Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Miscellaneous: cymbal and book

UPDATE: Feedback from the buyer of the cymbal: “I think perhaps I've never owned a nice sounding cymbal before b/c all my current cymbals sound like garbage compared to the Hassan.”

Please forgive the light posting— I think we're all a little frazzled waiting on this election to finally be over, and some balance of sanity restored. So, just a couple of items here: 

Congratulations to Casey in Illinois, who just bought an excellent 22" Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Jazz Ride, “Hassan”— a particularly clean and pretty sounding K-type cymbal. Another cymbal you could play your whole life

I've been reading a book recommended by Casey, which every teacher and serious student should read: Peak, by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. Apparently they are the researchers that Malcolm Gladwell relied on to make up his 10,000 hour nonsense. This book is about high performance, and how to achieve it. The message is that you can achieve remarkable feats of performance with the right kind of focused practice. Talent is practiced and acquired, basically. 

The first example they use is a study they did on memorizing numbers. Previous studies showed that people generally can hold a series of eight or nine numbers, and no more, in their short term memory. Ericsson and Pool's study participants were able to recall strings of 80-100 numbers with a certain kind of focused practice. They give similar examples in sports and music, and obviously the methods the book describes are very powerful.    

You probably know by now that I'm not enamored with feats of amazingness in music— but we should know what are effective practice methods, regardless of our performance goals. 

The thing to remember is that high performance does not equal high artistry. Without something to say, high performance chops are totally meaningless. What you have to say still comes from loving music, listening to it, and playing it— from being a committed, enthusiastic music centered human being. Anyone can be that, but it can't be acquired like learning faster paradiddles.    

The other thing to remember is that you need to know what to practice. Novice drummers often have strange ideas about what they need to practice to learn to play. Applying these methods people like that are destined to become like the guy who became a champion Donkey Kong player— freakish masters of something utterly useless. See the “World's Fastest Drummer” competition, if that's still going.  

So, it would be easy to read this book and be evangelized into just thinking in its terms, where improvement = statistical performance gains, but the inherently messy process of becoming a player really can't be avoided by just practicing more and better. You still have to go and play in situations where you don't know what you're going to do, you still have to have favorite records that you wear out from repeated listening, you still have to learn human interaction with other performers via the live playing of music. You have to have a visceral emotional idea of what you want to say. Hopefully this book encourages us to do more uncomfortable practicing, to help us get over the technical considerations faster, so we can get directly to making music.  

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