Walt Weiskopf – Play the Routine

Sometimes, someone says something that really makes an impact on me. It may be a small part of a much more wide-ranging conversation, but there’s that one point that really hits home and becomes a real “a-ha moment.” In Episode 42 of the Performers Pathway Podcast saxophonist Walt Weiskopf said this:

“In my teaching, I’ve said that when you sit down to practice, try just to start playing. Have something you’re working on. Don’t think too much about what am I going to do. Just start your project.”

“I could go down the black hole of, “Am I practicing the right thing? Should I go on to a different tune?” Sometimes I tell myself, don’t think. Just play the routine. And that’s half the battle, is just getting through your routine. At this point, my routine is get the horn out, put a reed on, and play “Hot House” in 12 keys. Which I’ve been telling myself I should be able to do, but it was a huge project for me. It took me months and months.”

So, there are a few takeaways for me here:

First, have a routine. A project you’re working on. Don’t think about it too much as long as your working on something that’s has some challenge to it. Just getting on the instrument and spending time with it is valuable. Second, don’t go down the rabbit hole of , “Am I practicing the right things?” If you haven’t yet developed the mental or physical skills needed to execute the music you’re working on, why worry about moving on to another challenge? Finally, we need to have patience. Weiskopf, a world-class musician with 20 critically-acclaimed CDs and countless sideman credits, including performing and recording with Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan admits that his project of playing Hot House in all 12 keys took months for him to master.

So set your goal and make it your daily routine to get to work on that project and chip away at it a little bit everyday. Don’t question it. Don’t get discouraged when it feels like you aren’t making progress. Don’t skip a day when the novelty has worn off, and you’d rather play something new. Yes, you can absolutely modify your goals and routines as you progress, find new inspirations, or approaches, but don’t jump from one idea to another too quickly. Put the time in to fully master the music even if it takes months and months.

This has certainly made me reevaluate what my daily practice routine could look like and I’ll be sharing more of that here soon.

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