A Good Question

Because of the convenience of the internet, I receive a lot of correspondence–questions, comments, thoughts, ideas, the occasional poem. I am very grateful for that and I learn a lot. I try to respond to every single person.

This email really struck me, and I asked the sender if I could post it. I’ve Xed out the person’s name and location (didn’t want to outrage the profs), but the question gets at something pretty universal. How do you reconcile the craft side of art with the creative side? How do you work on “saying something?”

I’ve been studying music here at university for 3 years now, and more recently I’ve been feeling that my playing, particularly my improvising, is very empty. It’s more frustrating because I feel disconnected from the ideas, and sometimes lack thereof, which makes me feel like there’s no deeper meaning in what I’m playing.

My teacher here has me practicing: 1hr – Technical warmup (Long tones, Triad Pairs through cycle, symmetrical intervals, alternating symmetrical intervals “i.e. P4-m3, P4-M3”), 1hr – ii-V/Turnaround/Pattern through cycle, 1hr – Transcribing solos, 1hr – Learning tunes.

At this stage of the game, do you agree with this practice regimen? I think it’s not leaving enough time for creative ideas, as most of the things he has me working on are technical based. Also, with this much practice per day, plus class and homework, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for creative composing, my other passion. What are your thoughts on composing with a very time-consuming schedule?

I hope you find a spare second to try and help me out of this rut!


First of all, let’s give it up for the four hours of practicing a day. That’s admirable.

But before I wade in with other suggestions, I thought maybe some of you in the community might have some thoughts on this issue. On the road with SFJAZZ Collective I had a chance to discuss it a little bit, and heard some pretty surprising answers. And I’ll bet you all have more. Let ‘er rip.