I began studying the guitar when I was seven years old. I hated my teacher and I didn't practice much, but when I changed teachers' and I went to Joe Geneli, I regained a love for the guitar that I first had when I was four years old when I first saw Roy Rogers sing and play. It was with Joe that I began to practice. I found an hour a day was sufficient, but as I got older and the music he gave became harder, I practiced longer.
When I was fourteen I switched to Sal Salvador
. Sal was pretty well known in the fifties and sixties and it was the right move for where I was as a guitarist. Sal gave me a slew of books, which included the Arbans Trumpet Method, Johnny Smith Aides to Technique and many more. My practice routine during the school year went up to five to six hours a day. I would practice early in the morning before school. Two hours after, break for homework, sports and dinner and resume practicing at about 8:30pm. During the summers I was practicing up to twelve hours a day. I wanted to be as good if not better than Johnny Smith
or Wes Montgomery
or any of the greats of that day. As I got older my points of reference became John Coltrane
, Eric Dolphy
, Thelonius Monk
, Cecil Taylor
, Albert Ayler
and all the players that moved me.
Through all of this, not one teacher taught me how to improvise or explained advanced harmony and theory. I took this upon myself to learn and it was part of my practice routine along with learning tunes and chord melodies.
When I became a full time musician and worked six nights a week till 4 AM in the morning, I would practice five to six hours before going to work. In 1963 with the emergence of the Beatles, every kid wanted to play guitar. Before you know it I had 110 students. It took away from my practicing, but I managed to get a couple of hours in before my teaching began and I always played with the students.
I'm 71 now and I still practice some days more than others. Through the years there were times when I felt I needed to go to another level and I would put in eight hours per if I had the time. And it's still the same. If I feel I need to get to another level, I go back to practicing longer hours.
I also spend a lot of time focusing on music. What I mean by that is, I hear music all the time in my head. I mentally practice all the time and before I re-harmonize or arrange a standard, or compose, I think about it and hear it first, so when I'm ready, it just flows through me. The same goes for writing this article. I thought about it for a long time and now the words are flowing on to the paper.
While I was thinking about this article, I thought it would be a good idea to contact some of my friends and see if they felt the same as I did. I asked only two questions:
1. Do you still practice and how much?
2. What do you practice?
I contacted a lot of musicians never expecting such a response. If everyone had answered me, this would have been a book instead of an article. Some answers were short and some were extremely long and some were hilarious.
I was amazed by some of the answers and I think you will be too.
Some of the artists are famous and some you may not have heard of, but that really doesn't matter. What matters is the dedication. I am truly touched and very hopeful for the future of jazz by these responses.
I placed the answers and artists under instrumental category. Because I am a guitarist and know a lot of guitar players, I posted the guitarists' comments last. Piano Hal Galper
Who's got time to practice? Actually, for that very reason, I just resigned from Purchase Conservatory. Been taking up too much of my time for practicing, composing and booking the trio as well as having any kind of personal life. Keeping my Monday New School gig though.
This is my practicing methodology: I usually avoid it as much as possible. I get up and check my emails & respond. Make some calls, fix some shit around the house, go to the bank & post office, do the day's grocery shopping. Get back home, have a late lunch, take a nap, get up and watch MSNBC news while making dinner, watch my favorite TV shows that night, read a book while the ads are on, by that time it's around 11 or 12 pm and I sit there wondering what I can do next and all of sudden it occurs to me "PLAY THE PIANO!" I go to the piano and just start and what ever problem I stumble into I deal with and the next thing I know it's 2 am and I go to bed. Michael Jefry Stevens
I practice whenever I get a chance.Unfortunately that is normally not every day. Lately my practice time is taken up by:
1. Working on tango music (I am currently in the Asheville Tango Orchestra);
2. Working on my own compositions;
3. Studying different composersclassical, Brazilian, Jazz, Broadway composers.