. Others must be vacated like mental ticks from your beard.
The word “practice” was a tick for the longest time. In my musical youth, it conjured this idea of musical homework.
After college, it slowly grew into a bus I was always running late for and never seemed to catch up with.
Now, at this musical stage in my life, practice is no longer a word or chore; it’s a living, breathing concept.
All of life is a practice, it’s checking with your abilities and yourself everyday. It’s like looking into a mirror. Instead of being disappointed in the reflection, I embrace it. Most importantly, I see the change taking place.
Before we proceed, I don’t have the conceit to ever say I have the answers on practicing. To paint myself as some guru would be hypocrisy made paramount.
However, discussions of practice have been my recurring theme lately. Exchanging ideas with fellow musicians, friends asking about my routine, etc. The timing could not be better. I’ve been in a perspective now where it is a celebrated thing. It has motion and momentum.
So, these are collections of thoughts, observations and my personal routines on the subject. Currently, this is what’s working for me. Beyond the musical realm, there are boundless practical applications for these principles in life.
A great place to start is looking inward, expanding the concept of what practicing is and can involve. If practicing was just a utilitarian pursuit only touching upon the functional aspects of creativity, the gumbo would be missing an ingredient.
As crazy as it may sound, everything is a skill set that can be improved. Ultimately, everything is connected and builds off each other. With the right perspective, almost any discipline can lay the foundation for learning another. In music, the same chord changes can create countless songs in seemingly any genre. Why does this concept have to stop there? Why can’t we, as human beings, find the correlation and crossover between all areas of life? For example, I am a musician, writer and I work behind the scenes in the music/entertainment world. In order to work behind the scenes, troubleshooting is essential — so is understanding each step of how a production is assembled and disassembled. No detail is insignificant. If you understand how the sausage is made in one aspect of life, that same foundation can be an asset for learning new disciplines.
As a writer, interviewing and conversing with various subjects has become quite natural for me. One day, I began to look at playing music with people in a similar manner. The same way listening, being engaged and contributing vibrant responses keeps conversation alive, playing with other musicians is the same. It can’t be one-sided. There must be an exchange of ideas.
Next, before any change or shift can happen, you must take stock. A physical, musical and mental inventory and assessment is crucial. If you don’t have a notebook dedicated for practice, I’d highly recommend one. This will organize all of the thoughts, new ideas and log for your progress.
After a notebook is designated, really examine who you are. What are the strengths and weaknesses unique unto yourself? Why do I want to improve? Is there a specific goal in mind? If so, write them down, along with outlining each stepping stone goal. In almost any subject or discipline today, there can be information overload with the resources available online.
Personally, I would always feel overwhelmed when starting a practice session. How long should I work on a particular area? Is one more important than another? Even when grinding on a particular concept, my playing would often feel stagnant. This is all summarized in one word, intention. After these concepts are outlined, it can be easy to surgically focus and create real improvement. Growth becomes tangible and real.
Whatever helps solidify your unique practice, consistency is the key. Pick one or two aspects of whatever you seek to improve. Give yourself a realistic daily timeframe to practice, then commit to the routine religiously. At the end of the day, it’s about the joy of accomplishment and the fulfillment that comes with it. There’s a deep contentment when you’re consistently achieving your goals that money can’t buy. It’s a profound fulfillment that drips into all other aspects of life. If everyone could have a piece of that, I think the world would be a more respectful place overall.