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  • Writer's pictureThomas Doggett

Practicing and not practicing

I've been thinking a lot lately about practicing and not practicing. I know, I know: taboo for even thinking about not practicing. But let's be honest: we'd all love to have the John Coltrane schedule but we don't AND I'll take it a step further and say that it might not be the answer. I love practicing. I love routine. But I hate staleness. Two influential artists said it best. Tony Levin said in his book Beyond the Bass Clef "If you're not going to focus while practicing, don't bother." He's right. If you're not 100% in the moment, you're wasting your time. In a Guitar World magazine interview with Vernon Reid in the early 90's, Vernon presented a list of the ten things every musician should do. The first nine talk about practicing and the tenth one was: "Go smell the flowers." Music is life and if you don't have a life to put into your instrument, what are you playing? Growth as a person is just as important as growth as a musician. There is a definite athletic side to being a musician that requires routine and stamina. But music isn't all mechanics. It's also beauty and heartbreak, a great meal, a road trip , a conversation with a family member, a job that puts food on the table. I haven't been doing a lot of practicing the past few months because of my new teaching job and classes but despite that, I've been playing really well. It's a balance. I did a ton of practicing and playing the first half of the year and then my life shifted. Rather than fight it and force the old routine, I embraced it knowing that I was doing what was important at the moment. My horn isn't going anywhere and the new year gives me new opportunity to grow. Don't be so hard on yourself and instead be in the moment.

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