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Elusive Spontaneity, Mooed Indigo

Elusive Spontaneity, Mooed Indigo
Mr. P.C. By

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Elusive Spontaneity

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Everybody talks about playing spontaneously like it's the ultimate goal. I guess I'm good with that onstage, but how am I supposed to practice it?

—Baffled in Buffalo


Dear Baffled:

First of all, don't set aside part of your day for practicing; that's the opposite of spontaneous. You need to practice when you're not ready, at a time so inconvenient that it's the last thing on your mind. But you can't just walk up to your instrument and start playing, because that's what you always do. Instead, stroll right past it, then sneak back up on it whenever you aren't ready to do so.

What should you practice? You probably think being spontaneous means playing whatever you feel, but that's a plan too! So play scales, licks or technical exercises—whatever isn't speaking to you at the time. Then, when you haven't had enough, quit.

Mooed Indigo

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I received an email about a gig two months away. An hour after it was sent, before I'd even had a chance to respond, I received another email telling me the date was already covered, so never mind. Why would someone be in such a hurry to cover a date that far away that he sent out a "cattle call"?

—Bessie's Blues


Dear Bessie:

A mass bcc gig email necessarily covers players with a wide range of abilities. With each "yes" reply the leader can immediately write off every musician worse than the responder, while holding off on actually confirming the responder until no one better is left. So the process takes place in stages, and as a result the better players may not know for quite some time whether they actually get the gig. But those like you who get a quick "no" receive a valuable assessment of their talent, and can get right to work finding gigs more appropriate to their skill level.

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