Instrumental Technique in Performance

There are many things you can do to help your technique from just practicing scales and arpeggios to various etudes and other classics to specific jazz vocabulary that you practice in all keys. These days, with the advent of good music software for computers, it's pretty easy to play a transcribed solo by someone into the computer and make copies of it in all twelve keys to practice as an etude. Short of that, it's always a good idea to practice typical idiomatic vocabulary that you like (over a II-V-I, for example) in all twelve keys.

I have another feeling about technique that I would like to share with you. The surprising thing is that technique can often get in the way of making good music, not because of poor technique which prevents you from executing ideas but from too much chops which hit the listener in the face as if to say, "Listen to me, I've got chops!" Of course, another thing that has a direct impact on technique is mental preparation. If we can't visualize and "hear" what we want to play, the best chops in the world won't help us to get the idea out since we don't really know what the idea is! Another interesting thing is that I believe we all have more technique than we realize and the challenge is to remove performance anxieties that inhibit our ability to play as well as we are capable of. Tension can creep into the kinetic system and cause you to tigten up physically and therefore be less comfortable playing. It is easier said than done but what we have to learn to do is to release control and "let" ourselves play rather than consciously directing the process and deciding what we should or should not play or what will or will not be "hip"! Haven't you experienced the pleasant surprise of something flowing effortlessly from within you somewhere that you didn't think you could play? If so, you got a little glimpse of the power that lies within you already! Now the challenge is to learn how to tap into that on a regular basis. Sometime, sit down to play with no notion of what you are going to play and see if you can let go even a little bit. Don't pass any value judgements on the quality of what you play but just try to open up and play what you honestly feel. Probably some good things will happen!

(Back to Books)