Practice, Do You? Part 2-3

Dom Minasi By

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I usually begin with simple patterns, which come entirely from listening to myself at the moment. I will repeat a sequence of improvised notes until I feel that it's time to change one note, then another and another, until the sequence, pacing, rhythm, and tone have changed. This was taught to me by the great Jimmy Lyons.

Matt Lavelle

I have no choice but to practice because I play two very different horns in trumpet and alto clarinet. I have a full time retail job plus I'm taking two classes in school plus 2 yoga classes a week and gigs plus 2 students and a girlfriend plus my blog, but I still make as much time as possible which is often 1-2 hours a day no matter what.

Trumpet is always first. Trumpet is the foundation for cornet, fluglehorn, and pocket trumpet and I play them all. Trumpet is the most unforgiving horn in the world because the embouchure requires daily maintenance. Half of my practice is keeping my chops intact. It's been this way for 25 years and with slow progress it's taken me the entire time to get to where I actually want to be. My progress has been hindered by a full time job the entire time. I wish I had money in the bank but as always I subsist week to week. Looking to change that.

I gave up Bass clarinet for the time being because of these time constraints. I gave all my bass chops to the alto clarinet. I'm very focused on getting a real clarinet sound as taught to me by Sabir Mateen. I have a sound on this horn that has been cast aside by just about everyone and I'm not backing down from trying to establish it's legitimacy as a bonafide member of the great jazz horns.

After chops I practice speaking my own musical language in every key. I work on airflow, hot Yoga has changed everything. I take pieces of my favorite melodies, change them into every key and then change the note of resolution on a quest to be more lyrical on my own terms. I studied with Ornette Coleman and Harmolodics is the backbone of everything I do. Another reason to have an Eb horn like the alto, that's part of OC's master plan. At times I will practice playing songs and playing changes, but it has to be one's that I enjoy like Ellington and Strays. Monk on a fairly regular basis. After a few rounds of chords I get bored and have to open it up.

Joe McPhee

I do still practice, but not nearly as much as I should or need to. Normally I try to keep my chops up in order to get to ideas with as little thought as possible, thinking and consideration of choices and or consequences slow things down. The brass instruments require the most time and practice. A day off of the horn usually requires a week to get up to steam. I practice Long tones and ballads. Anybody can play a million notes faster than greased shit (if you'll pardon the gross and way too graphic expression and catch attention, but you can't hide in a ballad. In a ballad, you are totally exposed and naked.

Dave Douglas

I practice every day. My Laurie Frink routine takes 2 hours if I have the time! Then I practice the music I am writing and the music I have to learn. Writing is part of practicing for me, extending concepts and exploring curiosity. Also exercising other concepts related to my practice in every facet.

Jack Walrath

I still try to practice everyday. My routine comes out to between 2—3 hours a day. 2) I have an extensive warm-up. I mainly practice music. I do a lot of play-along's for a couple of hours. When I practice long tones I also am circular breathing.

Paul Smoker

I still practice 1.5-to 2-hours/day maintenance, and 4-5 hours close to a gig or concert. I work on fundamentals (trumpet players will know these sources):

1. From Schlossberg Daily Drills & Technical Studies—long tones, lip slurs & trills, extreme dynamics (ppp to fff), ranges exercises, etc.

2. From Clarke Technical Studies—1 to 4 complete sections extending into both "above high 'C'" and pedal registers, varying speed and dynamics.

3. Major and melodic minor scales and modes in every key into the high register and the pedal register (down to E, the lowest sounding note on the bass), and often diminished scales. ii-V-I arpeggios (cycles) in every key—start improvising on them.

4. The famous excerpt from Stravinsky Histoire du Soldat where 16ths are in groups of five, double-tonguing backwards. If it's clean my tonguing is cool for the day.

5. Maybe a tune or two to check playing on changes.

I'm always trying to work on tone, control, flexibility, and endurance. The goal is to be able to execute instantly what one hears. I rest as much as I play during these sessions. On the gig I do not play what I practice. In my studio I do not practice what I play.


Andrea Wolper

I still practice. The word "still" in this question surprises me. As for how much: Not anywhere close to enough, but as much as I seem to be able to manage. On the rare days when I feel I've hit "enough," I feel better.

I practice from a large bag of resources. Some things stay pretty constant, while others float in and out of rotation over periods of weeks or months. The current rotation includes vocal exercises and improvisation practice, ukulele, a bit of piano, working through a course of modal and rhythmic training, readings on vocal pedagogy, and learning new music (or reviewing old, as necessary) for upcoming gigs. I suppose this is separate from writing and arranging music, though it doesn't feel separate to me. Items that are a bit more in the background at the moment include exercises from various vocal jazz books, sight-singing practice, working with various music theory apps, and more.

Kendra Shank

I still practice and am always learning new things about my instruments (voice & guitar). How much I practice varies. I'm not consistent.I practice 30-45 min. of vocal exercises & scales as a warm-up with attention to breath control, placement, tone and intonation. After that, I'll work on a song: either learning a new one or practice soloing over changes of a song in my repertoire. Or I might just free improvise, often using a loop station and other electronics to spontaneously compose multi-voiced pieces. As a vocalist I have my instrument with me at all times, so I can practice while walking down the street, doing intervallic exercises,improvising, or just exploring what kinds of sounds I can make with my voice.

On guitar my practice begins with very slow scales, resting every 10 minutes (because I'm retraining after an injury), until I'm warmed up. Then I work on songs with chords, since most of my playing is geared toward accompanying my singing.

Nora McCarthy

Daily attention to whatever may be the focus at the time is part of the "practice." It is continuing and inclusive. Whether I'm preparing for a concert or advancing a new idea, I devote as much time beforehand as is necessary, but as a daily thing, let's put it this way, "I'm always singing." Specific as to "what" I practice, the answer is "development" and "awareness." Keeps me very busy.


Michael Bisio

Honestly I am one of those weirdo's who even after more years than I care to admit loves to practice and like to think I practice daily, upon consideration there are some exceptions, e.g. on Tuesday Matthew Shipp Trio recorded a Duke Ellington tribute for Rogue Art, it was such a wonderfully intense experience I was barely able to move on Wednesday let alone play bass. That being said this type of rest (time off) is extremely beneficial to completely digest the experience, a great value to any artist.

At this point in time I probably average 2 hours a day and can imagine the reality is probably between 1-4 hours, 4 being the extreme. My practice routine varies, lately I have enjoyed studying the masters on an aurally microscopic level where the pitches and time are just the beginning the process, and in repetition it can be very myopic and must remind myself the ultimate goal is macro. I try to remember there I a difference between practicing and playing but always leave time to practice playing. The goal is to be ready

Dominic Duval

I don't practice. I play. I think I've had enough practice. Doing is the best medicine.

Continue to Part 3


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