Week 4 Routine Reflection: Variety is the Spice of Life

I decided to go in a different direction with my routine this week after three weeks of very regimented practice sessions.

Bill Lucas, Professor of Jazz Trumpet at the University of Michigan, once asked me if I ever sat in a practice room with no music and just played music. While this concept seemed a little foreign to me because I like to structure my practice sessions thoughtfully, I gave it a shot and was very pleased with the results. By introducing a sense of randomness to my daily routine, I was eliminating the voice in my head that would say: “Oh, you’re not so good at Snedecor #7, maybe you should just skip it.” Additionally, there was something liberating about walking into the practice room not knowing exactly what I was going to be working on that day.

However, I didn’t feel like this routine offered the same level of top to bottom maintenance that I was looking for in a daily routine. Simply put, it became a little difficult for me to remember exactly what I had done on Monday so as not to do the same thing on Saturday. I suppose I could have just written down what I had done, but I really wanted to feel like what I was doing was unregimented and somewhat random, so I tried to avoid writing things down or following a set routine as best I as a could. If anything, this proved to me that having a precise idea of a) exactly what I want to improve on and b) how I’m going to do it is by far the best way to ensure steady growth and avoid random practicing.

Here’s exactly what I did: I took two ziplock bags, and filled one with the names of the composers of the books I was working out of or the particular exercise (Arban, Kopprasch, Snedecor, Olka Giant Steps etc…) and the second with numbers 1-30. I then chose two exercises/studies from each section per day. Again, it was really nice to break away from having an extremely regimented routine, but I find that the regimented routine is a much better way to go in terms of ensuring growth and improvement.

BUT, it is important to not be a slave to a routine and simply do things because you think they may be good for you. I’ve found that the times I’ve felt like I’ve improved the most were times that I knew exactly what I needed to work on, and also knew exactly how to improve that part of my playing.

Two quotes I remember writing down from a Warren Deck/Floyd Cooley masterclass at ITEC a few years ago ring particularly true right now:

“It is important to remember a daily routine is not set in stone. It must be flexible to accommodate changes in yourself or your circumstance.”

“Your routine should be like home. Use it as a reference to gauge your needs, weaknesses and strengths.”

Here’s the routine! Next week I’ll be comparing three popular routine books and posting my thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!
Summer Routine v4