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Effortless Mastery

JazzAcolyte

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Has anyone tried the practice method recommended by Kenny Werner in his book Effortless Mastery? I’m finding the book fascinating but wondering whether his method for getting into a meditative headspace and then practicing small things to the point of absolute mastery is really doable.

And if you followed his method, did you practice that way exclusively, or did you also use practice methods that covered more ground?
 

drums1225

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Has anyone tried the practice method recommended by Kenny Werner in his book Effortless Mastery? I’m finding the book fascinating but wondering whether his method for getting into a meditative headspace and then practicing small things to the point of absolute mastery is really doable.

And if you followed his method, did you practice that way exclusively, or did you also use practice methods that covered more ground?

I read the book in the 90's, but never tried the practice methods. Probably should take another look at it.
 

Jazz Turkey

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My take-away from the read was (paraphrased) “playing music is fun” and “the sounds I make are beautiful”. So in that regard I guess I follow his method sort of. I should revisit because there probably is more to it.
 

Ian S

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I'm not familiar with that book, but your description of his method resonates with me.

When I got serious and decided to rebuild my technique from scratch, I found myself with the PAS rudiments, and totally zoning out on them, one at a time, for several hours a day and for several days in a row, before moving on to the next one. I was totally committed to each one of them, one by one.

At that time I had a great little quiet practice setup at home and I'd spend a little time each evening playing along with music, but during the day I was in a meditative head space, zoning out, almost in a trance with these rudiments. They're a part of me now like riding a bike.

Only caution I'd give is to watch out for repetitive motion injury.. I wish I would have been a little more careful to warm up and stretch first, and set an alarm to take breaks more often.
 

Rock Salad

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I want to read that book. I've seen videos of him talking about it some. Thanks for bringing it up

 

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I'm not familiar with that book, but your description of his method resonates with me.

When I got serious and decided to rebuild my technique from scratch, I found myself with the PAS rudiments, and totally zoning out on them, one at a time, for several hours a day and for several days in a row, before moving on to the next one. I was totally committed to each one of them, one by one.

At that time I had a great little quiet practice setup at home and I'd spend a little time each evening playing along with music, but during the day I was in a meditative head space, zoning out, almost in a trance with these rudiments. They're a part of me now like riding a bike.

Only caution I'd give is to watch out for repetitive motion injury.. I wish I would have been a little more careful to warm up and stretch first, and set an alarm to take breaks more often.

This kind of stuff is interesting to me. I think it's clear that the kind of repetition you're talking about is crucial for burning things into your brain forever. The more research based things I've read indicate that focused deliberate practice is far more effective than distracted or unfocused practice, even for simple muscle memory type things. But I guess getting into a meditative state is quite a different thing than playing flamadiddles while watching TV. Maybe that is the most intense focus you can achieve.
 

JazzAcolyte

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I'm not familiar with that book, but your description of his method resonates with me.

When I got serious and decided to rebuild my technique from scratch, I found myself with the PAS rudiments, and totally zoning out on them, one at a time, for several hours a day and for several days in a row, before moving on to the next one. I was totally committed to each one of them, one by one.

At that time I had a great little quiet practice setup at home and I'd spend a little time each evening playing along with music, but during the day I was in a meditative head space, zoning out, almost in a trance with these rudiments. They're a part of me now like riding a bike.

Only caution I'd give is to watch out for repetitive motion injury.. I wish I would have been a little more careful to warm up and stretch first, and set an alarm to take breaks more often.
Yup, sounds like you were pretty much doing what he advises, which is using meditative techniques to get into a place free of worry, strain, or concern about sounding good, then focusing on one small thing to the point of mastery. By which Werner means the ability to play it perfectly every time without thinking.
 

JazzAcolyte

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This kind of stuff is interesting to me. I think it's clear that the kind of repetition you're talking about is crucial for burning things into your brain forever. The more research based things I've read indicate that focused deliberate practice is far more effective than distracted or unfocused practice, even for simple muscle memory type things. But I guess getting into a meditative state is quite a different thing than playing flamadiddles while watching TV. Maybe that is the most intense focus you can achieve.
Yeah, flamadiddles while watching TV is not what this guy is talking about. :)
 

Ian S

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This kind of stuff is interesting to me. I think it's clear that the kind of repetition you're talking about is crucial for burning things into your brain forever. The more research based things I've read indicate that focused deliberate practice is far more effective than distracted or unfocused practice, even for simple muscle memory type things. But I guess getting into a meditative state is quite a different thing than playing flamadiddles while watching TV. Maybe that is the most intense focus you can achieve.

It's really interesting to me too. I suppose you could call it intense focus. My memory of those days is that I wasn't feeling "intense" about things. There was absolutely a very specific focus, but it was a calm focus. I'd wake up thinking about the rudiment, fresh in my mind from the day before. I probably had some weird dreams during that period. Anyhow I'd shower, make coffee, eat.. I was in no big hurry, but I would be thinking about my hands and the sticking pattern while showering and making coffee, I'd still be on my first coffee when I'd sit down and start playing, and no meandering, it was literally.. okay, flammed mill. Today, tomorrow and the rest of the week.

That's general picture, of course there were little oddities along the way. For instance flammed mill, second day working on it, my hands felt dumb and weren't executing like the evening before, so I went to the bar and had a couple of whiskies and cheese fries and watched the 9-ball tournament they had on, then came home and did nothing but alternating flams for 45 minutes at various speeds, a few minutes doing flam taps, then few minutes backwards paradiddles, and voila, I was executing flammed mill better than the night before.

The basic ones I spent much less time on, like 5, 6, 7 stroke rolls and stuff like that. But the flam rudiments that really challenged my hands, I spent several days to a week. I spent time with both traditional grip and matched, for each rudiment.

I think everyone learns things in their own way, but I also believe that to really ingrain something to permanent muscle memory so it becomes a part of our fabric, an amount of repetition is required to start with, and later on some maintenance. An attentive kid can learn the concept and mechanics required for a rudiment in just a few minutes, and can probably begin to get the pattern correct at a moderate speed not too long after that. But how many reps at higher speeds before falling off the bike. Gospel, "don't just practice til you get it right, practice til you can't get it wrong".

After the aforementioned tennis elbow last few months, it'll be lots of work to get back to where I was, but at least now I have the tools to do that work, largely because of those meditative hours I spent (hurting myself in the first place). And from now on I will drink water, stretch, warm up, and take sufficient breaks when I do the work.
 
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JazzAcolyte

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It's really interesting to me too. I suppose you could call it intense focus. My memory of those days is that I wasn't feeling "intense" about things. There was absolutely a very specific focus, but it was a calm focus. I'd wake up thinking about the rudiment, fresh in my mind from the day before. I probably had some weird dreams during that period. Anyhow I'd shower, make coffee, eat.. I was in no big hurry, but I would be thinking about my hands and the sticking pattern while showering and making coffee, I'd still be on my first coffee when I'd sit down and start playing, and no meandering, it was literally.. okay, flammed mill. Today, tomorrow and the rest of the week.
What else was going on in your life at the time? I’d love to be able to practice like this, but I work full time and have a family. I put in 2 hours most days (4 hours today thanks to being stuck in the basement with Covid!) and somehow in 12 hours a week I have to fit in Stick Control, rudiments, ride cymbal drills, timekeeping to music, brushes, Latin grooves, learning some vocabulary from the greats, and whatever I’m trying to get together for my next jam session…
 

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What else was going on in your life at the time? I’d love to be able to practice like this, but I work full time and have a family. I put in 2 hours most days (4 hours today thanks to being stuck in the basement with Covid!) and somehow in 12 hours a week I have to fit in Stick Control, rudiments, ride cymbal drills, timekeeping to music, brushes, Latin grooves, learning some vocabulary from the greats, and whatever I’m trying to get together for my next jam session…
I’m not sure you can do anything more than you already are. You have the passion, focus and a solid plan. It’ll take time, but you’ll get there (I’m still working toward my own goals and remain hungry to practice every day).

Kenny has a good video about his book on Jazz Heaven. It’s geared toward pianists, but it’s a good supplement to his book. The practice diamond is something I share with all of my students.
 

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What else was going on in your life at the time? I’d love to be able to practice like this, but I work full time and have a family.

Yeah, that is the thing. I had started getting serious about this in 2018, and with work and other stuff, I didn't have that kind of time either, so I was like many, picking and grabbing a few things here and there, mostly trying stuff that was way out of my range at the time. I was in awe of the stuff I saw cats doing on youtube and felt like it was on mars, but at the time I only partially understood what the rudiments were really all about. Early 2019, I found Mike Michalkow paradiddle video, a huge revelation. Late 2019, the people I had been jamming with wanted a hiatus for the holidays, and they weren't as serious anyway. And then before I knew it, it was March 2020 ....quarantine.

I was working from home for about 6 months and then several more months of half time in-building. However, my job is not one that can be done remotely, so my department was tasked with watching endless training videos. It was one of those weird stretches of life I'll never forget.

I'd open my laptop and start the training videos, and promptly close the laptop. I had to check email twice a day but that's it. Boss held a zoom meeting once or twice a week, so that's an hour or so we'd laugh about the neverending and useless training videos.

So I actually got paid to meditate on PAS 40... :)
 
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JazzAcolyte

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Yeah, that is the thing. I had started getting serious about this in 2018, and with work and other stuff, I didn't have that kind of time either, so I was like many, picking and grabbing a few things here and there, mostly trying stuff that was way out of my range at the time. I was in awe of the stuff I saw cats doing on youtube and felt like it was on mars, but at the time I only partially understood what the rudiments were really all about. Early 2019, I found Mike Michalkow paradiddle video, a huge revelation. Late 2019, the people I had been jamming with wanted a hiatus for the holidays, and they weren't as serious anyway. And then before I knew it, it was March 2020 ....quarantine.

I was working from home for about 6 months and then several more months of half time in-building. However, my job is not one that can be done remotely, so my department was tasked with watching endless training videos. It was one of those weird stretches of life I'll never forget.

I'd open my laptop and start the training videos, and promptly close the laptop. I had to check email twice a day but that's it. Boss held a zoom meeting once or twice a week, so that's an hour or so we'd laugh about the neverending and useless training videos.
So you had six months paid vacation and used it to learn rudiments. Excellent choice.
 

michaelocalypse

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I never read the book, but I bought it for a friend because the title looked like something he'd like.

As for your short description, that's worked for me for others things, so I don't see why it wouldn't work for drums. Get better at something small, integrate it, repeat.
 

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Yeah, that is the thing. I had started getting serious about this in 2018, and with work and other stuff, I didn't have that kind of time either, so I was like many, picking and grabbing a few things here and there, mostly trying stuff that was way out of my range at the time. I was in awe of the stuff I saw cats doing on youtube and felt like it was on mars, but at the time I only partially understood what the rudiments were really all about. Early 2019, I found Mike Michalkow paradiddle video, a huge revelation. Late 2019, the people I had been jamming with wanted a hiatus for the holidays, and they weren't as serious anyway. And then before I knew it, it was March 2020 ....quarantine.

I was working from home for about 6 months and then several more months of half time in-building. However, my job is not one that can be done remotely, so my department was tasked with watching endless training videos. It was one of those weird stretches of life I'll never forget.

I'd open my laptop and start the training videos, and promptly close the laptop. I had to check email twice a day but that's it. Boss held a zoom meeting once or twice a week, so that's an hour or so we'd laugh about the neverending and useless training videos.

So I actually got paid to meditate on PAS 40... :)
That paradiddle video is fire !!!
 

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For me this book was largely about state of mind. I'm sure no one can relate, but I can be really hard on myself and really insecure about my playing. Applying the principles in Effortless Mastery helped me to let go of fear and ego and the need to be perfect and the need to impress people, and allowed me to just go out and play. Have fun. Silence the inner critic. Get in the moment. Get deep into the music on a right-brain level, whether practicing or recording or performing live, where every note is the most beautiful sound I've ever heard. I think it's a brilliant book.
 
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Houndog

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For me this book was largely about state of mind. I'm sure no one can relate, but I can be really hard on myself and really insecure about my playing. Applying the principles in Effortless Mastery helped me to let go of fear and ego and the need to be perfect and the need to impress people, and allowed me to just go out and play. Have fun. Silence the inner critic. Get in the moment. Get deep into the music on a left-brain level, whether practicing or recording or performing live, where every note is the most beautiful sound I've ever heard. I think it's a brilliant book.
Oh , I can relate ….
 

IVER

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Has anyone tried the practice method recommended by Kenny Werner in his book Effortless Mastery? I’m finding the book fascinating but wondering whether his method for getting into a meditative headspace and then practicing small things to the point of absolute mastery is really doable.

And if you followed his method, did you practice that way exclusively, or did you also use practice methods that covered more ground?
I can't say I've used KW's philosophy in practising, but I use it all the time in performance. The big hurdle for many musicians to get over is surrendering their egos, not worrying what others (or yourself) think about what you're playing, and just go with the music. It makes for a better, more musical experience. And looking beyond the drum kit, it's something we should do in all aspects of our life.
 


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