Effortless Mastery - Kenny Werner


Shared on Mon, 07/06/2009 - 08:24

I just finished reading this great book. Kenny is a jazz pianist and the book is a book aimed at getting people to empty their heads, and relax and really be able to play without worries and ego etc. The concepts in this book relate to music but can be applied to all aspects of life (music, sports, art, public speaking etc.). I picked it up because I experience a lot of anxiety when I play guitar in front of people and I think I haven't been getting the most out of my practice time.

The book is very heavy into meditation, battling ego and loving yourself etc. That stuff is a little bit over the top for me - but some of the concepts in the book are very valid. I'm going to embrace the exercises because honestly...what have I got to lose :)

i.e. the idea that most people do not practice properly. They try to learn too much too fast. They are worried about wasting time but in essence by learning things half-assed (if they can play a piece/lick/concept through 2 or 3 times they think they have "learned" it) they are truly wasting time. If people would take one small thing and work on it until it is truly mastered and then move on to the next that they would be better served.

The idea that a lot of players - practice like they should be playing and play like they should be practicing. Players will get overwhelmed with how much they have to learn and eventually practice sessions turn into the player just letting lose and jamming and getting lost in the music. And when they perform they tighten up and are worried about making mistakes or looking foolish, or trying to impress the girl in the front row or the guys from another local band that have stopped by to check out your band etc. by tightening up and trying to play well they actually sound weak and unsure etc.

You shouldn't have to think or even be inside your own head when you play something that you have truly mastered. It should be like you are outside yourself looking at yourself play - your hands will have minds of their own - you won't be thinking about messing up, wrong notes, etc. You will just be thinking wow this guy is a master!

Some neat things I've discovered already by of this book - the things I thought I knew well - I do not lol Things I have been playing for YEARS have holes in them that I have to struggle with certain parts or that I have to concentrate to get through. Even a simple exercise like concentrating on breathing (the easiest thing to do...and the most important) while playing will show some of these holes. Play your song/lick/scale whatever and just breath in deep breaths (not in time with the lick - just big natural breaths) and hold them and breath out. Did you lose the time of the piece you were playing? Did you miss a note or a change? For me I was able to play some parts but some others would fall apart - those are the parts I need to master - those are the parts I have been "fighting my way through or glossing over" for years. If you can't just breath while playing a peice imagine what happens when you try to play a song and your head gets filled with all this nonsense "did anyone notice that clam?" "wow I hope I sound good" "I hope they like me" "this is the most important thing ever"

Pretty neat stuff really. Like I said it's a little over the top with some of the hokey parts but the concepts underneath all that are valid and important. Even something like learning to pick up your guitar without expectation. Picking up your guitar shouldn't cause you to start thinking "Oh I hope I have a good practice session" or "I hope I don't screw up". It should be like picking up a fork - you just do it and expect nothing of it. Don't let your shoulders tense up and your neck tighten up as your expectations and trepidations start flooding in - get rid of all those thoughts and just let your hands do what they already know how to do.  When you pick up a fork you don't think "oh I hope I don't poke myself in the eye" or "I hope I don't look foolish using this" - you just do it and you let your body take over and your mind doesn't think about the act.

I've started mediating (something I've never done before) and even if I never truly get the hang of it - it sure is relaxing and that can't be a bad thing :)


ATC_1982's picture
Submitted by ATC_1982 on Mon, 07/06/2009 - 09:03
way to go and glad you enjoyed the book.
char's picture
Submitted by char on Mon, 07/06/2009 - 11:04
Why you insightful SOG you!!! Who knew! When are you gonna play for your clannies? We’ll be good, I swear, or I’ll bring out the “PAN!” Nice blog Monkeyboy.... = )
BlowMonkey's picture
Submitted by BlowMonkey on Mon, 07/06/2009 - 11:49
@ATC: Thanks ATC - I did quite enjoy the book and imagine I'll be reading it over and over again to internalize some of this stuff :) @Char: I'm not that comfortable yet lol but one day maybe I can kick this ego to the curb and let loose during a Killzone match =) What type of music do you like? I actually work with a guy who doesn't like music....I can't understand that - it just doesn't make any sense to me lol
char's picture
Submitted by char on Mon, 07/06/2009 - 14:18
Same here. Put a gun in my hands (so to speak) and I think I'm a badazz!...lol K2, R2, MGO, etc, etc. but you know that already...lol I can't help it, I love shootin' you nuts! The answer to the other question is being sent via PM. It's nice and long, so get your reading glasses on if you wear them. *evil laugh*

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