By: Konner Scott
I had a conversation with my brother shortly after the New Year hit. He was discussing how, instead of setting a bunch of New Year’s resolutions, he was opting to define themes for the year instead. I asked him why, and he pointed to the data that suggest the vast majority of people don’t stick to their New Year’s resolutions. He told me that by creating “themes” for his life, he was giving himself room for failure and imperfection, and didn’t feel beholden to a perfect resolution record.
After some thought, I’ve decided I like his approach, so here are three music-based themes I’m taking with me into 2022:
1. Practice slower.
I’m a speed demon at heart. Left to my own devices (and a metronome), I will take the material I’m working on and practice it at light speed. I’ll make an effort to play it as fast as I possibly can, regardless of how sloppy or loose my playing is.
This past year, I did a lot of research on effective practice, and one of the things that turned up was the idea that practicing slowly, clearly, and deliberately is a MUCH better way to achieve quick results than always practicing at the edge of your comfort zone. Of course, you’ll need to play fast sometimes. It’s the only way to ensure that you can play a song at full speed and still incorporate all the necessary fine details. Ever since putting more of an emphasis on slow and deliberate playing during my practice sessions, though, I’ve noticed that my quick playing has gotten even quicker, without losing any clarity or articulation. I’d like to do more of that this year.
2. Cut out the noise.
Okay, this one is more broadly applicable than just music, but I’m bringing it up because it applies here too. In our culture, we are constantly inundated with background noise. Advertisements, electronic devices, social media… There are a million ways to be distracted, even if you want to avoid distraction. I admit that I fall prey to these distractions far too easily. As I set my music related goals for the year – pieces I want to play; songs I’d like to write and produce; singers I’d like to work with; etc – I’m realizing that between my job, my personal life, and my music goals, my attention will ALREADY be split a million different ways. I don’t need to water it down any more, so this year I’ll be making an effort to cut back on all the things that dilute my life instead of enhancing it.
3. Develop a more structured routine.
If you’ve been reading my blog posts, you know how strongly I feel about the power of routine, particularly in the practice room! Shamefully, I must admit that I’ve slackened on my own. I sort of just jump into whatever I’m playing, work on it until I get bored, and then move on to the next thing. Sure, it’s better than not practicing at all, but I feel much more scattered in my practice than I’ve felt at my best. This year, I’d like to return to the more structured practice routines I used to set for myself.