Jason Sidwell introduces yet another feature packed Lessons section.
“I CAN’T CONCENTRATE on it properly and I panic. I’ll probably have to learn it from scratch by taking it right back to basics.” So said UK Olympic diver, Tom Daley regarding his performance of a difficult 2.5 somersault with 2.5 twist routine in a piked position.
In many respects, sport has a more expansive approach for physical and psychological improvement than the world of music. Probably a good job too considering the huge hurdles (sometimes literally) and life endangering requirements sports people face to ‘get good’! That said, we musicians can draw on their training approach to reach the next stage of excellence.
Mulling on Tom’s quote is a case in point. Often we can be in a situation where we need to deliver the goods and we sadly ‘goof it’. Maybe it involved ‘school boy’ errors, heat of the moment stuff. Quite possibly we hadn’t tried to duplicate in practice what we needed to do on stage; not standing up, too much looking at the fretboard instead of an audience, not playing along to the CD enough times to emulate a gig’s environment.
Then there’s the easier to sort problem; just not enough of the right type of practice was done. Worst of all is the burning desire to getting the solo/ riff/whole song up to tempo too soon. Running before we walk is a recipe for disaster and prone to having a very detrimental effect on your whole outlook to making music. Not good.
This is where ‘slow = fast’ proves invaluable and it’s always best done first, not as a pursuit following a bad gig: prevention is better than cure! First, work through the music, getting it into half decent shape. Next, spend quality time determining where the hiccups are that will deny you performance excellence. To fix the hiccups requires several separate practice sessions to deeply programme the physical motions at very slow tempos. Programming in a relaxed state means you’re not overly stressing your body or your mind. Getting it right slowly and consistently not only provides a strong technique foundation but also mental confidence.
So try the 80/20 rule; 80% of the time practice slowly so you’ve got all the playing requirements covered then 20% of the time ‘taste’ a higher tempo. This ‘taste’ is important as it gives you a vision of what you’re striving towards. As Tom realises, it’s better to thoroughly embrace the basics rather than have a bad performance fuel the need to revise what you do!