As a budding young musician, my life was full of scales and technique – hours of practice with my fingers running up and down piano keys and later, guitar fretboards. Faithfully drilling minute movements into my muscle memory.
It wasn’t fun.
It was arduous, repetitive and boring. Yet it was home base for my fingers.
Muscle memory soon took over, rooting me in dexterity, flexibility and musical adaptation.
Like tying one’s shoelace, repetition gives a secure knot without much thought.
The routine practice of technique keeps me grounded through the ongoing cascade of rhythms and unpredictable changes inherent in playing music.
Just as a good foundation makes a good home, practice makes for possibility.
To flourish in musical assertiveness requires technique, and how we choose to practice directly affects our adaptability by growing our confidence.
In the studio, there’s an exercise I use to help musicians grow in confidence and concentration. When they practice, I deliberately play dissonant notes and arrhythmic beats beside them to help them remain on track with their performance.
With often hilarious and train wreck results, it disciplines them to focus on the core of what they’re playing and not be distracted.
Whether live or in the studio, there’s no end of distractions.
Ask any musician who has played a noisy rowdy bar, or a quiet indifferent church service. Relying on the foundation of musical muscle memory for orientation in disorientation comes with practice, especially in discordant situations.
“We are what we repeatedly do.” opined Aristotle.
Repetition, though boring and seemingly lacking in direction, provides the deep roots necessary for assured dexterity when cacophony blows strong.
Practice Precedes Perseverance.
The featured image is courtesy of Tom Darin Liskey and used with his permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.