By: Konner Scott
I’ve written before about how consistent practice is much better than long chunks of time sporadically and sparsely peppered throughout your week. I’d like to follow up on that here by discussing a recent experience of mine.
For the last three or four months, I’ve been taking jazz piano lessons with a former Atlanta jazz piano legend. As a classical player, these lessons have pushed me in really interesting ways. I’ve had to learn to think and play in a manner that I’m quite uncomfortable with, and my teacher has challenged my paradigms about what makes a good musician at every turn.
A lot of the work we’ve been doing is building a “chord library”. My teacher is having me run chord voicing in every key at a certain speed, in an effort to infuse those chord shapes into my playing. At first, I struggled greatly with this, and resisted practicing. I would get around to them once every couple days, and while I was making slow progress, I found it to be frustrating.
After a couple weeks, I remembered my own teaching philosophy (and former blog post), and committed to daily work on these chord shapes. I promised myself that even if I was only able to squeeze in ten minutes a day, I would apply myself for those ten minutes, just to try to convince my brain that this stuff was important. I found that, as a music teacher, gaps between lessons were a great opportunity to work in some practice time. I would aim to do this 2-3 times a day, and I quickly found that even though I wasn’t practicing much more per week than I had been before, I was retaining the information much better and learning new chords much more quickly.
The other realization I had was that playing multiple times throughout the day was hugely beneficial. Stepping away from the material, and then coming back and trying it from scratch, forced me to get better at jumping right into the learning process. As a result, I’m finding myself able to sit down and immediately start picking out chords, instead of needing to warm up and get my brain & fingers moving first.
This has been so helpful that now, before I go to sleep, I’ll take out the tiny 48-key keyboard I keep next to my bed and run a few chords. It doesn’t take much time, but taking three to four consistent short study sessions throughout the day has made a tremendous difference in how quickly I learn!