In my 20 years of being a musician I would have to say that I have done my share of practicing. My most intense session would have to be in the Summer of 1995 where I practiced 5 hours a day EVERYDAY for 3 months straight. I practiced scales, patterns, licks, as well as improvisation. I was quite pleased with the result of that shed session and I was able to immediately appreciate the new facility I had over my instrument. Thinking back to that intense Summer and my routine, I would venture to ask, if it was enough. Even though I practiced like CRAZY, my knowledge of music didn't really increase much. I had no deeper understanding of music which would allow me to construct better solos. All I did was build technical facility over my instrument. I never sat down and tried to understand what made the music work. I practiced scales, but I never took the time to learn how to apply them effectively while improvising. I never studied progressions and how they work nor the chords that make up the progressions. I basically went through an entire Summer of shedding and completely missed the point. I believe that we are living in an age where there will be a separation of musicians. There will be those that PRACTICE and there will be those that STUDY.
Webster's Dictionary defines "PRACTICE" as "Performing or working at repeatedly so as to become proficient <practicing an instrument>". The word "STUDY", according to Webster's is defined as "The application of the mental faculties to the acquisition of knowledge study>". The difference in the two words is apparent. Practicing only works to become proficient in a task or technique, but Studying allows you to gain a deeper understanding so that creativity through wisdom can be obtained.
The standard for today's jazz musician is a lot higher that it was 40-50 years ago. Jazz has become a cherished art form today that needs plenty of attention if it is to be communicated effectively. Musicians today not only have to practice licks, scales, and sight reading, but they also have to study harmony, progressions, and musical styles. This study helps to get the musician to a deeper level of understanding so that the creativity can be unleashed and therefore a larger impact can be achieved. Go to any jazz jam session and just listen to the musicians that play. If you take two players of comparable technique, and listen to thier solos, you can almost always tell who studied more. The one that studied the mosted would have more to say in terms of the his/her interaction with the underlying harmonies. Studying Jazz is the only way to get there.
In conclusion, if you want to really reach the next level of your playing, you have to take "PRACTICE" out of your root vocabulary and make it a subtask of "STUDY". Remember "practicing" will get you by but "studying" will get you approved.
I wouldn't say your time during that summer was wasted. You were laying the foundation for what was to come. I'm speaking in terms of training your fingers as well as your ears, to play and hear more complex and mature sounds. When you approached your "study" it was more meaningful and effective.
I have gone through the same stages in my own development as well. In the past I've shed for several months at a time with no noticible improvement in my ability to solo. I found that I became extremely skilled at playing scales and exercises! That technical facility is beginning to serve me, however, in the long run.
One must practice, as well as study. The two go hand in hand.
Thanks for that. I try make sure I get ample study time in my practice routine. I am realizing how valuable that study time is. When I study, I start to conceptualize things. This increases my understanding of what I can do to make the sound that is pleasing to my ears.
There use to be a time where I would just try to memorize a lick and get it under my fingers. Now, I disect licks and try to figure out what makes them sound so good. "Oh that's a #11 or that's a b9 of a dom 7th resolving to the 5th of the Major I". This helps me to really dig into the harmony and build upon it instantly as I am improvising.
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