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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

March 8, 2012

For the longest time there has been this concept that I wanted to post about.  I have made draft after draft, but the resulting post has always been terrible.  What follows is mildly better, but it is still really poorly explained, stick with it and see if you catch what I am getting at.  As always, very interested to know your thoughts and comments!

Right now, I want you to think about a technical issue in your playing.  Now think about your approach to practicing this issue.  If you were to make a chart of your practice time, I am sure a significant amount of time every day is dedicated to it.  That makes sense, right? If something is terrible, work on it.  A common issue is that we hit a plateau in our progress.  When this happens it can be so wildly frustrating and confusing.  What is the solution?

The phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can limit our mind when looking for solutions.  Mastering the horn is not like putting out fires, rather it is more like peeling away layers of an infinite onion – there is always another layer of efficiency to be revealed.

Let’s relate it to a real world example:  I have been working on my high register for YEARS, and after countless lessons, reading every book I can find, labeling innumerable exercises as “the one”, it still sucks. In a recent lesson I was working on being a little more efficient in my middle register (something that teachers have always labeled as one of my stronger points).  The change was small, both in terms of physicality and in the sound produced, but it opened my high register up significantly.

Why? I found greater ease in producing the sound I wanted in the middle register, my physical set up wasn’t taxed so early and those positive fundamentals were carried up higher.

All this to say, if there is a technical issue you have been struggling with for a long time without much improvement, perhaps stop tackling it head on, rather see if there are ways to better some of your existing strengths and see how that effects your main issue.

… See?  How poorly was that explained? Hope you got my point in the end!  Feel free to drop me a line at andrew.swinney@gmail.com or just leave a comment below! Happy practicing!

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