more thoughts on practicing the "it" factor

to reiterate: by "it" i mean that thing, that spirit-element that allows us to go beyond playing 'correctly' to playing in a way that moves people - emotionally and physically. by emotionally i mean you hear someone play and you say, for example, "mmmm, that feels so good (even if it's a sad/minor tune). by physically i mean you hear someone play and your head/toe/hip starts moving involuntarily.

moving people, moving the music, and doing it consistently is a skill that CAN be developed. in my last blog post i talked 'thought-disciplines' to help us change what we are 'attached' to in the ego part of our mind. today i'd like to share another discipline that we can use in an effort to let go of  the need to achieve a desired result. remember, the desire is OK, but we need to detach from it when it's time to create/perform. that which you want most will elude you - it's a maxim for a reason. the need sucks the spirit out of the groove.

so, here's another way to practice detachment.


i don't mean the kind of breathing you're doing right now. practice what we'll call 'focused breathing'. IN through the nose OUT through the mouth. deep or shallow is ok as long as it's repeated over and over. the way i used focused breathing was to play something very simple --- and breathe. the ratio of focus is 99.9% on your breath, .01% on your playing. when you get comfortable with this paradigm, you can add a thought discipline. ratio now something like 99% breath/.5% thought/.5% playing. 

i've found this to be a great way to practice letting go of the need to judge what i'm playing and engaging my imagination, my creativity, instead. this is key. the judging sucks the spirit out of the groove, too. i've also found this discipline extremely helpful in relaxing and 'nourishing' my body so that i'm operating more efficiently and gracefully. furthermore, i believe that when this discipline is practiced at the proper 'ratio', TONE can widen and fatten. way cool.

do this on your own at first. record yourself. see if your playing starts to illicit more of a guttural and physical response from you as you listen. and, see if you hear a difference in your sound. if you're time is fluctuating at first - don't worry! let it happen, this discipline is an 'inner' form of independence and it will most likely trip you up at first. deal with it! the freedom is worth the falling...

thanks for reading!


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Ale Giuliani September 16, 2012 @04:37 pm
Dave you are a truly inspiring Master drummer in every aspect! I feel so lucky that I got one semester of classes with you. Thank you so much! this breathing exercise, is great!
Chris Saunders March 04, 2012 @09:47 pm
This s@*t works! I can't help but chuckle to myself in my practice room right now. I've been taking things back to basics and using Dave's book to use the UR concept to basically work on all facets it pruports to improve. I'll admit to being a try-hard and it's took me 28 years of being on Earth to realise that half my problem is my ego latches on to something new I want to implement or achieve and it has to be "right" or "perfect" (whatever THAT is!), so with the breath discipline it has to be almost holding my breath then exhaling for days, y'dig? Well, I actually found myself wanting to listen just to the excercise rather than singing the UR 'cos I could feel things weren't lining up and spontaneously started doing shallow focused breathing and, no word of a lie, in a split second, I knew what I was doing wrong, why I was doing it wrong (through certain habits and preferences) and corrected it. I've kicked holes in walls and honestly believe if my drums could speak they'd think they were called "motherf@*?er." This is a bit of a controversial thing to say, but I think that the whole 10,000 hours thing may be a ratio of 7,000 to 3,000 of getting "you" out of the way and overcoming frustrations etc... I honestly believe what people like Dave and Kenny Werner and the like preach really are shortcuts to greatness and grace in what we play if used mindfully and with discretion.
Alfred July 28, 2011 @04:00 pm
Man, this is gold. Thanks!!
Chris Whitehouse June 18, 2011 @12:22 pm
Again Dave, really insightful stuff. Your blog posts always leave me with more andmore to think about! Best, Chris
Scott Kinnison June 10, 2011 @08:26 am
Great site Dave, and great topics! I have always thought that our life experiences have more to do with shaping our voices as musicians then anything else. That's why two drummers can study and practice the same exercises and sound completely different then eachother. Someone mentioned earlier the musicians of Mowtown and their feel. Well, look at their lives and experiences! No wonder they sounded the way they did. However, there needs to be more then just life experiences, talent, practice and hard work to achieve "it". I believe that fundamentaly it comes down to getting in that head space where you are completely lost in the moment, in a meditative type mindset. That is when you become a conduit of your life experiences, talent, technique, chops, etc... In this state you can do no wrong. You play to your full potential and your voice speaks clearly with feel. I see it immediately in some students, others need to work at it, and some never get there. Some days I get there and some days I don't. I believe it can be learned, and I think it really does not have much to do with drums at all. Thanks!
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