• The Michael Jordan Method To Music Mastery

    in Piano

    It surprises me the number of people married to their own “Cant’s.”

    More surprising, the fact that most have not really given the endeavor even the MINIMUM amount of time required for growth, let alone mastery.

    Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, “Outliers,” talks about the 10,000 hour rule. Summed up, it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something.

    And when I look at all the master musicians I’ve had the opportunity to work with, introduce you to, observe, it’s undeniable they found a way to put in those hours.

    It’s not unlikely to hear of them shutting themselves in a room for 7 or 8 hours a day… playing until hands collapse… repeating ONE lick for an entire hour, non-stop… executing and re-excuting something until it’s clean. And this is just a starter list.

    I’ve heard stories of Michael Jordan practicing the same shot until he made it X times in a row, having to reset and start all over if he missed just ONE shot.

    Say your “X” was 100. That means if you shot 97 successful shots but missed your 98th, you’d have to start over at ZERO… nada… zilch. Most couldn’t hang. Most won’t.

    Heck, forget about 100. It’s extremely hard to do a fraction of that — 25 perfect repetitions.

    If you’re not seeing how this relates to music, you’ve already missed the boat.

    Want to learn a fast run, or lick, or complicated chord progression?

    Follow these steps and the only way you won’t succeed is if you’re still married to your “Cant’s.” I decree a divorce! :-)

    1) Whatever you’re trying to master, SLOW IT DOWN until you can do it perfectly.

    This is so simple, yet I observe so many musicians trying to learn something at full tempo, expecting to get it in a few iterations. It ain’t happenin’.

    Slow it down to 50% of actual speed, 25%, even 10% if you have to.

    The point is accuracy and precision. Muscle memory involves doing the same movement the same way. If you haven’t taken the time to slow it down, you’re probably fumbling over the notes each time and not developing a consistent pattern your brain can memorize and communicate to your muscles.

    I get questions all the time about fingering and while fingering is extremely important, consistency trumps it. You can pick the wrong fingering and still be a master because you’ve trained yourself to do it the same way EVERY TIME.

    You’ve probably heard of the “Turtle vs Hare” story. The race isn’t given to the swift, but to the one who endures until the end.

    2) Play the game – Pick a number and stick to it

    This one is about discipline and self-integrity.

    Because the number is arbitrary and self-imposed, the temptation to stop when you want is certainly there.

    I’m not saying start with 100 (because that’s extremely difficult), but whatever you pick – STICK TO IT.

    If you pick 15 “PERFECT” iterations, then that’s your number and you ought not get up until you’ve done it 15 perfect times at whatever speed necessary.

    What will happen is you’ll probably end up having to start over more than 15 times, causing your total repetitions to be well into the hundreds.

    And it’s a catch 22 because if you’re not having to start over a lot, you’ve probably mastered the material at the given tempo and need to increase it. If you’re at 100% tempo and you’ve hit your number, either increase the number or call this one “MASTERED” and move on to new material.

    3) Keep score

    There’s nothing like keeping score.

    There’s this theory called the “Hawthorne Effect” that basically says when a group of subjects know they’re being studied (either by researcher or management or anything), the behavior being observed and measured IMPROVES.

    Often times it doesn’t even have anything to do with the new policy or experimentation at hand. Just the fact they know they’re being measured causes change.

    When you keep score of your victories (and even woes), the same is true in my opinion.

    So keep a journal of what you’ve mastered, how many repetitions, and how long it took. If you’ve succumbed to the temptation to get up prematurely, also record those woes.

    If you really embrace these tips, you’ll see breakthrough, game-changing results. I’d like to hear from you below. Let me know what you think.

    Until next time,

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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