Summer has ended some time ago and it’s time to start studying again.
Wait a minute. Who said that you don’t study during the summer? Nobody. Actually I assigned a lot of summer homework to my students and I am currently seeing them at school to find out what they did.
The only student who showed little diligence last summer is me. Here then is what I am doing to recover from three months of little (very little!) studying.
Let’s slow down. Let’s first analyze what caused my lack of diligence, so that I can actually start on the right foot from the very beginning. So, why did I study so little? There are at least three different reasons:
- the season: it was summer and I wanted to have fun. I spent wonderful days with my girlfriend visiting Spain – where I fully experienced the sea, the sun, and Sangria – and Ireland – where I fully experienced the sea, the clouds, and Guinness beer. When I wasn’t gallivanting around Europe, I was lounging at the beach, in the mountains, or just with friends around Italy. In other words, I saw my instruments very little.
What else I did other than having fun: other than having fun, I have become… drum roll…an accredited teacher!!! Thank you for the applause, it’s enough. The truth is that I finally completed the damn, useless, and humiliating process of accreditation. It has lasted three years and it has ended on July 2nd. The last few months were the worst as far as all those long hours spent studying and taking exams.
- Motivation: this one is for myself → reread How to start playing percussion instruments: 4 things you MUST have, – “thing” number 4. I will admit that in the past four months my level of motivation has definitely decreased for various reasons. The main one is probably a period of “artistic disorientation”. What is “artistic disorientation”? Let me give you an example. Imagine, that after studying your instruments for more than twelve years, you finally reach some of your goals, but you also quickly realize that the success of your professional life (as a musician) will no longer depend solely on how hard you keep studying and playing. For example, as a teacher of percussion instruments you realize that practicing audition pieces for six hours a day no longer makes much sense, especially if you believe you won’t participate in any more auditions, at least for the short term. What should you study then? Or better, why should you continue studying? Clearly the answer arrived to me almost immediately. All I had to do was start playing and studying for a couple of hours a day and I got it. The answer is: do you like playing? Yes. Then stop looking for answers and play, you fool!
After broadly analyzing the causes, let’s find out how it is indeed possible to resume studying:
- technique: “back to basics”, as old Dave Weckl would say in the title of one of the most famous manuals for drummers in the world. Go back to the basics, start from technique. Start from basic technique, especially concentrating on drum and keyboards. Simple things: single strokes, double strokes, paradiddles for the drum and double vertical strokes, permutations, scales, and improvisation for marimba and vibraphone. You need to reactivate your hands and the rest of your body. Your desire to play will awake at the same pace as your body.
- scheduling: other note to self –> it is included in the “9 Essential Tips for Percussionists”. Tip n. 2: learn to focus. Now that you are resuming the study of percussion instruments, don’t go in blindly. Use a strategy, schedule your week so that you exactly know what to study, for how long, and on what instrument. I still use the strategy of the four “objectives”, that I illustrate in my e-book: no more than two instruments a day and no more than four instruments a week and at the same time no more than two techniques and two pieces a day and no more than four a week. All of this has to be done in no more than a couple of hours a day, in my case in four half hours. Here is how I organized my study in the past two weeks:
Snare drum: basic technique (from the Mr. Stone’s book) and American Suite (Guy Gauthreaux). Congas: basic technique from the new book by Birger Sulsbrück.
Marimba: basic technique (from the Mr. Stevens’ book) and Two Mexican Dances, no. 2 (Gordon Stout). Drum set: technique and grooves from Groove Essentials 2 (Tommy Igoe)
Same as monday.
Same as tuesday.
Same as monday.
Same as tuesday
Relax – fiancé – fun – friends – guinnes pub
As you can see, I started with short pieces like Two Mexican Dances, no. 2, which is not an easy one but definitely not something that you can’t learn in a couple of weeks. It’s technique, technique, technique every day.
speak to other percussionists and other musicians. Don’t just read blogs from some slacker like me. I am not saying to create your own group of “Percussionists Anonymous” (Alcoholic Anonymous style) to share your artistic mishaps. Speaking to other musicians can inspire you to resume playing immediately. For me, a call to the other three crazy members of Oxygen Percussion Quartet is enough to renew my desire to play because there is always a new artistic project to develop, a concert to arrange, or a new piece to start studying. So get your drumsticks and start practicing. At least do it for the good of your group.
The same principle that applies to medicine applies to music: prevention is better than cure. So here are two tips on how to prevent future problems arising from a period of inactivity:
- it will happen again, it is inevitable. Sorry, I know it’s not a tip. I am actually telling you that you will go through periods of time in which, for one reason or another, you will study and practice very little. However, it is much better for you to be aware you are not invulnerable. It happens to everyone, even great musicians. And it will happen to you. Being aware will at least help you prevent the feeling of discouragement you will face.
- While on vacation, bring at least a pad and a pair of drumsticks. And practice.
Well, after these wise words of advice, I am going back to studying and, in case you had an “artistically challenged” summer like mine, have a happy new beginning!