(Ok, they’re not really one-liners- they’re very nice stories for students to think of as they practice none the less.)
The Tortoise and the Hare
One day a hare saw a tortoise walking slowly along and began to laugh and mock him. The hare challenged the tortoise to a race and the tortoise accepted. They agreed on a route and started off the race. The hare shot ahead and ran briskly for some time. Then seeing that he was far ahead of the tortoise, he thought he’d sit under a tree for some time and relax before continuing the race.
He sat under the tree and soon fell asleep. The tortoise, plodding on, overtook him and finished the race. The hare woke up and realized that he had lost the race.
The moral, stated at the end of the fable, is, “Slow and steady wins the race.”
Divide and Conquer
It’s a great song, and it feels great getting through it start-to-finish, but there’s no need to play through the whole thing to practice it- in fact, that actually slows the learning process for most people. It’s a better idea to cut it into short, repeatable phrases and practice each of these on their own. Working this way you’ll spend less time searching for how to get it right, because what you’ll be doing in the moment will be much easier. Plus, by removing a part of something that is awesome, you may have just found something that is also awesome on its own. Steal everything…um…I mean steal musical phrases from anywhere you find them. Watch out for Lars Ulrich, though. And his lawyers. Nasty.
Always Do Things You Can Do Well
Great practice time is time spent doing things (in rhythm, of course) that are in the right physical form and at the right tempo (speed) for you. “How do I do that”, you ask?
I suggest working on a very short, defined phrase (one that is exactly the same every time it repeats) until it becomes easy to repeat. Repeat more and often. Play it in great physical form (hand position/ motion) and nice and steady for longer than the time it took to get it to come together. Spend a lot of time playing it this way- this is the way you want to remember the phrase. The earlier, messier attempts should be buried under a nice, neat pile of these more pristine repetitions. Keep playing that phrase significantly longer than you think you need to. It should feel easy to continue.
If it feels like you are going too fast (if it’s kinda exciting in the way watching Nascar wrecks is exciting) you’d be much better off easing back on the speed. You’ll get the automatic and rip-roarin speed (and/ or smoothness) you’re looking for by taking things slower and concentrating on the groove. You can’t chase after speed- it will come to you.
Remember the Tortise and the Hare. Don’t get caught in the trap of trying to go faster. Taking it nice and slow and making it groove is the best practice. With some more days of playing it slow and heavy and groovy you will begin to make the hand movements more automatic. This is the moment that it becomes easier to do it faster.
Drummers (and the rest of the band) will like playing with you much more if you aren’t a speeder. The ability to establish a tempo and hold to it is a make/ break kinda thing for any musician. There are tricks to learning to internalize this skill. I’ll be happy to show you.
Practice Being Relaxed
One teacher I had told me to always be relaxed when I practiced. He suggested that feeling relaxed while playing the instrument was in itself an important thing to become used to. The idea is that all of the time you spend with the instrument is training time- it’s good to have a successful, powerful feeling with the instrument. The way to create that sort of vibe on the instrument is to have that good, strong, confident and comfortable feeling be your primary association with being near it. It’s great to think of the instrument as a thing that is there when you do good things- then more good things happen more easily.