Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Fancy and Mindless Practice

Just before the Summer blast set in, I rediscovered a long forgotten technique for practicing my guitar; TV practice. Yep, that's right. You plop down on the couch, flip through the channels, find a bad program, and let the aimless wandering begin. I can't tell you how many compositional ideas I have stumbled on this way over the years. This sort of exercise facilitates mindless practice, an altered state if you will, where the subconscious rises to the top and assumes control. Now, I am in no way advocating this method as your PRIMARY practicing routine, it is just a way to shake up the grind and allow the whimsy a little space to groove.

For me, with the limited time that I have, the tendency is to get bogged down by the time crunch and fall into the required regimen of having to work on this piece or that in preparation for this concert or that recording. As a professional it is very easy to forget how to 'play' the guitar. Since I am in full time Dad mode for the Summer, my free (and work) time has been drastically depleted (all for the great), however, when I do have time to practice, it has become my freedom to explore, to alleviate the pressure, and to unwind. The usual persistent, disciplined practice has been temporarily put on hold, and the pure fun has returned. I tell you now, this expanded space has only benefited my playing. A little bit of letting go can go a long way. Try it.

TV practice can also turn the redundant repetition of working on a particularly difficult passage or technique into a very effective and efficient routine for improvement. When you pull away that intense, focused attention, things fall into place in the most unexpected ways. I often think of a classical guitarist I new in college. He went on to study at Juilliard and ultimately became a GFA (a very prestigious guitar competition) winner, and  he played the most flawless scales I ever heard. He was an occasional TV practicer. I would be willing to bet that there are many more top flight players out there who have employed this ancient technique.

Of course these days, you have a massive library of bad TV, reality shows, movies, and scattered media, at your fingertips by way of YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, and the like. The possibilities are endless and there is no excuse for not getting something done. So, take a break, and get down to some serious mindless practice.

I got a ton done late the other night watching this...

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