Are you a T-Shape Practicer? (Podcast Episode #34)

Posted by: JAZZEDGE on June 15, 2021

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00:06 Hey guys, Willie Myette creator of jazz edge want to welcome you to episode number 34 of the confident improviser podcast. Today we are talking about are you a T shaped practice Sir, what I'm going to do is I'm going to teach you the differences between going wide versus going deep. And this will help you to be able to practice the piano or whatever instrument you're playing more effectively. Now, this podcast is a companion podcast for the confident improviser program, which is found at jazz edge, there is also an audio only version which you can go ahead and download as a jazz edge member. Alright, so a T shaped practice are, first of all, let's talk about wide versus deep. So when you go wide, that means that you don't focus too much attention on any one concept. Whereas going deep means that you really kind of do a deep dive into one or more concepts. So I've talked about this before. But I wanted to kind of revisit this again, because it's a super important concept when practicing. So for instance, I'm going to give you a couple of different examples in this podcast as well to kind of help you out. But basically, have you ever found that you know, you're working on a song, and you end up forgetting the song, right, you end up practicing so much on a song, you might, you know, practice 234 months on a particular song, and then you move on to another song, and then you come back to it. And then you find that, hey, I can't play that original song anymore. The reason that that normally happens is that you're probably going deep on that song, meaning you're focusing all of your practice energy on that one song, rather than really spreading out your energy and really starting to understand more of these broad concepts at your instrument. So the benefits of wide versus deep practice. So your wide practice is great, because you can take one concept, and you can learn it over many different songs, when you go deep, it really allows you to really, like I said, do a deep dive into a song, and really kind of get down that song. But you have to know when to do each. So let's move on here. So let's talk about the T shaped practice. Now the T shaped practice er does both, they go both wide. And now and again, they go deep. So here you can see I have an image of a T and the top horizontal part of the T, right, the one that goes from left to right, you know the very top of the T that's going wide. So you basically start on one end, you just kind of keep going on. But then every now and again you have that you know the line that goes straight up and down to form that T. Alright, that's going deep. That's where you're going to end up going deep now and again, let's talk about a couple of different examples. All right, so first of all, one thing you could do is you could take one concept, something like shells, and try applying it to many different songs. I've talked about this before in the lessons, but what does this look like? So when you're working on shells, like maybe you're going to do, 03:27 we're gonna do like, Misty, doing shells right here in the left hand, okay, in the shells. You know, they don't sound super full. But that's okay. All right, for right now, the main thing is, you want to understand that concept. Now, when you go wide with that concept, and you take that same concept and you apply it to many different sorts. 03:48 Let's do a misbehaving. Alright, so there you go. It's like wood shells. Not too bad. Okay. 04:00 Let's say I did my romance. Sound sounds good. What if I did? It could happen to you, right? So there's another example of just utilizing that concept of shells. So now when I say go wide, I typically recommend to students that they do at least five songs or more, utilizing that one concept. So let's say you're going through my lessons and you're learning rootless chord voicings. Okay, so now, maybe you've worked on your dominant seventh rootless chord voicing CMC seven, f seven and g7 you get those down. Okay, great. Now, one thing you could do is to go wide utilizing those rootless chord voicings, try playing the blues in a different key. So maybe you Have a baseline down here. You can do your rulers chords in the right hand. Right, so here I'm playing a baseline in the left hand, and I'm playing those rootless chords in the right hand. So now to go wide, right, and again, be that T shaped practice or take those same chords, move them into another key, do a blues in another key, even if the baseline has to be super simple. So we're in just a key of C, let's move to the key of B flat, and then here. See how I can make that baseline super simple, I'm just literally playing the routes over and over again, that could be what, B flat, maybe do a root five root. There I am in B flat, maybe I'm moving into G and this time, I'll you know, try and do the root five root approach for my baseline. 06:15 I do all of those chords to create that g blues. So what I've done is I've taken one concept, and I've moved that concept into several different keys or several different songs. So if it's a concept like playing shells, then that would be a great concept to do that over many different standards. You know, maybe you started on my romance, you go through my my romance lesson, but then you also do that over, you know, Misty, you do it over any of the standards by the dozen lessons, okay, maybe another concept is playing a chord voicing. Or rather than playing that chord voicing in all 12 keys and just moving around the circle of fifths, what I find is better for students to do is take that voicing, right, take a couple of them, create the blues, okay, and then move that into all 12 keys. Let me give you some other examples. Alright, so let's talk about scales for a second. Okay, so here a T shaped example would be use your songs to practice your scales, rather than just going around the circle of fifths. For instance, we have 12 major scales, we already know that it's super important. And we've gone through in piano essentials, all 12 of those major scales, the proper fingering, how to play them, the right notes, all of that stuff. So one thing that you could do is you could just simply take a scale, and go through a scale every month, and then work through that scale. And that would be perfectly fine to do it that way. But to move it into this kind of T shaped practice idea, instead, what I think would be a better idea is practice a scale of a song that you're working on, right? Doesn't matter what style of song, right? In my piano accompaniment essentials, right now we're going through 08:03 going through that fire and rain song by by James Taylor. So that's in the key of C. Okay, so then maybe you say, Okay, well, I'm gonna practice my C major scale. And then you know, the bridge kind of goes with the four chords, and maybe you can even say, hey, look, I'm going to practice my F major scale there as well, I'll do CNF, maybe I'm going to go into my romance, and that's in the key of B flat. So now I have my B flat major scale. So there, I have three scales that I can work on C major, F major, B flat major, right. And now the reason I say that that's more important, more powerful than just saying, hey, let me just go through and practice my 12 major scales around the circle of fifths is because then you could start to apply those major scales under those songs, right? So then you can take those scales start to utilize them for improvisation over the songs that you're working on. Okay. So again, what you do is you find a song that you're working on, and you practice the major scale for that particular song. Now, if the song happens to be in a minor key, we'll practice the minor scale. So if we're in C minor, no practice C major. Instead, you practice C minor, which is the same thing as E flat major scale, starting on C. Okay. So by doing that, now, at least you have something that you can utilize for improvisation over that song, whether you want to improvise or not. But then at least what it does for you is it helps to lock in the scale and the songs that you're working on. Rather than practicing, let's say, A flat major scale and not playing any Songs in the Key of a flat, you're better off to link up the scales that you're working on, along with the songs that you're working on. Okay, let's move on. Here's another example. Put your repertoire practice on a rotating schedule. So again, going back to that An example that I said of how many times have we learned the song only to forget it months later? Well, typically that happens because we learn a song, and then it gets forgotten about, we don't play it again, we don't keep reviewing it. And then that's where once we know that song, it should go into our repertoire, and we should continue to practice it. Now, we have a challenge with this. And that is that, well, what happens after we get five songs in our repertoire, 10 songs in our repertoire, 15 songs 2025 50 100. Right, it would be almost impossible for you and each practice session to be able to sit down and practice through all of your repertoire. So a better idea is create a rotating schedule for your repertoire. And this is how you do it. You take your repertoire, you print it off, okay, you put it into a binder. So now if you have only five songs, that's pretty simple to be able to practice, you know those five songs in one practice session. But even still five songs could end up taking you 20 minutes to go through in practice. Now before I move on, let's talk about the difference between practice and repertoire. practice. Practice is when you're sitting down, you're playing stuff that you don't already know, repertoire practice should be done at a later time. So you should do that, you know, maybe at the beginning of the day, at the end of the day, it shouldn't be linked up with your practice, because too often what happens is students will sit down and I've heard this time and time again, they sit down, they play their repertoire for 20 minutes. And then they say I didn't have time to practice anything else. Because I was using my repertoire as a warm up. Do not use your repertoire as a warm up a better warm up would be practiced through some scales. You know, do some scales, do some chromaticism, do some chords, do some arpeggios. You know, practice that kind of stuff for your warm up instead of practicing your scales. Okay? So or rather than practicing your repertoire rather. Alright, so now this rotating schedule for your repertoire, let's say you have five songs in repertoire, or let's leave and bump that up to 10. So then what you do is when you sit down to practice your repertoire, like I said, it's best to do that at another time in your practice session. So if you practice, yeah, no, just for an example. Let's say you practice at four o'clock at night, okay? So you got home from work and you sat down, you practice for 20 minutes, well, then maybe you eat dinner, maybe you exercise, go for a walk, hang out with the kids, whatever it is, and then maybe then later on at like eight o'clock, or 830 or nine o'clock, you go through your repertoire that's too late for you. Fine, no worries, didn't find another time if you do it first thing in the morning. But the point is, you practice your repertoire at a separate time from when you do your regular practice. Okay, so now you have your repertoire in your binder, you have 10 songs, this is where a sticky note comes in handy. Put a sticky note on the first song, okay, that's where you're going to start. Okay. So 12:50 when you open up your binder, you see your sticky note on your first song. Now you got 10 songs in your repertoire that you're going to practice. Let's say you sit down, and now I know you got through four songs, and then you got pulled away for one reason or another. And you couldn't go through any more of your practice or any more of your repertoire, you couldn't practice anymore, you were just tired, whatever, fine, no worries. So now move the sticky note to song number five, or wherever you end it off. So that then the next time you come to your repertoire, you could see exactly where that sticky note is. And you know, okay, I'm going to go right to that spot in my repertoire. And then I'm going to practice from that point moving forward. Now eventually, you're going to finish your repertoire and and what are you going to do, you're going to come right back to the beginning again, okay, so you should be able to rotate through your entire repertoire. Within a week, depending on the size of your repertoire might take two weeks might take three weeks, might even take a month. But the point is you should be rotating through that repertoire. And that's another great way of going wide and being that T shaped practice. Don't dive into one song instead, keep moving on from one song to the next. Okay, so now let's talk about some non t shape examples. Like I said, practicing all 12 major scales without applying them to a song, just simply saying, hey, look, I'm going to practice my 12 major scales. There do one key a month, nothing wrong with that. It's actually something that I recommend in piano essentials. However, with this idea of the T shaped practice, it would be a lot better for you, rather than just randomly going through and saying, Okay, I'm gonna start on C, then I'm going to go to G, then I'm gonna go to D, I'm gonna follow the circle of fifths. No, instead, if you maybe start on C, and then you are going through standards by the dozen, and you do the days of wine and roses lesson. Well, that's in the key of F. Okay, so then practice the F major scale, then you're going to move on to the misty lesson that's in the key of E flat. So now practice the E flat major scale. So you see how your practice starts to link up, right? That's being that T shaped practice. Right, really seeing the linkage between your practice The all of the different things that you're practicing, how can they start to link up, you're going to remember that scale much better. And it's going to benefit your song a lot more, if you link up the scale, along with the songs that you're practicing. Another example, focusing on one song for months, all right, just to quote get it right before moving on. This is really important. Remember, you want to go for about 80% mastery for right now, why 80% because if you try going for 100% mastery, it's going to take you months and months and months to be able to get down a song and unlikely what's going to happen is that, yes, you will eventually get it after a while. But the reason you're getting it is because you have just devoted so much time to playing it over and over again, here's the rub, you're not fully understanding the concepts, okay? Because you're not doing the T shape. Instead, you're just doing that deep dive, it's like the camera and you just dive into that song. And then that's it. That's all you're thinking about for months, because you just want to get that song down, don't worry, I completely get it. But for right now you're better off going for 80% of the salt, right? Try and get down 80% or so once you feel as though you basically have it, maybe there's a couple of mistakes here and there. But you basically got it, then move on. Now, it doesn't mean that you forget about the song, it goes into your repertoire. And then you should be continuing to practice that song within your repertoire, what's going to happen is that 80% mastery is going to bump up to 85 to 90 to 95 and eventually 100% mastery, but it's going to take some time, it might take several months before you get to 100% mastery. And the other thing to understand is that there are concepts that you might have to practice more before you can really master that song. Okay, so it's super important that you don't just stay on one song for too long, 17:03 you're better off to keep moving, keep moving forward. All right, another example, getting sidetracked by new lessons or ideas you see online, the benefit we have right now is we have no shortage of information available at our fingertips. Any time of day or night, you could get onto YouTube, you can get onto my site, you know, with over 800 hours of lessons, I know that there's always new stuff there that you can be taking a look at, that you probably haven't seen before or have definitely not mastered yet. So there's always something new to be looking at live. This is where you have to put your blinders on. And you have to say no, I am going to like really be that T shaped practice or Okay, I'm going to take a concept, I'm going to apply it over several different songs. Okay, and now when again, I'm going to deep dive on a particular concept or on a particular song. But if you're a deep dive in all of the time, okay? Or if you're getting sidetracked, and they're like, oh, there's something new online, you know, oh, well, let me do that. Okay, that is a way to get sidetracked and to just fall into this rabbit hole. And then when you fall into that rabbit hole, what happens? We all know what happens, right? What happens is, you feel like you're not making that forward progress. And then you then just throw up your hands and like, forget it, I can't do this, right? Or I'm not making any progress. If you feel like you're not making any progress, it's likely because you're not thinking about this T shape when you're practicing. Right? So super, super important that you really focus on this T shape going wide most of the time. And going deep, now and again. Right? So let me give you another example of how you might approach this. Let's say you're going wide, and you're you know, you're working on, you know, standards by the dozen, you're working through all of these different standards. And you're taking one concept, right? It might be shells. Now there are several there are like a half dozen standards up there already, right that you can go through and standards by the dozen. So then you take that concept of shells and you ply it over those half dozen songs, right? Rather than, as you probably already know. And if you don't then let me tell you in standards by the dozen, we go through the lead sheet we go through shells, we go through rootless voicings two handed comping baselines improvisation, right. So there's a lot of information that you could deep dive on one song in standards by the dozen. So instead of doing that, now we kind of know alright, I want to be a T shaped practice. So then you take the idea of shells, you approach it on all six standards. Then you go back, you say, Okay, now let me do my rootless court. You do that on all six standards. Now. Hey, Willie just came out with piano accompaniment essentials. What am I to do? Should I go through that or should I stick on, you know, standards by the dozen? Well, this is a decision that you have to make based on the amount of time that you have, and based on your level of focus, okay, so that could be where you kind of go deep for a little bit on piano accompaniment, essentially, maybe you take a couple of days, and you just take a look at some of those lessons and try thinking about those concepts. But then you quickly get back to your T shaped practice, and you make sure, hey, look, I was doing this wide concept on my standards. So let me get back to that wide concept. Here's another non t shaped example, not moving on, because you feel like you don't have it yet. So going back to that 80% mastery rule, you're always going to feel always gonna feel like you need more time on a concept, okay? If you don't, then you might not actually be understanding just the breadth of information. And practice that's required. I'm a concept, because quite frankly, even on something as simple as shells, to really get that concept down and to do it, well, it takes a while, right? It's not something you're going to learn in just a week, because there's a lot of theory that's involved with learning the piano, okay? Now, if we're just going to like, think about musical typing in which we just put our hand down, like just plop our hand on the sheet chord of blue, like notes in the right hand. 21:21 Yeah, sure. That makes it a little bit easier when we're really not thinking about the theory. But then, if we don't have theory as our backdrop in our lessons, and in our practice, then we're going to forget what we've learned. Why? Because we're no longer learning the theory, right? We're not practicing the theory, we're just learning shapes, shapes, and and the way that your hand feels on the keyboard, or the way that it looks is very, very easy to forget. Okay? Whereas theory, and once you understand the theory, that's a lot harder to get to forget, okay? For instance, let's say you see a math problem in front of you, you might be able to memorize that math problem visually, right? And see it and be able to write it out again. But then now think about the understanding of it, do you fully understand it? Now take something like two plus two, five plus 510 plus 10? You know, all of those answers right away. Why? Because you drilled and drilled and drilled those concepts as a young child until you fully mastered them. That is t shaped practice. Remember how you did addition, right? You didn't just like see two plus two, once you saw it many different times, and you saw it in many different ways, again, t shape, but then guess what? Now your teacher comes along and says, Okay, today we're going to talk about subtraction. Now. Now we're going to go deep into subtraction, we go deep, we learn the concept until finally, now we start to go wide with it again. And we start to take that concept, and we start to apply it to several different examples. Okay, this is not a T shaped practice is not Well, number one, it's not rocket science. And number two, it's also something that is ever evolving and ever changing based on you, the individual practice, or everyone is going to have their own individual t shape. What I want you to think about as part of this podcast episode is, how much are you going wide in your practice? versus going deep? That's the first thing I want you to answer for yourself. The second question I want you to answer for yourself is, do I find that I forget the stuff that I practice? Or am I really, do I really own it? Do I really have it memorized? Can I recall it when I want to recall it? If you answered yes that you're forgetting it, okay? Then that probably means that you're not doing t shaped practice, it probably means that you're going deep on many of these concepts. All right, and then you move on to the next concept, never to practice the original concept, right? So you want to make sure you learn a concept you might go deep on it for a little bit but then you start to go wide with it again to use the example of chord shells, you know, you work through your quarters, okay, I learned my chord shows, I know my chord shells or whatever they are right okay, root three root seven, and then I'm going to try applying them to other songs. 24:41 So whatever it is, you know, you might be something you make up like that, or it might be a tune right? So 24:54 again, you know the concept of shells you know, it's it's, it's fine. It's it's not going to blow the doors off and arranging composition, you know, but it is going to get you the sound. And then once you know that concept of shells, then what do we do, we layer on top, we layer on top. So each of these concepts, think of it as like learning two plus two, learning those simple addition, you know, problems first, right? So you take the concept, you learned it, now you go wide with it, you go wide with it, you apply it to several different songs. And then what you're going to find is that now that concept is going to get locked in your memory, and then you're going to be able to apply it and you're going to be able to recall it. And you're going to be able to memorize and recall your repertoire much, much quicker, because you've gone wide on these concepts. The other beauty of this as well is that let's say you work out some arrangement for a song doesn't matter what the song is, right? And you know, you're doing all of us, like, you know, again, maybe it's my ranch. So, like, Okay, you go through, like, I'm really like, all those chords, you practice, you practice it until finally, you have like, the arrangement that you want. 26:31 Okay, and then you practice it for a little while, and then it goes into repertoire. But then you come back to it later, and you forgot it. Oh, no, now you forgot all these like, nice, beautiful, rich chords and arrangement that you did, okay? Like, maybe you started. Okay. But then what did I do here, I forget what then, if you've practiced your concept of like shells or rootless chords, or whatever, if you've gone wide on those concepts, then you can revert back to those. So then I could do stuff like that. Nice, full chords. Right? And then, okay, I forget what it is here. Let me just do my shell. Okay, but uh, back on. Whoops, I forgot this. Okay, shell. So you see how I can mix and mingle these concepts together? Because I really know the shells, right? So if I've learned the arrangement of a song, and I forget that arrangement, I can always revert back to what it is that I know. Let me give you another way of looking at that. Let's say you're starting to do a more complicated math example. Right? So it might be like 3x equals 15. In order to figure out x, you know, you got to divide 15 by three, right? But let's say for some reason, I don't know just to be silly. For right now. Let's say you forget division. Okay. So like you just completely like, like, have a mind blank. I don't know, well, what does it mean to divide? And how do I divide? Well, another way you could go about that is you know that, okay, well, it's 15. And there's three, right? So then what can you do? You could put out 15, you could divide it into three different things. And so what you could do is you could say, Okay, let me have like four of them. And let's get another four and another four. And you could add them all up. And like, I don't know, that only equals 12. All right, so then now you put five and five and five, you could add those up. And now Okay, now I got 15. The point is this, we all know that when we're doing problems, be it Nath or whatever it is, in the world, there's always more than one way of looking at that problem, right? And then there's, by having several different ways of looking at that problem. That means we can get to the solution and get to the answer more than one way. So that's what I'm talking about with these going wide concepts. You go, why'd you do that T shape on something like say, simple baselines, root five root shells, on rootless voicings, whatever it is, then now you should be much better poised to take those concepts that you went wide on and really have them locked in your memory. So that when you need to, you can pull them out again, going wide, right? That t shaped, okay, that horizontal plane, that's just like, you know, reviewing those math problems over and over and over again, an example after example, until you finally know two plus two equals four, right? So it's the same idea we're going wide on on that particular concept. So we really, really lock it in. 29:49 So then when we come back to our arrangement, if we forget something in our arrangement, not to worry, we can always go back to some of those easier concepts that we went wide. On, and that we really got down under our fingertips. Okay? So going wide versus going deep. Think about how that relates to your practice. And ask yourself, how often Am I going deep on a concept? versus going wide on it? And am I really going wide on the concept? If I learn something new at the piano? Am I applying it to other keys? Am I applying it to other songs? Am I applying it in other places? Or am I only using it in one spot, if you're only using it in one spot, then you go in deep, okay? And like I said, there's nothing wrong with going deep now and again, but if you just go deep, deep, deep on one concept, and then you move to another song, and it's a brand new concept, and you go deep, deep deep on that concept, and then you move to the next song, well guess what's going to happen? You're going to forget those concepts that you went deep on, because you didn't apply them across several different songs or keys right now. So pretty heady conversation. If you have questions, I don't remember you can join me every other Thursday at 1pm. Eastern to join in on my jazz edge core live training. This is where I talk about my six jazz edge core courses 30 day piano playbook piano Central's core essentials, piano accompaniment essentials, the confident improviser in standards by the dozen if you're a jazz edge member, you can also join me in on coaching as well on Tuesdays, right? So anyway, thanks for joining me, and I'll see you guys in the next podcast episode.

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