Thursday, August 03, 2006

practicing, not noodling

The fingertips on my left hand ache. I am purposefully developing calluses. I just finished my second serious practice session on mandolin in as many days. And I'm hearing results already!

I'm almost ashamed to say, I don't know if I've practiced an instrument consistently for about five years or more. Sure I've played through songs here and there, but the intent was more to amuse myself, which didn't always work because I'd stumble over a passage, my fingers would feel awkward, the left hand didn't always care what the right hand was doing. Same with flute, only substitute the breath, the embouchure (lip position), and the fingers.

My music teachers were right. The only way to be good is to practice, practice, practice. And it must be mindful practice; it's a thinking process. The result: you teach your body the song, and whatever body parts are required to play the song. The song, and the movements that are parts of countless other songs, become second nature, like breathing.

Today I listened, I repeated, I worked slowly before I worked up to speed. I played a passage until the rich, dark, luscious tone of my instrument shone through. I played until I could play unconsciously. I listened. And after a while, I liked what I heard. Then, satisfied with a serious workout, I let myself noodle around, playing tunes I knew, playing whatever was in my head. And you know what? Even the noodling sounded better.

Practice, practice, practice. I need to make it a part of me again.


pablo said...

I thought noodling was catching fish with your bare hands. Now I've learned something new.

Floridacracker said...

I am of course, clueless in any discussion of music, but I still enjoyed your enjoyment.

LauraHinNJ said...

Magic when it all comes together, isn't it?

I thought piano was difficult, but learning the tin whistle and having to add in breath control has been pretty challenging!

Glad you're hearing the reward of all that practice - wish I could too!

Deb said...

pablo- I guess I learned something new too.

FC- I'm glad I could convey that so even a musically clueless person could get something from it!

Laura- when I first started playing the flute (age 12 I think) I would get dizzy after about a minute. Now I take the whole breathing aspect of playing for granted, but it must be something else to learn totally from scratch, as an adult. Good luck with your playing!

barefoot gardener said...

Thanks for writing this post! I have been trying to self-teach the guitar (a painfully slow process), and this was just the inspiration I needed to get off my duff and go practice!