"isms"

August 19, 2014

I want to address a problem I hear frequently from players and students.  They tell me they play "the same old things" and are in a rut.  This is something I also struggle with...every player does. I call them "isms"....Charley-isms...Joe-isms...Mary-isms...etc. They are the comfortable riffs or musical pathways that we go to again and again in our playing.  While these "isms" work musically, they are inherently not musical as they become "cookie cutter" inserts to musical situations that are used with almost no creative thought.  The goal would be to play spontaneously, yet purposefully in every situation. This requires us to look at our playing and evaluate our shortcomings.

 

Now, we all have areas in our playing we need to work on. Some are obvious,  others not so much. Identifying these areas and addressing them is a major key to progressing as a musician.  Understand, there is no shame to admitting you need to work on your craft. The best players all realize this and it helps them to evolve, even at their high level of play. I have had teachers who have played with heavy hitters who, in their 80's, still practiced HUNGRY every day. 

 

The first thing to do is identify the areas you need to work on (which obviously vary from player to player), and find ways to address them.   Examples are time, fretboard knowledge, theory, a specific technique or style or any combination.  While some you already are aware of, other players or a teacher can help you identify others. Once identified, you can plan a practice regimen, using any of a myriad of resources, and begin your progress. While some areas will be easily rectified, others will be lifelong journeys with peaks and valleys along the way. 

 

With complete and comfortable knowledge of "what" you play and "why" you play it, you can use your experience and ear to TRULY react to your playing situations and make real, personal and creative music.

 

Lots of luck!  Feel free to contact me with questions.

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