There is a science and an art to optimizing practice in terms of mental state. My goal is always to be alert and calm when I practice, and I am getting extremely good at making this work for me.
There are three times I feel especially alert:
- 2-4 Hours after I wake up
- 15 minutes after drinking coffee
- After a short nap (about 20 minutes)
The short version:
(2 hours after waking) 40 Minutes Pentatonics
5 Minutes Lower Neighbor Harmony
(Right after falling asleep on a random couch)
30 Minutes ii-V’s
15 Minutes Donna Lee melody
Today I had another lesson with Jim Gailloreto. For the second time ever, I felt like I met his expectations (based on how he reacted to my playing).
Usually our lessons consist of going over fundamental things like scales, some sort of repertoire/tunes, harmony, and some additional element he can show me based on what we are doing. Today was no different.
He approved of my method to improving swing feel. After showing him the licks I worked on, he helped me elevate my practice from “play this lick as an exercise in time feel” to “play this lick musically”. Mostly, the difference is just in where certain accents are played.
One day I will write a more in-depth post on my lessons. For now, we move on to the day’s material.
I got through my pentatonics rather quickly today. Mainly due to the higher tempo I can now set on the metronome. If time is money, then using a metronome literally pays. Earlier this week it took me over 45 minutes, playing them at about 90-100 BPM in triplets. Today I was able to do 105 BPM in triplets.
I still played the “extra note” pentatonic in major, in tripletized form. And the minor pentatonic in tripletized form. Those tricky fingerings I mentioned the past couple days are becoming easy (or as Jim says, “familiar”).
I did a bit of work on my lower neighbor tone harmony over Donna Lee’s changes. But we ended up spending a lot of time on this in my lesson so I didn’t feel the need to do more later.
After a break (and a nap), I returned enthusiastically to my ii-V’s. I played through some licks from the Bebop Bible just to get into the swing of things before settling on one I wanted to make my own.
I included a couple videos below to give you an idea of how slow I begin all the licks, and where I ended up on the one I chose.
I must admit, it’s difficult to share the fact that I don’t immediately play everything fast and perfect. It made sound silly but truly I worry about it. But one of the things this website forces me to do is be honest. And I can’t help but value the progress I’ve made lately by playing slowly (at first).
After getting that lick up to 160BPM in a couple of keys, I revisited the melody of Donna Lee. I took it extremely slowly even though I could have probably done it faster today. And it paid off because within 15 minutes I had the first half completely memorized, played at pretty much the highest level I can (tone, articulation, swing) up to 160BPM.
Soon, I will be taking things above 160. But 160 is about the tempo that I stop feeling swing in triplets and have to just go with it naturally.
I didn’t improvise because during rehearsal and my lesson I improvised plenty.