Ruminating over journal entries about my third month of lessons and practice, I noticed the dynamics of my relationship with my music sensei changing. I observed that my conversations with him were more like a musician talking to another about technique, improvisation, and music theory fundamentals. Our sessions were intended to last only 30 minutes, but since he had no other students after me, we usually ran over, making that extra 15 minutes of feedback and general talk about jazz or the blues greatly appreciated, and by no means did I take it for granted. As my knowledge of music theory and guitar performance increased, I found myself able to musically articulate questions and grasp the resulting answers. Indeed, I had found a damn good music teacher.
Though I excelled at reading and performing songs arranged with single notes, playing chords cleanly and shifting between them smoothly still presented a challenge to me, however I continued to register incremental improvements over the previous month. After one particular lesson, Andrew explained that as proficiency increases, incremental improvements become less frequent. My readings in music studies confirmed this as well, and in a bitter-sweet sense it marks an advancement in musicianship.
As my fourth month was quickly drawing near, I had totally capitulated to the idea of deliberate practice. If I was going to commit four hours per day to instrument practice, then they would have to be highly optimized hours targeting specific areas for improvement, experimentation, and new material and technique. A respectable two hours of daily practice was no longer sufficient for my musical journey. I had relied on a rather static practice regime, but a dynamic practice strategy was becoming necessary and vital for growth. I decided on a core set of routines to practice, like scales, chords, and new material, but my primary objective was to intelligently focus on specific goals with desired outcomes. Gone would be the hours of trial and error, and my mantra would be “smarter practice, not harder practice.”
“Music means what to me? Why do it? Are the reasons the same as pondering why write? I view the study of music, the discipline, the unwavering determination, and the persistence needed to acquire proficiency in my chosen instrument is like becoming a student of Zen, a disciple willing to make the journey to enlightenment. The results are tangible and quantifiable. The study of music and learning to play the electric guitar is the last leg of my life’s journey. I want to be remembered as a musician who rekindled his musical journey late in life because of a propensity for being a late bloomer of all things important to me.”
—Excerpt from my Music Journal
October 19, 2012