Reframing Your Relationship to Practice
Updated: Oct 8, 2022
Hello, good morning (almost), and welcome to the Saturday Morning News Post.
I had an enjoyable conversation with jazz bassist & educator Jodi Proznick during my last 'Monday Midday Chat' on Instagram. Unfortunately, I didn't 'share' it immediately and it vanished before I could.
One of my recurring themes in these chats is learning how different people approach practicing music. I asked Jodi about practicing and specifically about the 'never enough' mindset musicians can fall into. There are always so many things we could/should practice, and they all require a lot of time to really "get," and sometimes it's simply overwhelming. Add to that the perceived canyon between where you are (musically speaking) and where you want to be, or perhaps where you think you should be, and it can be both overwhelming and depressing. Yeesh!! And we thought music would be fun!
I've been there. And I've seen many (if not all) students there at some point in their development. And when I asked Jodi for her advice to students in this state of mind, the answer wasn't a subtle adjustment. It wasn't "You need to narrow your focus to 3-4 things" or "Create a weekly schedule to maximize your practice time" or "Just play with recordings more" (all of which are valid of course).
Nope. The answer was "You need to reframe your entire relationship to music and practicing."
To me, this answer was the underlying truth. The thing that must be addressed before getting into the finer points of effective practicing. If practicing gets to be a challenging relationship, reframe the relationship.
I know, I know... how do we do this?
Well, I didn't think to ask Jodi that question during our chat, but having given it some thought, my answer today is this: We must decide what we want out of music. We must decide what relationship we want to have with music and pursue that relationship each and every time we engage with it. Essentially, we have to practice a positive connection to music.
And even to me this phrase sounds odd. "Practice a positive connection..." what?!? Of course it should be a positive connection! Why wouldn't it be positive? It's MUSIC!?!
But it's SO easy for things to go sideways. You discover playing music at some point. It's awesome. You listen to great musicians. They're awesome. You start practicing to get better. You get better. Then you get good enough to realize just how much work needs to be done to even approach the level of artistry of your idols. Then you work even harder, but progress is slow, and patience can dwindle. And all along you are looking steely-eyed at that chasm between how good you are and how great you want to be. IT CAN BE A LOT, MAN!
So yes. Reframe it. Reframe it today, and practice that positive connection every time you have the blessed opportunity to sit down and practice. It doesn't mean you work any less, and it doesn't mean you progress any faster. It means, you will have your priorities straight, and the #1 priority is to enjoy music and be thankful for any opportunity to play it.
What do I want out of music? I want to enjoy it. I want freedom within it. I want the sustenance it gives my soul. And yes, I want to get better... so, so, sooo much better. But I want to "want to get better" for the right reasons. Not because my ego needs it. Not because my self-worth relies on it. But because the better I get, the more joy, freedom, and sustenance I discover. And so, I will practice with intention in that direction. I must practice choosing that direction, every time.
Is there anything you feel needs "reframing" in your life or in your musical journey? Feel free to let me know in the comments section.
Thanks again to Jodi for her time and insight last week and thank YOU for reading.
Have a great week everyone!
(Above painting: Pere Borrell del Caso (1835-1910), Escaping criticism, 1874, in trompe l’oeil painted frame. Collection of the Banco de España, Madrid)