A Quote Worth Sharing

“The details of any art form—how to play the violin, how to improvise a raga, how to write English prose, how to make movies, how to teach are of course particular; each instrument or medium comes with its own language and lore.  But there is a kind of metalearning, a metadoing that transfers across styles […]

Innovative Copycats

Suppose your raison d’être is to perform Oscar Peterson solos note for note. The potential for creativity and innovation here is endless. First of all, nobody’s doing this. Even if there was, he/she wouldn’t be able to mimic Oscar exactly; there would always be room for “improvement.” Improvement would require creative, innovative thinking. Innovation is […]

Appreciating Structure and Freedom

How do you travel to the grocery store? Consider your mode of transportation, route, pace, time of day, choice of clothes and anything else related to getting from point A to point B. Consider which of these variables remain fixed for each trip, and which are flexible. For example, you may always walk to the […]

Creativity, Deliberate Practice and Structure

A few months ago, I wrote a series of posts on creativity, deliberate practice and structure.  I’m actually quite excited about these posts; they seemed to have set a foundation for more thoughts and writing. For this reason, I’ve compiled them into one long post so its easier to read and easier for me to […]

Playing, Talking, Role Models and More

Something occurred to me the other day. If you recorded and analyzed how I spend time during lessons, you would see that most time is spent talking and discussing.  Very little time is spent playing. When I compare this to how my university piano teachers conducted my lessons, the observations are the same: lots of […]

Work HARD not LONG

Editors’ Note: This is a guest post from Josh Rager of XYJazz. “Hurry….hurry….hurry harrrrrrrrrrd” Anyone watch curling? One of the themes of my blog XY…Jazz is information versus knowledge. In the context of being an improvising musician this means what comes out in one’s soloing is what one has learned, what one currently knows. Where I […]

Steven Pinker – The Language Instinct

I’ve added Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct to my recommended readings. The premise is simple: “Language is a human instinct, wired into our brains by evolution.” This may seem like common sense, but its consequences challenge many of our commonly held beliefs about language and expression. One of these beliefs is that words determine thoughts.  […]

Christopher Small – Musicking

I highly recommend this book; I’ve added it to my recommended readings. “The fundamental nature and meaning of music lie not in objects, not in musical works at all, but in action, in what people do.  It is only by understanding what people do as they take part in a musical act that we can […]

Teaching and Performing – Sending the Right Message

In a previous post, I wrote about not differentiating between performing and teaching; their similarities far outweigh their differences. I had another thought on this subject. The community’s general message about teaching has to change. The current message treats teaching as a mere subsidy.  “Since performance opportunities are few and far between, musicians need to […]