They say “practice makes perfect”, but what they mean is “perfect practice makes perfect”. We’ve all been there: we’re working on a new lick or idea and we want to play it at speed…so we stumble through it before we really get it ingrained. The desire to be able to play it is stronger than the discipline to play it correctly….and that can lead to bad habits.
Recognizing the value of delayed gratification is key to learning a musical instrument as complex and full of possibilities as the pedal steel. Having the patience to wait for the payoff is sometimes the most difficult part of learning a new lick or idea, but the benefits are forever. If you never give your muscles the experience of playing the lick the wrong way, they can never have that in their “memory”. If you practice every new idea so slowly that you can only play it accurately, you will advance much more quickly than if you rush the process.
Here are some ideas on how to practice perfectly:
Watch Paul’s videos on How To Practice and adopt his methods in your practice sessions.
Break the material into small bites and try playing just a short section. If you cannot play it perfectly after a few attempts, take an even smaller section.
Practice with a metronome. Begin at a tempo that allows you to play the section without error 5 times. Try bumping the tempo up a few clicks, and stop when you cannot play it perfectly 5 times. Stay at that tempo until you can. Keep records of your daily metronome settings on each Lesson and track your progress.
Metronomes are very versatile tools. After you get used to having a click on every beat, try setting the tempo so the clicks are on the “2” and “4” of the beat, like a typical snare drum part. To help get your head past hearing the count as 1-2-3-4, say 2-4, 2-4 out loud to the click and eventually add the 1 and 3 in the gaps between. Eventually you will “hear” the clicks as backbeats on “2” and “4”. You can treat the 2 and 4 as on top or behind the beat as you want, it will not waver.
As an old jazz musician once said “Nothing swings like a metronome!”.