There are a number of practice habits which have
two characteristics: they are bad, and they are used by a majority
One of these is the very counter-productive habit
of practicing something for a long time, and avoiding learning
to play the music in the correct rhythm, and of course, to a
tempo. In my earlier years of teaching, it was amazing to me
how long a student would be content to practice something, over
and over for weeks and weeks, and still not get to the part
where we "put it all together". Instead, they would
come in every week with the music in "pieces".
When I would ask "umm, what about the rhythm,
you know, beats and that kind of stuff", I would get this
reply, "well, I figure I'll learn the notes first, and
then put the rhythm in!".
Well, there is some sense to that, but only up
to a point. We do have to learn the moves without rhythm, any
Principled Player knows that "no tempo practice" is
one of the foundation concepts in The Principles, but hey, enough
already! The bird has to jump out of the nest at some point!
These students had long passed the point where their fingers
"knew the notes", the fact is, they were avoiding
the very intense and specialized work required to "sew
it all together", that is, connect the notes in the smooth
movement process necessary to play music.
This, over time, lead me to develop The Principles,
which culminate in "The Basic Practice Approach",
which does, inevitably and by definition, string the moves together
(however, the exact length of notes, which constitutes the final
rhythm, must still be practiced after that, but will now be
The fact is, we should very quickly be getting
to the point of "putting the rhythm in" to our music.
If you find yourself lingering too long, and waiting for the
big day when you make the music sound like music, you are on
the wrong track! I always say "pay the devil his due, but
don't overpay him"!
Thinking that you can "learn the notes first,
and put the rhythm in later" is like thinking you can build
a brick house by putting all the bricks in place, and then adding
the cement! It is a bit too late for that! They kind of go together,
and one follows the other in the process.
The fact of the matter is that the student who
practices like this is really spending most of their time scrambling
around for the notes they can get, and messing up the rest,
and doing severe, and difficult to reverse damage to their muscle
memory in the process. Correct practice (read, The Principles!),
is the remedy for this disease.
We cannot practice, even if we are rehearsing
moves "no tempo", without an awareness of the actual
rhythm, and a "fitting into place", rhythmically,
the notes as we go along.
So, look around your workspace next practice session,
and see if there are any piles of bricks needing mortar. If
so, get out your Principles, your metronomes, and get to work!
2004 Jamie Andreas.