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  • James Danderfer

Lessons Learned and the "Tight 20"



Welcome to the Saturday Morning New Post y'all!!


I'll be honest with you, after making the big announcement to my mailing list that I would return to Saturday Morning Blogs, I'm feeling a fair amount of pressure. Even though there are likely only five or six of you reading this... you've experienced a difficult, drawn-out, Danderfer drought. And your thirsty. Really. Thirsty.


So, I made numerous attempts here and scrapped all of it, because damnit, you deserve better. So instead, I'm going to recap why I stopped writing blogs, why that was a silly decision, and how I not only plan to make more time for writing going forward, but also use it to help my growth in music. More on that later.


First of all, writing articles takes time. I'm sure that's no surprise to you. The 1st draft of anything is boring, the 2nd draft starts to get its focus, and only the 3rd or 4th draft even begins to be entertaining to read, at which point I run out of time, and hit the "publish" button. And that's fine, I enjoyed the work, I enjoyed the tangible weekly accomplishment, and I enjoyed getting my thoughts "on paper." I even enjoyed sharing those somewhat personal thoughts and opinions with the world at large, which is odd given how private I am otherwise (just ask my wife to whom, when she heads out for a 'girls night' I will sing "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone." And she'll ask "What shouldn't I talk about?" And I'll say "You know, anything about me/us that's personal." and she'll say "What do you consider personal?" to which I will reply "EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING IS PERSONAL!"... I'm just a treat to be married to.)


However, I began to question the worthiness of this exercise when I noticed how often I was writing about not having enough time to practice. And one day it hit me, "Wait a minute. I'm a musician, not a writer, and yet here I am, writing with more diligence week-in and week-out than I apply to my music." And rather than assess what lessons I could learn from my writing regimen and apply them to my music practice habits, I just threw up my hands and said "F*ck it! I'm out! Problem solved."


Only, you guessed it... the problem wasn't solved at all because even once I had freed myself from the commitment to blogging, I still struggled to find enough time to practice! I lost out on the joy of writing for hardly any perceptible gain to my music, partly because I didn't look at the issue fully and just tried a quick fix. And once I broke the cycle of weekly writing, well, the momentum wasn't there any more. So here, in hindsight, are a few lessons to learn from this:


  1. Deadlines in smaller, regular increments. The Saturday Morning News Post articles I wrote weren't that long, and they weren't masterpieces, but they were pretty solid and could be written every week. And every week was regular enough to keep it on my mind in the midst of, you know, life.

  2. Accountability. The title was Saturday Morning News Post and I put it out to the world that I would update it every week. Not just a few friends or family members, THE WORLD, which, yes, included a lot of friends and family, but also just other musicians, sometimes younger, sometimes older pros that I looked up to.

  3. Perhaps most important: Enjoyment. I enjoyed the process, and therefore it was easy to take the time out to do it.


So with this in mind, I'm going to try something out for the next few weeks. I'm going to post a blog on Saturdays, about anything that's on my mind, but no matter what the subject is, I'm going to start off with a review of my practicing for the week, and I'm going to invite you to think about if there's anything that you'd like to be doing regularly but aren't able to find the time for. I know, that's vague, I don't have a masterplan here, but just think about it. Perhaps something will come to you.


My goal this week is to get at least 20 minutes of practice in daily. I've devised a routine, which I call the "Tight 20" (I know, sooo clever), composed of four 5-minute sections, which I find enjoyable and yields results. The breakdown is: 5 minutes on tone exercises, 5 minutes of technique, 5 minutes improvising on a standard, and 5 minutes working on new "melodic vocabulary." If that doesn't make sense to you, don't worry about it, the point is that it's short (making it easier to actually knock out on a daily basis) and very focused, so I'm not wasting time and actually feel that progress was made. The tools I like to have on hand are: a timer, a metronome, a tuner, and if possible, a mirror.

I have some ideas of how to build on the basic 20, but for this week, 20 minutes a day and we'll meet back next Saturday.


If you have something you're working on, or want to work on, in a similar fashion, post a comment and let me know. Accountability people! Accountability. Fun. And Small Deadlines.

Thank you so much for reading, and see you next week!


[Above painting: An Old Man Writing a Book by Candlelight, Godfried Schalcken. Dutch Baroque Era Painter (1643 - 1706)]


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