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  #1  
Old 12-27-2014, 11:23 PM
mattinpdx mattinpdx is offline
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Default Practice to Mastery?

Here's something I've been stewing on:

Is it better to practice something until you master it or until it becomes familiar?

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I will ask you to pause before saying "mastery" and consider the volume of material out there, and think about how much a new student would have to "master" before reaching any usable musicality.

Also, isn't it better to be constantly exposing yourself to new and interesting things? Or is that sort of approach bound to make you suck universally?

Happy New Years!
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  #2  
Old 12-27-2014, 11:32 PM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattinpdx View Post
Here's something I've been stewing on:

Is it better to practice something until you master it or until it becomes familiar?

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I will ask you to pause before saying "mastery" and consider the volume of material out there, and think about how much a new student would have to "master" before reaching any usable musicality.

Also, isn't it better to be constantly exposing yourself to new and interesting things? Or is that sort of approach bound to make you suck universally?

Happy New Years!



In reality, no one masters anything, that's just a label given by those less skilled. Everyones still learning.


If you're just starting out, its all new stuff. Interesting things would include stuff thats been done already that you haven't heard, just bc its been done shouldn't make it uninteresting. There's very little in the drum world that hasn't been done bf.

Modern music (what's considered 'new' today) has all been done bf.

For fun would love to hear some examples of what you think is 'new'.
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  #3  
Old 12-28-2014, 01:26 AM
toddbishop toddbishop is offline
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

Familiarity is just the first step of practicing something, and mastery is hard to define precisely-- whatever it is, I don't think it can be achieved just in the practice room. So I would practice for progress. Or you could practice to master your materials within a narrow set of parameters-- like you could set out to learn to play one page of stuff without stopping, with a certain number of repetitions per exercise, at a certain tempo, at a certain dynamic range.

Re: new and interesting things:
It's fine to be into whatever, so long as you're learning to do basic things really well. But I would not equate new with interesting. Something is interesting when it's able to hold your attention after it's no longer new. It should not be a passive thing, either-- being interested is something you do, not something music makes you be, you know?
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  #4  
Old 12-28-2014, 02:08 AM
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Jeff Almeyda Jeff Almeyda is offline
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

In his excellent book, Effortless Mastery, Kenny Werner defines mastery as "...playing whatever you're capable of playing... every time... WITHOUT THINKING"

If you think about it for a moment. that is a very workable definition as it gives us a real goal we can relate to, no matter what our current skill level.

How long should you stay on one thing before you move on? Until you can play it every time without thinking.

Yes, there are even finer gradations, and you can always get better but, think about it, didn't Jeff Porcaro master the half time shuffle? Didn't Buddy master the single stroke roll?

Mastery is definable and achievable.
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  #5  
Old 12-28-2014, 04:56 AM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

The fact is... that the longer you do something the better you should get at it. As my other fellows said, until you can play it every time without thinking about it.
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Old 12-28-2014, 01:07 PM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

When I listen to my recordings every time I play something it is different.

I think mastery is some fantasy idea that doesn't really exist in the real world.
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  #7  
Old 12-28-2014, 01:25 PM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

Mastery in the end is up to yourself. It's your drumming, not anyone else's. How satisfied are you when you listen back to the recording?
Be complacent and you'll race through the exercise book and always stay sloppy.
Be a perfectionist and you'll never make it past page one.
The truth is somewhere in the middle.
"Without thinking" sounds like a good criterion to me.
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Old 12-28-2014, 02:15 PM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattinpdx View Post
Here's something I've been stewing on:

Is it better to practice something until you master it or until it becomes familiar?

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I will ask you to pause before saying "mastery" and consider the volume of material out there, and think about how much a new student would have to "master" before reaching any usable musicality.

Also, isn't it better to be constantly exposing yourself to new and interesting things? Or is that sort of approach bound to make you suck universally?

Happy New Years!
With the amount of material out as well as the accessibility to the material in written or sound form, it is impossible to know it all. Therefore, another approach may be used and borrowed from other disciplines.

I know of one university, and most likely there are others, that does not teach individual programming languages, but instead teach students how understand the basics of the programming languages, and be able to adapt to new languages that would be invented in the future.

So being able to adapt easily to any music would be the goal. And to achieve this, I can only imagine that one should be able to have systems to understand the music quickly, and practice until it becomes natural.
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  #9  
Old 12-28-2014, 02:59 PM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

to me "mastery" is being able to effortlessly and appropriately access any given piece of an extensive musical vocabulary the second it is called upon by your cooperative surroundings in a way that it is complimentary while creatively contributing to the composition

work on something until it can contribute something to the music

in all honesty .... there comes a point in everyones playing where you only get so much out of practicing alone

it becomes sort of like practicing having a conversation and being the only one in the room

Last edited by WhoIsTony?; 12-28-2014 at 03:24 PM.
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  #10  
Old 12-28-2014, 05:42 PM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

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Originally Posted by WhoIsTony? View Post

in all honesty .... there comes a point in everyones playing where you only get so much out of practicing alone

it becomes sort of like practicing having a conversation and being the only one in the room
For sure. A drummer can play for years in their basement alone and it means almost nothing until that drummer starts playing with others and is responsible for driving a band. You can't get great without the experience of playing live with others. JMO.

Mastery...I would never say or even think that I've mastered anything. The minute one feels that they've mastered something...that's like saying, "I know all there is to know about this certain thing". Which to me is an impossible statement.

One thing I do subscribe to...is when I am working on something seriously, I just laser focus on one thing and spend as much time as I can on it. Yea, I can't help getting distracted and go off on tangents, but not for long, and I resume my initial intent quickly...until I'm spent. I found for me that the deeper I go on one thing, it has far reaching benefits in other areas of my playing... in ways I couldn't have predicted. As opposed to running through 5 different things in that practice hour. Deeper practice "sticks" better to my brain than just skimming over something. I need to "ingrain" things in my brain...with sheer repetition.... to actually milk any benefit from it.

Mastery is all relative. Like I'm a master to my 9 YO stepson, which in my mind, yea lol, I'm no master. And Vinnie is a master to me. I don't think there is a point you can get to where you know everything there is to know...about anything. So someone else's mastery is relative to your own position. There's always more to learn. I'm sure there are drummers that Vinnie doesn't feel he can touch. (just a guess) It's all relative. I don't know that 100% mastery exists. Perfection doesn't exist in nature.
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  #11  
Old 12-28-2014, 05:56 PM
Captain Bash Captain Bash is offline
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

Leaving complete mastery aside, I find that in order for a new beat or rhythm to work I need to be able to play it backwards forwards and have 4 or 5 variants that sound good at different tempos so that it can be "retuned" to work in a band context. I suppose this is a small step toward mastery. I certainly do not posses the skill to deliver immediately what I can think up. However, many of the best drum beats are a mixture of hard practice, a good idea and a few happy accidents that actually deliver the groove flavour.
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  #12  
Old 12-28-2014, 05:57 PM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

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Originally Posted by larryace View Post
For sure. A drummer can play for years in their basement alone and it means almost nothing until that drummer starts playing with others and is responsible for driving a band. You can't get great without the experience of playing live with others. JMO.

Mastery...I would never say or even think that I've mastered anything. The minute one feels that they've mastered something...that's like saying, "I know all there is to know about this certain thing". Which to me is an impossible statement.

One thing I do subscribe to...is when I am working on something seriously, I just laser focus on one thing and spend as much time as I can on it. Yea, I can't help getting distracted and go off on tangents, but not for long, and I resume my initial intent quickly...until I'm spent. I found for me that the deeper I go on one thing, it has far reaching benefits in other areas of my playing... in ways I couldn't have predicted. As opposed to running through 5 different things in that practice hour. Deeper practice "sticks" better to my brain than just skimming over something. I need to "ingrain" things in my brain...with sheer repetition.... to actually milk any benefit from it.

Mastery is all relative. Like I'm a master to my 9 YO stepson, which in my mind, yea lol, I'm no master. And Vinnie is a master to me. I don't think there is a point you can get to where you know everything there is to know...about anything. So someone else's mastery is relative to your own position. There's always more to learn. I'm sure there are drummers that Vinnie doesn't feel he can touch. (just a guess) It's all relative. I don't know that 100% mastery exists. Perfection doesn't exist in nature.
to me a "master" in a musical sense is not someone who knows all there is to know .... but more someone with great skill and proficiency beyond that of just an advanced player

someone who speaks eloquently and effortlessly on their instrument as easily as they speak their native tongue
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  #13  
Old 12-28-2014, 06:14 PM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

Kenny Werner has a great example of mastery. In his book, he states that all of us have mastered the fork. Like how many times have you missed your mouth with the fork? None, I hope. So for all intents and purposes, everyone here has mastered the fork. So even though I can't do everything that can be done with a fork, I'm still considered a master of the fork. Kenny said so lol. So by human standards, mastery is achievable. Actual mastery may be on a different scale than what is accepted by humans as mastery.

Like my title is master electrician, yet I only know a very narrow slice of the electrical pie. For example I don't work on motor controls and know zilch about them. How can I be titled a master electrician when I don't know anything about a large area of my field? Others may consider me a master but I know in my head that's not a fitting title. So the word master....is a little too lofty of a term for my tastes.
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  #14  
Old 12-28-2014, 06:47 PM
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Jeremy Bender Jeremy Bender is offline
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

I say try to master your area of interest. Study like hell at what grabs your ear.
For example- Dave Weckl is a Master at what he is known for with his style of jazz/funk/fusion. Gavin Harrison is a Master at odd time prog rock.
While different musically thety are both great at what they do.
Not just familiar or even proficient, but have complete command of their playing in the genre they are known for.
Be the best that you can be at what you like to play.

Last edited by Jeremy Bender; 12-29-2014 at 07:10 AM.
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  #15  
Old 12-28-2014, 07:50 PM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

I say one can master something without being perfect. As to the original question, mastery is not something you need to teach young students. Proficiency is. Mastery comes with time.
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  #16  
Old 12-28-2014, 07:58 PM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

Practice makes better. Perfect practice makes perfect. Since none of us can't levitate or walk on water, we ain't perfect. So practice and you'll get better.
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  #17  
Old 12-28-2014, 09:18 PM
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

All good points, but ask yourself if you are an artist or someone trying to emulate a recording artist? IMO since I've started working harder to more closely emulate covers, my drumming is getting worse, not better. Thus my covers are also worse, not better. So what's the point?

Thus I'm starting to rethink the need for spot on accuracy. Better to just tell my brain to "just shut up and play ". Am I so bad or far out there, that my chops are hurting the song? No way.

Advice to self: Nail the basics, strive to be yourself and never again worry about copying someone else's idea of what sounded right. Anyway, there's too much material out there to get stuck, or slowed on another drummer's drumming.
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  #18  
Old 12-29-2014, 05:54 AM
iwearnohats iwearnohats is offline
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Default Re: Practice to Mastery?

I agree with the definition of mastery as having something so ingrained in you to the point where you can play it without thinking about it.

I also believe that in order to improve as a drummer, you shouldn't necessarily seek to 'master' everything you are learning, because if this were the case then unless you can spend 10 hours a day practising, it'll take you 10 years just to get basics down.

I take this approach with my piano practice, as it is more relevant to this topic than my drumming at the moment: Right now I'm working through grade 5-6 pieces, and I have the same approach that I've had since I started. If I were to 'master' every single piece in all my books, it would take me weeks and weeks to be able to move forward, and I would learn more slowly.

What my actual approach is, is to learn each piece so that my timing is good, my tempo is good, but it is totally fine if I can't play it perfectly every time. Why? Because each piece gives you something to learn - different fingerings, different melodies, chord patterns, etc. The goal of each piece is not to play it perfectly (unless you are going to perform it), but to learn what you can from it, and then move on.

So right now, if I were to go back to the level 2 or 3 grade material, I would most likely be able to sight-read it and play it right first time - not because I spent weeks learning it when I was first up to it, but because my technical facility has improved drastically through continually moving forward in my studies.

I believe that this is the best approach to continually improving your skills, and then mastery comes into play for KEY components of what you are learning.

So let's say you've been drumming for 7 years, you have a fairly high capability of single strokes, double strokes, paradiddles, double-bass playing, some independence, mixed hand/foot patterns, and linear patterns. By this point, if you are practicing actively and playing in a band, chances are you have mastered basic 4/4 beats simply because you have been playing them over and over and over for 7 years. It's likely that at some points you've had to focus specifically on particular aspects of these 4/4 beats - such as tweaking dynamics or accuracy - and that is part of the process.

I'm sure my point is as clear as mud, but take what you will :).
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