Practice Starts With P – and Practice Makes Permanent

Persistence, that is, to keep practicing.

I was mostly self-taught as a child. Sure I learned how to read music through playing trumpet in the school band and singing in choirs, but I taught myself piano and guitar because the instruments were around and I always played them.

Because instruments were games and gateways of expression to me, I never really felt like practice was an obstacle to be avoided. In fact, the resistance from family saying I made a lot of noise probably gave me some motivation, from a reverse-psychology perspective, but I was compelled to always play with feeling. As a disclaimer, I wholeheartedly encourage private musical instruction. The time I wasted developing and fixing bad habits could have been better used learning to play more and more music.

However, with lessons or not, I feel the fundamental requirements are the same for everyone, regardless of ability or knowledge. These all happen to start with the letter P, which practice also begins with.

The four “P”s of Practice:
• Perspective
• Persistence
• Patience
• Playfulness

Perspective is necessary because one must know where they’re at and where they’re going and what’s reasonable. This is perhaps, one of the most important reasons for a private teacher. Group lessons are not in and of themselves bad, but a private teacher understands where the student is and what that student needs to do in order to improve.

Persistence is the sense of attraction to a goal or ideal. I think Persistence is a quality most useful when you’re not practicing. It’s a motivating force to draw someone into practice. Once you’re practicing, I find that patience is more useful.

Patience is the understanding and faith that progress will be more rapid if one takes their time. In practicing piano, there is very little pain and there is no direct correlation between making a mistake and pain. This might seem confusing, but a real-world example is quite clear. When one touches an open flame, the pain is felt and one quickly learns never to do that again. With piano, one must be aware that the only pain is the loss of time that trickles by with impatient practice. Patience must be balanced with Persistence to be truly effective. Occasionally one can and should attempt to play at full-speed to see how much progress has been made.

Playfulness is perhaps the forgotten component. Playfulness shouldn’t be confused with the wasting of time. In fact a lot of the greatest scientific achievements have been the fruits of playfulness and playfulness alleviates stress, serving to play better music and alleviate stress long-term. Being playful while practicing can be quite productive. Suppose a melodic (one note at a time) phrase is difficult. Through being playful, one could change the rhythm of the melody. One could raise the melody and follow the contours of the melody through different keys creating different moods, all while exercising the fingers and developing muscle memory of how to play that sequence of notes.

As a closing note, one could summarize this way: Persistently go practice, but while practicing, be patient and playful and be leery of pain. Pain is not one of the P’s. And beware – whatever is practiced becomes habit, which is the new adage, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent.”

Let me know if you’d like more information about private lessons with me.

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Between Boredom and Busyness: “Being”

This post is not directly about music, though it is directly applicable to the musician and is especially relevant to the practicing musician. I encourage you to think about what mode you are in predominately and what puts you in the different modes of being.

All great musicians practice. They never quit. Sure that is an assumption, perhaps a great assumption, but I can assure you that two musicians I wholeheartedly respect, Herbie Hancock and Jeff Beck continue to hone their craft and as I like to say, expand their freedom to express themselves.

Being alive is a tremendous privilege and these great musicians don’t take their lives for granted. Their passion is expressing themselves through their instruments and they realize that freedom to express themselves, musically, requires “practice”. I can relate to you how I feel when I practice, which I’ve always done – even before I took lessons. When I am having a fulfilling time practicing, I find that I feel as though I am just “being.” I don’t feel bored and I don’t feel overwhelmed. I refer this as the balance,

Between Boredom and Busyness is “Being”

Being is a great place. It’s a peaceful patient place in which getting there is not the primary point, though keeping an end goal does keep the practice fruitful and rewarding. Practice in a “being” mindset brings out playfulness. You can get off the guided trail once in awhile and move the patterns around…perhaps change up the rhythm. Practicing can be partnered with play. This is being. Unfortunately many of us spend much of our time either bored or overwhelmed with busyness. I’ll assume I don’t need to describe what those feel like. I have to remind myself that when I feel bored, I can find joy through playing music, which often brings me back to “being.”

Things that prevent “being”
• thinking too far down the road
• expecting too much too soon
• being too hard on oneself

Exercise:
• Choose a small phrase that is somewhat difficult.
• Play the phrase one note at a time moving to the next note only when you are sure how to play that next note.
• Repeat this patient playing of the phrase until it feels somewhat familiar and comfortable.
• Repeat the phrase, but on a higher register without feeling the need to exactly transpose the phrase, but rather, play with it.
• Go back to the original notes and this time, play with the rhythm.

The goal should prevent any boredom – and with patience and persistence being the goals of practice (yes, my 3 P’s mentality), you should find yourself simply “being!”

For private lessons, contact me at info@dougharemusic.com

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Honky Tonk Time

Doug’s rockin’ with Bryan and Jon

Friday, August 2, Doug will be playing at the Shrunken Head’s Honky Tonk Happy Hour headed up by amazing songwriter Matt Monta.  There are happy hour specials on beer and pizza and Matt starts about 6:30.  Doug starts about 7.  Come out to hear mostly originals and a few covers.

Shrunken Head
http://www.theshrunkenhead.net/
251 W. Fifth Ave
Columbus OH 43201

Later today Doug will be playing solo piano for a wedding and cocktail reception at Brookshire Event center near Delaware and enjoys teaching piano and guitar through the week.

Hope to see you out and about and thanks for your support, each and every one of you!

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One Year In…

I’m not sure about the exact date, but it’s been roughly one year since I quit the proverbial day job.  Sure I’ve always been a musician, I’ve made a significant amount of my income via music, but sometimes one overextends himself and finds himself on a route more scenic than anticipated.

I’m proud to say though, I’ve found more gigs than ever, more students and finished my album Fading Negatives.  Feel free to listen to samples and even purchase via the link below.
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/doughare

 

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Notes are just…

…the limitation, not the destination

I do a lot of thinking about the process of learning music and playing music – whether formally or by ear.  I work with a lot of beginning musicians who are stuck to the book and I encourage them to get a feel for simply playing by running improvisation exercises.  The ultimate goal is to recognize a sense of playing freely and then taking that sense of freedom to a piece that’s already composed.  This is what I mean when I say “notes are just the limitation, not the destination.”  That means, the notes are very important and must be respected, but it also means so much more must be brought to the table to bring those notes to life.  I hope to write more at length on this subject.  Let me know your thoughts!

Doug

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Let’s Play (the keyboard)

  • With a few simple parameters, anyone can begin playing the piano and gain confidence and understanding along the way
  • The importance of playing without music: One will begin to appreciate that music is a language that can be intuited and imitated and playing an instrument is not simply limited to following blueprints, i.e. sheet music and method books.

How?

All right, let’s keep our books closed for the moment.  Does anyone know what a phrase is?  Oh, good, yes, a phrase is a musical sentence.  Did you know that we can make up our own phrases without knowing how to play?

I’m not saying you instantly have the know-how and ability to play anything you want, but you can play!  Let’s back up and think about how we, as people, learn to talk.  Do we wait until our parents and teachers show us the alphabet and then learn to build words out of the letters and then sentences out of the words?  Then why would we expect to learn to play music that way?  Ah, yes, many instruments are difficult at first simply to make sounds from that the only possible order to learn is by learning to make sounds first, followed by notes and then finally phrases.  However, on the piano, it is quite simple to make sounds.  One simply pushes down a key.

Since it is simple to make the sounds, why not learn music, at least part of the time, the way we learned to talk – by simply making sounds imitating what we’ve heard and what is in our imaginations and trying to make sense of the sounds we’ve created.

Guidelines

  • Sit centered behind the group of two black keys in the middle
  • Play only black keys
  • Play only one key at a time
  • Play on the high notes

 

Helpful Hints

  • Start simple
  • Imagine a rhythm before and while you play
  • Listen while you play
  • Remember that phrases each have a beginning, middle and end
  • Therefore there should be some moments when you are not making sound
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Time For My Songs

Over this past year, my life has endured some big changes.  I have been blessed with friends and resources to support me through this transition – both emotionally and financially – and I am pleased that I am in a place in life where I feel certain of the blessings of teaching and playing music for a living.  I feel confident that now is the time to start bringing more of my own songs into the world – as a performer and recording artist.  Soon I will release Fading Negatives which showcases my original material through amazing players such as Seth Daily, Kyle Maloney and Will Newsome.  I am seeking opportunities to play live, both as a soloist and with my amazing band featuring Austin Nill and Steve Perakis.  Please let me know if you’d like me to keep you informed about future gigs and album releases.

Graciously,
Doug Hare

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Far From Crawling

It’s been a very fortuitous Fall thus far.  I have been busy ramping up my teaching schedule, keeping busy with private solo events and rocking as a sideman with a couple different bands.  It seems rare to offer the occasion to invite people to hear me play my own music.  Fortunately if you’ve been itching to hear me play my original songs, the Indianola Art Crawl, happening  this upcoming Saturday, October 13th, is your perfect chance.  I am looking forward to playing in front of one of my local favorite record shops, Elizabeth’s Records, which is just south of the infamous Studio 35 movie theatre.

Poster for this Saturday’s Clintonville Art Crawl

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Back To School

This is an eventful time for children all around.  This is the time school resumes.  I will be starting a new position teaching part time at the new A+ Children’s Academy, which is a performing arts elementary school.  I will also soon be resuming classes at the Vineyard Community Center, which offers group keyboard lessons from children through adults, as well as a new music appreciation class for young children.  Visit Vineyard Community Center Events for more details.

This is also an ideal time to consider trying private piano, guitar or voice lessons.  I teach just north of Clintonville near Morse and Indianola.  Feel free to e-mail me at info@dougharemusic.com for more information.

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Thanks Golf Depot For A Wonderful Friday Evening

Last Friday night, I entertained at the Golf Depot, a relatively new establishment in Gahanna that is like a country club in that it has a driving range, miniature golf course and restaurant except it is missing one significant point – it is completely public and there are no membership dues. Their guests were very receptive and enthusiastic. Here is a short clip from the other evening.

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