The Practice Process

00 - Practice

1 – Listen to a song you like a few times.

2 – Start playing it.

3 – Focus on the score.

4 – Play and Sing the 1st phrase.

5 – Star over from the beginning.

6 – Add the next note and/or phrase.

7 – Replay it in your mind.

8 – Start again.

9 – At each try, add spirit, rhythm and swing.

10 – Work on your phrases.

11 – Identify and fix errors.

12 – Fit small parts into the whole.

13 – Embrace a highly targeted error focused process.

14 – Making progress is a case of small failures.

15 – Break the move to its component parts.

16 – All of a sudden, the pieces snap into place.

17 – Operate at the edge of your ability.

18 – Screwing up makes you better.

19 – The mistakes will make you smarter.

20 – The learning process of “Deep Practice” has to expose you to an experience that makes you slow down, make errors and correct them.

21 – Obstacles are desirable in the long haul of your learning process.

22 – Study less and Practice more. Thinking about the sunset doesn’t allow you to actually SEE the sunset.

23 – The memory is not a tape recorder; it’s a living structure.

24 – The more we generate impulses, encountering and overcoming difficulties, the more scaffolding we build, and so, the faster we learn.

25 – Use time more efficiently: Small efforts produce big lasting results.

26 – Capture failure and turn it into skill.

27 – The trick is to choose goals beyond your present abilities.

28 – Stop thinking, start practicing.

29 – Keep practicing.

30 – Rest, focus and start the process again.

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Disclaimer: Key Questions to Explore

000 - 80:20

If 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions (“Pareto’s Law”) and if self-improvements occur gradually and cumulatively (“Theory Of Marginal Gains”) we should start focusing on that juicy 20% to working on that.

Let’s focus specifically on what is important. This is not about stories, details and all kinds of diverse and disperse information that prevents us from understanding the fundamental message. This is not about long articles or books with tones of secondary information. This is not about appealing and promising titles that leads nowhere.

This abstract is about connecting the dots, summarizing the big 20% of the inspirational work of Masters, Genius and Leaders, in order to grow, excel and achieve mastery in any possible way. This is an honest and straightforward approach to immediate practice and results.

Understand the process and learn how things actually work. Let’s DO IT.

  1. How can average people do extraordinary things?
  2. How to accelerate learning speed?
  3. What is our musical purpose, our big why?
  4. How to maximize performance?
  5. How to become a musical Olympic athlete?
  6. How to build our mental strength up so we can focus?
  7. The mental routines of elite athletes.
  8. The balance between excellence and its inherent stress inductor.
  9. The effectiveness of meditative practices on learning, composing and performing process.
  10. Concentration, Motivation and Inspiration.
  11. The inversion of the (un)logical sequence “hard work leads to success which leads to happiness”.
  12. What is success and why do some people are able to achieve what others don’t?
  13. How to shape our behaviour in order to be joyful, healthier and more successful?
  14. How does our intrinsic goals affect the outcomes of our actions?
  15. Which are the best meditation techniques to be applied in the musical process?

Any comments, suggestions and requests are more than welcome.

How To Be Successful

5 - Sucess

Success is not a question of social thriving but an inner inevitability to everyone who is happy doing what he is doing regardless of the results desired.

In our society we’re brought up to think, feel and believe that if we work harder we’ll be successful. This means that we’re putting our happiness under a condition: If I’ll be successful then I’ll be happy. By doing so our brain is always jumping around, unsatisfied, from goal to goal, always increasing the difficulty of the new target to be accomplished. And we don’t want that.

We want to be happy WHILE we perform and in our day-to-day life.

The benefits of meditation are largely known. Also, the positive impact of exercise and healthy food in our body and mind it’s clear. But we still don’t do it.

Carl Jung said that men are able to do anything in order to avoid confront to himself. Albert Einstein defined madness as the repetition of an action expecting different results.

So, why don’t we just do it? Why is it so difficult to put Nike’s mantra – Just Do It! – in to action? Are we all mad, or just scared, unconfident and fiddled? Are we so bruised, battered and broken by our society that we feel unmotivated and discouraged to be bold, to chase our dreams and to maximize our performance and life?

If meditation is so good to our equilibrium as human beings, why do we continue to escape from it? We believe that the simplest way to maximize musical performance is through a living and breathing process that can allow us to be more focused in the present time.

The remarkable thing to discover is that not all of us like, want or even know what meditation is. So, it would be great to just turn the whole process up side down. If we don’t practice meditation but practice our instrument we should start the focused and meditative process through the instrument, through practice, through performance. The practice and performance are THE meditation.

That is why we fiercely belive that man can go to the end of the world, as far as he can only imagine in thoughts and dreams to turn it all around. It is our belief that we can change the order of events and start using our daily activities in a more positive state of being, through focused practice and Mindful Meditation.

By doing so, we’ll bring up individuals who love what they do and they will perform it with love and consciousness. We’ll start to focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses and we will find a way to maximize our motivation, concentration and inspiration to perform.

We can only be our better selves. And these outstanding performers – our Masters – are great at manifesting their integral personality. Therefore, being successful is the actual growth to learn, accept and let go, doing what you want to do in a fulfilling fashion.

As a Chess lover I can only imagine benefits on sharpening your eye, ear and ability to focus mindfully. Looking at the guitar fingerboard would be like acknowledging all the files and ranks and diagonals of the Chessboard. Communicating with the band mates would be like anticipating the opponent’s moves. Like the great guitarist Peter Bernstein once said to me: “Just listen harder”.

We’re on our path to find a state of the art program to musical excellence, which serves the inner purpose of our self. And we’re living a mental revolution – the Mindful revolution – the reconnection with the inner self.

It’s up to us to create the path to greatness. Here and now. Let’s do it.

1st Step: Identify the Problem

4 - Good Moon Pill

When we start to play an instrument everything seems magical. It’s fun and exciting as a social experience and when you’re practicing it never feels like you’re alone. You’re always listening to your favourite songs and your guitar never let’s you down. It’s like a good mood pill. Therefore you want to know a little more, just like Alice in Wonderland. And your curiosity leads you forward – deep in to the rabbit hole.

It is only when you start facing troubles in the creative process or technical performance that you start thinking about it and usually go to school to learn and to know better. You look up to your favourite musicians and – if you’re lucky – you’ll be properly advised.

I have strong feelings that this natural individual process, when mislead, can harm the innocence of the ones who are more right side brain oriented. The discussion is already been stated: Do schools kill creativity?

Although the teaching process is meant to build your strengths it also creates problems. And the feeling of weight can settle. As an European student and worker I’ve came across hundreds of individuals who either dropped out of school, changed course subject or feel unhappy with their jobs.

In Music and in Jazz, probably one of the most creative and free form of expression and communication available, one can only imagine the weight of frustration on all these kids (and grown ups) who just liked to play for fun and now they don’t even want to sit around their grandpa’s old piano.

If you come to think about it this can probably be the worst problem of the musical education business. People are drawn to music for it’s benefits, simplicity and great fun but they step back from it causing a downhill on the instruments and bookstore market sales and demand of music schools business.

But music and jazz are forms of expression and communication. And it’s this kind of freeing process that I believe that it’s worthy, special and unique. Nevertheless, the ability to perform, to get better results, to achieve higher grounds can be very stressful.

Nowadays we use music as a therapy, we study the history of it, practice it and perform it on multiple scenarios. Science and research in other areas such as psychology, neurobiology and sports, are actually focused on the unravelling of the causes and conditions on which we perform at the peak of our abilities. Society even worships highly developed and skilled Olympic athletes.

But in the music core of action we seem to only be able to benefit on that parallel ground breaking research that has been made successfully.

Our goal is beyond. We believe we’re able to determine the best way for the professional musician, and also the amateur, to go from tension to release. Why not start teaching and composing from that relaxed, opened and free state of consciousness?

In our core lies a strong will to rather than practice music one should practice everything. And everything can be practiced through music, with focus and mindfulness, in order to achieve mastery.

Role Models: Who Are Your Masters?

3 - Mr. Miyagi

I grew up inspired by stories about Masters, people who excel themselves and lead by example. Not because they want to but because their community and their peers follow their beliefs.

Mr Myagi’s fictional persona on the motion picture “Karate Kid” or Nick Nolte’s character on “Peaceful Warrior” was my favourite. These Masters know their reasons by heart and they live it. Likewise, a Master musician doesn’t practice the instrument alone. He practices everything.

We all feel inspired with great accomplishments. Michael Jordan’s relentless strive to be the best of the game is only compared (in my humble opinion) by a little guy called John Stockton. He was never the best player of the game. He wasn’t the best in his own team, the Utah Jazz. And in his own words, he wasn’t even the best at home, since his older brother beat young John all the time.

Still, Mr Stockton became the greatest in the game. His name represents excellency, professionalism and mastery. He’s the epitome of what a Point Guard should be and he holds the record for most assists and steals in the history of the NBA. He knew himself and that lead him to Mastery through maximized performance. Now you know why I’ve started “listening” to Jazz.

We all look for Masters. There’s something special in them that goes far beyond our understanding. It’s something we can’t grasp, something we don’t understand but that make us drawn to them…

Like Michael Jordan, we’re fortunate to live in a world inspired by so many. Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, Osho, Pelé, Steve Jobs, Stephen Hawkins, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Pat Metheny, Django Reinhardt, Errol Flynn, John Monash and of course, Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, amongst many others.

In my life I’ve already come a crossed with some fascinating human beings, real masters in “what” they do and “how” they do it. And you can learn a lot with them… not everything. A lot. In the end, you have to follow yourself.

Like Herman Hesse´s “Siddhartha” one must follow his own path. It’s my belief that if you can’t find a Master you should become one.

One can only see real inward mastery through the acknowledgement of his personal “why”. Once you know “why” you should, then, start working on “how”.

After this inner search it really doesn’t matter “what” one do: performing, composing, teaching or just to relish a song. What does matter is the fact that mastery is achievable. We are not going to find it. We are going to cherish it.

What, How and Why?

Just Do It

Nike’s mantra says it all: Just Do It. If you want to get things done, achieve some personal or professional goal, be a better athlete or a healthier human being: Just Do It.

As musicians we all want to get better every day. Practice more, perform better, and get greater results. But the longer we stay in this eagerness to excel the more we risk exposure to stress and frustration. It’s a competitive world and, some how, we feel that if we don’t keep it going we might fall off the wagon and get run over by something called Life.

So, what if we consciously get to choose to step off that moving train while, at the same time, enhancing our natural talents to raise performance to an even higher level? How do we help our students, our community and ourselves in order to lead more productive, meaningful, and fulfilled lives through musical performance, composing and teaching?

To DO is actually easier said than done, mostly because we know “what” we want, some know “how”, but only a few realise “why”. And the outcome manifests in tension, anger, sadness or lack of inspiration and motivation.

In Portugal we use an old expression that goes like this: “O segredo é a Alma do negócio” (Secret is the business’ Soul). And I’ve always wondered why. Why does it have to be like this, especially in a world-wide… web? Why can’t we share our knowledge and expertise to bring the best out of our fellow mates and ourselves? How do we do it?

What are the best ways to lead naturally and effortlessly to the centre of our beings? Focus and meditation can centre the self. As any other activity! But what I aim for is not only to benefit from the relaxed state of mind that focus and meditation can induce.

What we need is to bring our performance to that core. What we want is to transform our practice into meditation. By doing so we will no longer meditate to perform better. We will perform to meditate because maximized performance IS focus and meditation.

How To Maximize Performance: Focused Practice and Mindful Meditation

mindfulness_poster_UK

It is my belief that jazz performers, composers and teachers are Olympic athletes of creativity that can benefit from an effective mind-body preparation.

Research in Music Mindfulness can bring together progress made in other areas such as sports psychology. It will support the musical and creative process to blossom out of consciousness and awareness. Now we don’t meditate to perform better. Our musical performance is our meditation.

This research project started as a PhD at the Australian “VCA – Victorian College Of Arts” with the purpose to generate a new method of practice, composing and teaching maximization.

Now’s The Time to dive deep at the process of enhancing the Jazz performance. Shall we?