Friday, June 07, 2013

What is HIP?

George Colligan is trying to create a said thing. At his Jazz Truth blog there's a post highly worth reading, about High Intensity Practicing, or HIP— his phrase— or “practicing REALLY HARD, at a sort of all out intensity, for a short period of time.” Mainly, it seems to involve actually practicing things you can't do. Putting yourself in that space is not easy, because it means persisting and maintaining focus while sounding like— not much; and nobody likes feeling like they're struggling.

A slightly contrary thing that has never been too far from my mind is Peter Erskine's commandment of first be able to play a simple beat really well, which encourages a lot of practicing for refinement as you try to assess whether you are really playing that AC/DC beat truly well, yet. And I've never been so bold as to think I could really do everyday stuff well enough to stop relearning it and polishing it. But learning to play is not a strictly zero sum thing like that, and working on new, hard stuff using a lot of concentration effects your daily material for the better, too.

Anyway, Colligan ends with this quotation, some variation of which has been a big deal to me for years:

It's fascinating watching the Ken Burns documentary on Jazz and watching Artie Shaw talk about the Glen Miller Band during the Swing Era. 
And I didn't like Miller's band, I didn't like what he did. Miller was, he had what you'd call a Republican band. It was, you know, very straight laced, middle of the road. And Miller was that kind of guy, he was a businessman. And he was sort of the Lawrence Welk of jazz. And that's one of the reasons he was so big, people could identify with what he did, they perceived what he was doing. But the biggest problem, his band never made a mistake. And it's one of the things wrong, because if you don't ever make a mistake, you're not trying, you're not playing at the edge of your ability. You're playing safely, within limits, and you know what you can do and it sounds after a while extremely boring.

We've been talking about doing this in the practice room, but I've always tried to apply it on the stand, too... but that's for another post...

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