One tendency, I think, that dogs down the pace of learning for musicians is that of allowing vagaries to cloud one’s mind and therefore hamper the ability to be objective about musical materials and how to assimilate them. In other words, if you have all sorts of vague ideas about how to learn music you will crowd out the important, more objective thinking. When you actually get to the gig you can pour on the creative, artistic, even dreamy mindset that artists are especially known for. But in the practice room a musician needs to have a coldly calculated, one-track mind to learn all of the materials that are used on the gig.

This is the reason that I feel it is important for developing musicians to get smart about the learning process. If you go into the practice room with too much subjectivity about what you need to practice and how you will go about doing it, you will come out of it with less polished material for your gigs.

The claim that I would like to make about the course work for all of my students is that they will always come away from the lesson with a solid idea of what the material is that they are working on, how that material fits into the larger musical picture, and how it is they are going to be working on that material.

The final piece of the puzzle is how to evaluate oneself – how effectively are you practicing? For that you must have an experienced teacher and/or gig situations with like-minded players. Playing live music is the trial-by-fire that helps all musicians develop the judgement about how well they have the material down. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to have a multi-channel recording setup and a Grammy-winning recording engineer sitting at the console getting it all on disk for later listening, but let’s be reasonable!

Seriously, though, a great goal to strive for is to save the incense-burning and fortune-telling for somewhere else outside the practice space and always work to make the learning process more objective.

Let’s get to it!