Finding That Thing You Can’t Do

When I was teaching, I would find the thing that the majority of my students couldn’t do and create an exercise for them to work on. They hated it, I’m sure. There I was, exploiting their weaknesses and torturing them endlessly, all in the name of education. They probably won’t figure it out for a few years, but I was teaching them a really valuable skill that they can use for the rest of their life – Find That Thing You Can’t Do, and Work On It Until You Can!

Now that I only teach privately and practice a lot, I do that same humbling process with my own practicing. I strive every practice session to find that thing I can’t do (or things) and then come up with creative ways to practice it. It’s actually kinda fun. Especially when you get results.

Why not make it fun in the process? I realize that everyone has their own definition of fun, but for me, there is nothing more fun that being able to do something that I wasn’t able to do previously. That’s one reward. The other reward is that with a little creativity the whole process can be fun, too.

Many of the Free Stuff available on my website came about from this process.

Here’s another one, which is an extension of a previous concept I posted about in January:

One of things I wanted to work on was more “colorful” scale sounds. I find that I work better with smaller chunks, so I decided that rather than working on scales, I would focus on the first 5 notes. This way I could work on the tetrachord and the transition note. (see my post on tetrachords.) I started with basic major and minor, then slowly added one tonality at a time. What I discovered was that the patterns were very similar to each other – often just a single note would have to change. Then it became about my EAR recognizing the different sounds. I find that it’s significantly easier to use those sounds when improvising now that I know what they sound like and my fingers can play them!

Some practice related notes:

  • Practice in all 12 keys. If all 12 is too much then pick one and learn it really well. When you move on to the next key, make sure to review the one you already worked on so you don’t have to relearn it later.
  • Don’t avoid the “hard keys” – Hard is deceptive anyway. Things are only hard when we over think them, refuse to learn, or let our ego dictate things like tempo. Relax and work diligently and nothing will be hard.
  • In addition to starting all the different tonalities on a single note, also practice one tonality starting on all 12 notes.
  • Improvise! Find a way (or many ways) to incorporate what you’re learning into improvisation, or improvise as a new way to practice what you’re learning!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *