Year of the Shed (2012)

The ShedAfter a few tumultuous years in a row, it is time for me to settle down and hit the shed. I am thankful to have worked with so many creative artists over the years; it’s time to close the practice room door and focus on my own art.

Practice is the Path. The Path is Practice.

Here are the seven guidelines:

1) mindfulness and sincerity

2) every day

3) (no electronics)

4) Shugyo

5) read

6) log

7) private

The most important aspect of quality practice is to be fully aware of both your effort and the subsequent results. Mindfulness is a skill that is difficult to attain and even harder to sustain, but critical to growth in any artistic field. Sincerity of purpose is easier to achieve, but is often fleeting and superficial. We should not practice for fame or popular acceptance; we should strive to practice for its own sake. Practice is the Path. Enjoy the challenges and the frustrations; embrace the suffering.

Another extremely difficult aspect of practice is to complete a session every day, not most days, but EVERY DAY. The future is a myth, there is no tomorrow. Really.

I will be incorporating a new aspect to my practice this year, no electronics. As the pilot says, “if it has an on/off switch, please make sure it is in the off position.” Not sleep mode or silent. Power down. Addictive distractions have been avoided since the beginning of time. I will try to learn from the wisdom of our ancestors.

Shugyo, (literal definition: “daily practice”) has become a word I associate with my own creative exercises for the trumpet. I find it helpful to practice self generated etudes, exercises and compositions in order to develop an individual voice as an artist. Often I will continue with live composition (improvisation) along similar lines as these unique exercises. (more on Shugyo)

As an educated artist, I continue to read books related to my field. This is extremely valuable to my creative work; knowledge is food for the muse. And yes, they have to be physical items, you know… books. (review guideline number 3)

Back as an undergraduate music major, when I first held myself truly accountable for my own practice, I began to record my work in a practice log. For me, it’s very simple. I write down the date, instrument, start and end time (always rounded down to the 5 minute mark). Some people write detailed goals and lists, it doesn’t really matter, whatever is helpful. This act becomes a physical representation of your effort. Even when you may be on a virtual plateau of artistic growth, the log represents a tangible effort, something that can keep your ship moving through the calm winds.

Finally, keep it to yourself. I know that’s a bit ironic on an open blog post… but it’s true. Your practice is personal. No one really cares how or what you do, as long as your results are aesthetically pleasing. Practice is Religion. Have faith in your practice.

Remember, the secret to longevity in a music career is to do it for a long time.

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