Sunday, October 6, 2013

Great! Now do it again

I'm always using basketball metaphors, but I guess 'tis the season to talk about football, so here goes.

For two years in high school, I played on our school's football team. It was a lot of fun and taught me much about hard work, teamwork, perseverance and more.

I remember a day when our coach introduced a relatively complex play. We worked hard and finally got it right after lots of tries and correction. For some reason, I expected the coach to move on or give us a break. He didn't.

Instead, he said, "Great! Now do it again."

We proceeded to run the play correctly for over an hour, until we could do it without even thinking about it. That, it turns out, was the goal. After that practice, our coach explained the following principle:

Getting it right is just the first step. "Practicing," means doing it right over and over again. 

Now, think of that principle in terms of your music. Do you ever move on after only one or two successful runs at something? Muscle memory develops after lots of reps over a long period of time, so be sure that getting it right becomes a habit.

It's almost cliche to hear a coach say, "Again." But it's a core principle in becoming great at anything - repetition is how we learn something, how we make it permanent. It wasn't very fun practicing the same play over and over again that day in practice, or on the following days. But it was very, very rewarding to run the play in a game situation and have it work perfectly

Happy practicing. (Again and again and again.) 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

(UPDATED) Friday Feature: Neil Peart of Rush

I while back, I posted about Neil Peart, expressing my respect for him as a person, even if I have been slow to fall in love with his playing and the music of Rush.

This past week I discovered an article on talking about the new album, "Clockwork Angels." The article is absolutely worth reading in its entirety, but there are two points that immediately struck me.
  1. Neil Peart considers himself an athlete. As such, he trains his entire body with intense cardio, stretching and yoga, as well as strength training and weight-lifting. He specifically targets areas where drummers commonly have injuries - such as shoulders and elbows - to prevent an injury to  himself. This, in my opinion, is one of the key reasons he continues to innovate and play at the highest level in Rush's fourth decade.
  2. To quote the article directly, "Master Player = Master Student" Peart is one of the great examples of someone who is never satisfied or complacent with their playing. Repeatedly over the course of his very long, illustrious career, Peart has, "surrendered," to great (and I do mean great) teachers who have helped take him to the next level. 
To summarize, treat your body as well as you can, and always be learning. Could it really be that simple?

Neil Peart continues to earn my respect as a human being, and my love of his playing, lyrics and the music of Rush are constantly growing. 

Thank you, Mr. Peart. You're worthy of your rock star and idol status!

Here is the original post:

Friday Feature: Neil Peart of Rush

You know how tall people always get asked if they play basketball? I have twin cousins who are 6’6”, and they do not play basketball, nor do they want to. They humor people all the time who ask the question, and privately want to slap them silly. 

Well, it’s like that for drummers, too. The minute somebody finds out you play, they’re all, “So, hey, what about Neil Peart, huh? You must love Rush, right?” I’m the kid who deliberately avoided all things Rush and Peart for years. No, decades. Religiously, you might say.* 

Up until a couple of years ago, I loved fantasizing about witty remarks I could reply with, but always said something like, “Oh, yeah, well you have to love him/them, right? Great stuff. Yeah, big fan.”

So, here’s the thing: I finally read an interview with Neil. After his first wife died in 1998, he spent an entire year riding a motorcycle around North America, and wrote a book about it - his fourth. The interview, and subsequent other articles I read, revealed Peart as a highly intelligent, well-rounded person, as well as being one of the most respected and emulated musicians of the modern era. I remember being impressed with him as a person, not as a musician

Somehow, for me, that opened my ears - and my mind - to the music of Rush. Had I my life to do over, I would have taken that album the first time it was offered, not the 28 billionth. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan, not yet, anyway, but I have finally become an appreciateur, if you will, of Neil Peart and Rush. They take the creation of their music, and musical expression, very seriously. I respect them a great deal, and am coming to know more of their repertoire.

For those of you who have yet to get to know Neil Peart, allow me to suggest a starting point, although I’m probably the only one of his fans who would recommend it. Start with his instructional video, “A Work in Progress.” It’s pretty recent, so it’s thirty or so years into his career, and he talks about reinventing himself. Awesome. That I love.

Happy discovering!

*The way I also avoided the Beatles until about a year ago, I might add. I’m a fool’s fool, so to speak, because I’m now a dedicated student of the Beatles. Wish I had come to them sooner.

Drummer's Weight Room: Tap Timing Exercise

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