I love reading books about music! It’s so nice to have that access to someone else’s perspective and insights. Here are a couple that really influenced how I think about music and how I work at music.
1. The Talent Code – Author Daniel Coyle has spent most of his career writing about sports. There are, of course, many parallels between practicing sports and practicing music. In the book, Coyle talks about hotbeds of talent in sports, music, and other disciplines. What’s striking is that all of the hotbeds have a large number of things in common – direct, expert coaching, simple, uncluttered environments, and a lot of repetition along with a list of other factors.
The takeaway from this book for me was the importance of slow practice. Parts of the book describe the Meadowmount Music Camp. The teachers encourage slow practice and the saying around there is that if someone walking by can recognize a passage you’re practicing, then you’re playing it too fast. In my own practice, I haven’t taken to quite that extreme, but when I’m working on something new or encounter problems with something I’m comfortable with, I slow it down and attempt to play with as little tension and with the best technique I can. This has been extremely helpful.
2. Effortless Mastery – In this book, pianist Kenny Werner, writes about his life as a musician and issues with negative self-talk that we can all experience from time to time (or all the time!). He goes on to discuss how he was able to let go of this burden and gives advice to musicians who want to follow that same path. It also includes a CD that contains 4 meditations guided by Kenny Werner.
I think that book serves as a reminder of two things. 1. It’s very easy to talk yourself into walking into a musical situation feeling defeated before you play/sing a note. 2. Music is a truly joyful activity that we do with people that we care about and we have the right to feel that joy, to spread that both to our friends on the bandstand, and to the listener(s). We also have the right to revel in the joy of our bandmates.