The point of drills is three-fold: isolation, repetition, and experimentation. Isolate the skills, repeat them in well-thought out drills (or â€œexercises,â€ as we usually say in improv), and encourage the team to experiment so that you can both push the parameters of your skills and note where the edges start to fray.
- The House That Del Built
I won't try to speak for you. Really. I won't. But I will wonder quite actively if you aren't also struggling with this same thing. I mean, I am fine being the only one who struggles with this stuff, but I doubt it so strongly that I may come across as putting words in your mouth. That is an unfortunate but understandable (I hope) misconstrual of my intent. Forgive me nonetheless. Likely it'll do me good. I'm in a rut. I'm in a mandolin rut and I'm trying to shake myself out of it. I've been playing the same kind of tunes with the band for eight years and though I am grateful for this beyond measure (rim shot), I find that I need to shake something loose. I started to notice a certain, shall we say, lack of imagination in my playing. I stopped practicing. I stopped working through the solos. I stopped drilling my scales. I stopped. Why? Well, I figure that I know the songs so well by now that there's really no need to practice. Muscle memory and the neurological habits will get me through. Plus, we play in bars. No matter what really happens in the third set, the beer-slogged denizens of the pub always think we're the best thing they've ever heard. We sound great when you are drunk. Don't laugh. It's not funny. It's arrogant and rude and likely I need to go to confession to work this out. Okay, it's a little funny, but I'm trying to work something out here. So, yeah...I'm disrespecting the audience. I'm disrespecting the music. This is what ruts do, you know. They breed disrespect. Acedia is unattractive. It causes all kinds of mistakes and misappraisals. We make brash assumptions that everyone is bored and people are simply being polite in their feigned enjoyment. It's a problem. And it's mine. So, I was glad when this article came across my Facebook feed. It's all about the rehearsal process and how practice can get us out of our ruts and into new places of creativity. The drills, scales, and exercises of musical proficiency can actually get us out of our ruts. Practice perfects the musician...their souls and hearts as well as their skill sets.
Isolation. In order to really work a skill, it needs to be separated out as much as possible from other skills in the exercises you do in rehearsal. Obviously, it needs some context, but the existence of the team itself provides that context, because you know that, in the end, this skill needs to be incorporated into the larger work of your shows.... Repetition. Run it. Run it again. Talk about what you saw. Run it again. Maybe you add restrictions, or increase the range of the drill (but letâ€™s save that for â€œexperimentationâ€). But first and foremost, you run it... Experimentation. Because, again, if you only get one chance to do something during a rehearsal, youâ€™re sure as hell not gonna want to screw it up. And screwing up is how we learn. Itâ€™s how we find our boundaries and push our limits....
Go away and be in your [prayer] closet. Repeat as needed. Then experiment. Take risks. There is always something new to learn. Create a safe place for yourself. Find a prayer closet, a community, a band...and play. Practice. Run it again and again. The boundaries will indeed shift. The borders will expand and define themselves in new and surprising ways. Discomfort may, no, will come, but that's just the forerunner of excitement and something new.