About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Focused Practice

Lately, I've noticed that my most productive practice sessions often occur when my schedule is tight and I'm squeezing in a few minutes.

If I have a relatively free day, I'll take my own sweet time on all my practice material. I may practice a particular song or exercise for 20-30 minutes before moving on to something else. By the time I get to the last couple items on my agenda, I'm mentally drained, and I end up going through the motions. Now, I enjoy these marathon sessions when I have the luxury of time, but there's something to be said for shorter sessions as well.

On the other hand, sometimes it seems like I can get just as much done in a short, focused practice session. If I know that I can only squeeze in a few minutes here and there throughout the day, then I'm going to make sure each 10-20 minute practice session counts. If I only have 10 minutes, I may spend those 10 minutes on a single solo transcription. I may even spend that time working on just 8-16 bars, focusing mostly on the most difficult measures.

I've been pleasantly surprised by how much progress I can make when I practice in short bursts like this. I first noticed this when my teaching load began to increase. I like to schedule lessons with 10-15 minutes between students. Waiting for the next student, and with nothing else to do, I would practice a song, exercise, or a scale until the next student arrived. When it was time for my big "official" practice session, I realized that I had already practiced most of what needed work, and that I had improved significantly.

I'm going to begin practicing in short, focuses mini-sessions, even when I have a big block of time. I think a good approach will be to start with 20 minutes of technique, and then take a break to do something else. Then come back to the guitar and focus on a single song or exercise for 10-15 minutes, take a break to do something else, etc. This is all a big experiment, but I think this approach will help me come to each to mini-session fresh and focused.

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