Staying Sharp!

“Hey man, I dug everything you tried to play!” We all love musician jokes…as long as they are true, but not too true!

Keeping sharp as a player is a practiced skill. I must admit that most of the things I cut in the studio are not too demanding. And it’s not like you’re gonna notice a chops deficiency when playing ‘Mustang Sally’. It wasn’t until I was working on my own material that I realized I had some work to do to sharpen things up. That and the fact that my wife’s “helpful” comment, “Uh, babe your going to do something about that track right?” played like loop in my mind.

I decided to get busy. Out came the metronome, ok, actually it was the metronome app on the iPhone. First, I gave a serious listen to my recorded track, making notes on less than stellar execution.  Then I  devised a series of two-bar phrases designed to whip those chops back into shape.

My routine was simple. I started REALLY SLOW, playing each phrase precisely and with expression. My metronome app has a practice timer, so I would play the phrase for one minute, then move on to the next, marking the tempo for each. The next day, I upped the mm setting 4-6 clicks and repeated the regimen.

Here is what I discovered, or shall I say rediscovered.

  1. Because my routine was about 15 minutes, I was able to hit it about 5 times a week.
  2. I really enjoyed the mere physical sensation of playing my instrument.
  3. Since I was tracking the mm markings, I could see the improvement.
  4. By starting slow, it taught me to really listen to what I was playing…it’s amazing what we discover when we listen critically.

What began as necessary drudgery soon turned into a welcome time of creativity. So do yourself a favor…stay sharp!

As legend goes, Pablo Casals was asked at age 81, why he continued to practice. “Because I think I am making progress,” he replied.

That’s good enough for me.

Do you need to sharpen your playing skills? Do you want to learn new improvisation tricks? Bill Murrell of 12 Stones Studios is now offering lessons online via Skype. All levels, from beginner to professional, Electric & Acoustic

Contact for more information: / 832-524-8298


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jim Westlyn says:

    Hey Bill: You’ve got a terrific blog here: sharp content, valuable info, and the sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either. I’ll be checking in often.

  2. Thanks, Jim! Will be checking you out as well!

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