When I am asked about practicing guitar, I usually preach the gospel of repetitive mindful practice.
However – I have been wondering lately…”do I really know what the heck I am doing?”
You can usually find me on tour in a hotel room practicing the pieces I play on stage like “Billie Jean”, “Superstition” , “In My Life” for the 10,000th time.
- Have I lost my mind – is this focus or obsession?
- Have I become a simple person and “one trick pony”?
- Have I lost my ability and flair to do a broad spectrum of music?
- Have I lost my creativity?
Recently I was listening to a podcast by an interesting all around dude named James Altucher and his wife Claudia Azula Altucher, respectively they are the authors of Choose Yourself! and Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century
– there are some great ideas in these 2 books, if you are interested.
James & Claudia did a podcast centering around this Bruce Lee Quote, and it was all I needed to hear. (Just wanted to give them props for this!)
Drum roll please…
This renewed my faith in mindful but repetitive practice.
The idea is this – rather than going wider, more varied and more “horizontal” with what we work on, we can go deep into a “vertical” focus by practicing one thing and exploring.
Practicing 10,000 kicks in all directions can scatter us.
Practicing one kick 10,000 times will scare Bruce Lee.
We can apply this idea to our guitar practice.
Lately I have been working on polishing and perfecting my “In My Life” solo guitar arrangement.
To the world (and neighbors) it looks & sounds like I am practicing one tune over and over.
Some of the “vertical” deeper practice issues I am discovering are…
- maintaining relaxation between the right hand thumb and fingers
- re-discovering an ideal right hand position
- listening to tonal differences between my middle and ring fingers on the right hand
- exploring the feel of various finger combintaions
- balancing main melodies and supporting melodies, volume wise
- experimenting with counterpoint, bass notes hitting in between melody notes VS at the same time
- finding better left hand fingerings for the “harpsichord solo” section
- and so on….
The song is no longer just a song…it is a “vehicle” for deeper inquiries into my own playing, touch, time, tone technique.
Hopping from song to song, or style to style can “add content” to your playing – but not necessarily deepen your playing in the “vertical” way.
So…the next time you start feeling “bored, in a rut and practicing the same thing”, you can celebrate!
You may very well be going into a “vertical” concentration, and putting in the repetitions that you need for mastery. Just remember to stay mindful as you do it.
Wax on, wax off.