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Check here for a periodic post on a topic of interest in the field of jazz education, history, criticism, and/or appreciation.

Most of my blog posts are excerpts taken directly from my method book which guides you through my approach to practicing creative improvisation. If you find value in my posts, in addition to or instead of donating, you can purchase my method book as an eBook in PDF format directly through me today. Thank you for your support.

Creative Improvisation: A Concise Method

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How to Practice Self-Awareness as a Creative Improviser

In addition to maintaining a healthy balance between practicing and acquiring meaningful real-life experience, it is important to note that self-improvement and self-exploration are absolutely necessary while practicing, and they both require self-awareness. Make it a habit to draw your attention to yourself (physically and psychologically) at all times while you are practicing. Practicing with heightened self-awareness allows you to efficiently and effectively optimize your musical development by giving you the ability to identify and then prioritize the aspects of music that are most important and urgent for you to address. Self-awareness requires practice and concentrated effort. Practice honing your ability to control your mental focus as you work on music. Your mental discipline and ability to control your focus are arguably your most important assets in our complex socio-cultural landscape in which our attention is constantly fragmented by technology as well as other common interruptions. We are constantly bombarded by external sensory stimuli as well as internal, self-generated thought-distractions. Be wary of potential distractions and make your practice sessions a self-centered and self-focused time during which you prodigiously tune out external disruptions which may divert your attention from the musical goals you are working on achieving. It is also important to stay focused while practicing because scientific research indicates that we have a limited amount of willpower as individuals; therefore you need to maximize the effectiveness of your practice time while your willpower and focus lasts (for more information on willpower, see Roy Baumeister and John Tierney’s book, Willpower; details are in the recommendations for further reading at the end of my method book).

In addition to building your practice time into your life routine, you need to vehemently protect your designated practice time as much as possible. Turn off your cell phone, computer (or at least close the non-musical, potentially distracting programs if you use your computer or phone as a tool while practicing), television, and any other devices that might create undesired interruptions. Make sure you have a reliably available, clean, and quiet space to practice as often as possible. I highly recommend you practice meditation, have a daily quiet time away from technology to read, listen to music, or simply sit and quietly reflect, sustain a healthy diet (and stay hydrated, especially while practicing), and maintain healthy sleep patterns and exercise habits to improve your mental focus. Thus achieving heightened mental focus and discipline allows you to develop the level of self-awareness necessary for effective practicing and effective music making.

Furthermore, no matter what any teacher, mentor, or expert tells you or demonstrates for you, you ultimately have to explore yourself and your instrument through focused practicing on your own terms. You have to experiment with your ears, your body, your instrument, and your mind in order to figure out, through trial and error, how to achieve what you want to accomplish on your instrument. You have to be willing to work hard and you must be flexible in your approach to practicing and music making in order to find out which methods and concepts truly work best for you. This is why practicing is so important; no matter what concepts you study, you ultimately have to figure what they mean for you, and you must learn how to absorb them into your own approach to making music through whatever means work best for you. Absorbing and personalizing musical concepts can only be achieved through focused individual practice. You may find some concepts more useful and readily applicable than others; you can only discover what works for you through your own, direct personal experience. As you practice, remain curious and open-minded; embrace experimentation and focus on the creative process – constantly ask yourself questions that get to the heart of the processes behind the music, and strive to stay inspired at all times.

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