Jan 102011

A few months ago my artistic online friend Wendy gave me a suggestion to help focus on a task: Set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes and just do that task until the bell rings. Sounds simple, obvious, and pointless, right?

Well I tried it out while practicing for some recording work next week. I set the timer on my exercise bike (since I don’t practice in the kitchen) for 15 or 20 minutes and just played one tune over and over. Then I did it again for another tune I was working on. It was a good way to feel how 15 or 20 minutes of playing the same thing felt. It reminded me of breathing exercises, where you breathe in and out for 10 or 30 seconds to try to memorize in your body what that feels like.

Normally, I bounce from tune to tune, song to song when I practice. I do this to keep the “natural” flow of playing in mind, making my rehearsal somewhat like a performance. I have heard several classical guitar players and instructors advise that a musician should not practice the same piece repeatedly so that it doesn’t become mechanical or rote. The idea is to keep coming back to each piece with fresh focus and energy.

As I thought about how to practice for my recording session next week, I considered the one unique challenge in a studio: repetition. You got to record the same tune for five, six, ten takes. Sometimes you got to start a take over. You can’t bounce back and forth having your engineer set up one take, then set up for the next tune. In other words, you need to be ready to record the same track for thirty to sixty minutes and maintain your groove through all that repetition. That is a challenge that you will only find in a recording session, and it might ambush you if you’re not ready for it.

So I thought of my friend Wendy’s suggestion that was lying around on the corner of my brain, waiting to be used. Musicians, give it a try and see if it helps your stamina and groove. The one thing I found was that I was thinking really fast trying to notice mistakes so that I could fix them on the next go around. No stopping for a break to noodle and catch my breath, just keep playing for 20 minutes straight. No stopping to tinker with the metronome to try a different speed, just play that tune solid.

I kind of like it. Give it a try,and let me know what you think.

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