I’d like to follow up on my last blog post about practicing. There were so many great and varied responses it really got me thinking about the best way to practice practicing. I know that sounds funny, but the actual act of practice requires a lot of self-control and discipline. It’s something that I’m constantly working on, and it’s always a challenge, especially when the weather has been so amazing (at least here in NYC).
On a personal note, I’ve found that my mental and emotional well being are directly connected to my piano practice. If I miss a day, or can only spend a few minutes playing, I begin to feel like something’s missing. If I miss two days or more, odd negative thoughts start to creep into my head, and my motivation to resume practice begins to decrease. Taking on new projects seems daunting; working on current ones seems painful and pointless. Any more than that and I start to freak out, and immediately force myself into an extended practice session, which of course, sets everything right again.
So the question comes to mind, how can we avoid missing practice, and encourage ourselves to work hard every day? Well, I have an answer of a kind; inspired by the work a friend of mine is doing, as well as others I’ve worked with in the past. He recently decided to release 30 songs a day over 30 days. Now take a moment and think about it. By taking on a project of this scope, he’s immediately put himself in a position where he has to be creative and productive for a full month, everyday! What a beautiful way to practice music. When the month is up, not only will he be sitting on a 30-song album, he’ll have a whole new set of skills and ideas. Plus the added bonus of increasing his following as an artist!
Another friend of mine, a painter actually, decided to produce 100 paintings over 100 days. Everyday I’d look forward to getting an email with a beautiful new piece of artwork. He put on a big gallery show at the end of the project, sold a bunch of his work, and found his creative spark re-ignited.
I was recently in a session with a fairly well known MC. I looped the beat, and within maybe 20 minutes, he had 32 bars of verse, perfectly written for the project we were collaborating on (pop-hip hop for a commercial). I couldn’t believe it, and when I expressed my amazement, he told me that a few summers ago, he decided to write a 16 bar verse a day for something like 40 or 60 days. Since doing that, he found himself able to write quickly and concisely on the fly, with very little trouble.
On more than one occasion several composers and producers have told me that completing 100 songs is a very important step in ones development. A great pianist and friend just gave me that task recently. My immediate internal reaction was “but I’ve already done that”. What a mistake! It’s dawned on me that there’s no reason this cycle of 100 songs can’t happen more than once. Each time it’s completed there’s mountains of knowledge to be gained.
I think challenging oneself in this manner is a great and extremely fun way to progress, grow, and practice. What do you think, are you up for it?