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Lesson 5: Practicing

Channelling/ Using Your Energy

When you start a practicing session, start working on an important topic right away. Often you're most inspired and able to concentrate when you start practicing, and you can't afford to waste that energy. The time to run scales up and down is when you're tired and can't do anything else. Concentrate on what you're doing when you're practicing, try not to think about anything else than what you're working on.

Being Diverse

Diversity is important. Try to learn a bit of everything. There's horizontal and there's vertical development. You want both of course, but don't get stuck with only the horizontal kind...

A student asked a teacher: "Do I have to learn this?" The teacher answered: "You don't have to learn this, but you're going to have to compete with those who did."

Focusing on One Topic at a Time

Work on one topic at a time. This may be for example:

  • II-V-I licks
  • bossa nova comping rhythms
  • different ways to play a blues turn-around
  • rhythm changes
  • a tune you have to learn
It is important to choose a small area at a time to focus on. Randy Halberstadt refers to this method as "target bombing" ( an excellent metaphor) in his book Metaphors for the Musician.

A Practicing Routine

It is important to develop an addiction to practicing. You have to push yourself to the point where not practicing makes you feel sick. Continuous homework/ woodshedding on a day-to-day basis is the only way to continuous growth as a musician. Becoming a master jazz musician/ improviser is a life-long pursuit and the ultimate goal: unity of the body - the mind - the soul can only be felt "just around the corner", no matter how good you get, it's always going to remain just beyond your reach, I guess...

Check out my Notes from the Woodshed ( the Dojo)! May it inspire you and give you tips for your own practicing...

Why Practicing Regularly Is Important

I like to think of practicing as being largely about three things:

  • Developing and maintaining technical facility/ "fitness" on the instrument
  • Developing new tools - new concepts and techniques - different "new ways to solve old problems"
  • Developing the ear and the connection between hearing things and being able to play them on the instrument

So, How Much Should You Practice?

It may seem you can't practice too much ( or even enough for that matter). Somebody has estimated that to really master a craft like playing an instrument one has to put about 15.000 hours into it. That means playing/ practicing three hours a day for 15 years. It is, however, hard to concentrate on practicing for several consecutive hours.

  • Try to spread your practicing time evenly over the days of the week
  • Also try to have several shorter practicing sessions a day instead of many hours in a row

2004 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.