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T HE

P RACTICE
OF
P RACTICE
This is an early draft of the first few
pages of the book. Thanks for taking the
time to chek it out.
If you have any suggestions or would
like to receive a 30% discount when the
book is published, send an e-mail to:
ThePracticeOfPractice@gmail.com
cheers,
Jon Harnum

ALSO BY

Jonathan Harnum
Basic Music Theory: How to Read, Write, and
Understand Written Music
Sound the Trumpet: How to Blow Your Own Horn
All About Trumpet
Basic Jazz Theory: Parts 1, 2, & 3

T HE P RACTICE
OF P RACTICE
GET BETTER FASTER

JONATHAN HARNUM

Sol Ut Press
sol-ut.com

Prol o gu e

THE ROAD TO HOPE


AND BEYOND

To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.


~ Robert Louis Stevenson, author (1850-1894)

WAS DRIVING TO HOPE, ALASKA IN A VOLKSWAGON


camper to play unfamiliar music with strangers when this
book first seemed necessary, over ten years ago. My guts
churned with a nervousness that was six parts excitement, four
parts fear, or maybe it was the other way around. I looked to
the back of the van for the umpteenth time to be sure I had
my trumpet, mutes, small percussion instruments, and the allimportant microphone Alan Bentwho I had yet to meet in
personhad requested. I was nervous for three reasons: Id
never met Alan or any of the other players in Jazz Farm, a
Gypsy jazz combo; I feared my improvisational ability was not
up to the level needed to play this challenging music and that
attempting to do so would be an unpleasant public
embarrassment (I was right on both counts); and I was
running late. The information in this book would have helped
me embrace the trepidation I felt then in the van and on stage
later, and allowed me to recognize it for what it was, an
important aspect of learning: failing better.
THE PRACTICE OF PRACTICE | 1

As most everyone knows, VW campers are built for


comfort, not for speed, so going faster wasnt an option,
even if the road would have allowed it, which it didnt. This
particular camper was a wedding present from my wifes
wonderful grandparents, and we had just returned from a
two-year honeymoon road trip. It was because of that trip
that I was on my way to Hope to flail around musically in
public. During the ber road trip I had vowed to overcome
my fear of improvising and performing by playing with
anyone and everyone who was interested and willing to let
me play with them. While camped at Los Cerritos, a surf
beach just south of Todos Santos, in Baja, Mexico, I met
some friends who knew Alan and Amanda Bent, the two
guitarists in Jazz Farm who I was about to meet for the gig
in Hope at the Seaview Cafe. Nervous as I was, I tried to
console myself that the audience would undoubtedly be
very small. Twos of people, most likely. The band would
probably outnumber the audience, a handy thing if a fight
broke out.
Hope, Alaska, population 165, sits southeast of
Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, twenty miles as the
raven flies but an hour and a half by road. Its a gorgeous
drive even though my anxiety wouldnt allow me to
appreciate it at the time. The skinny two-lane road hugs
the silty shore of Turnagain Arm. Except for the brief flat
spot of road, the southernmost peaks of the Chugach
mountain range rise up directly from the narrow inlet, a
narrowness which causes one of the largest bore tides in the
world. Surfers love bore tides because, if youre good
enough to catch the incoming wave, you can ride it for a
long way.
Bone-white beluga whales rose from the gray water
like fat ghosts as they fed on squid and small fish. Surfers
bobbed on their boards in the frigid silty water as they
waited for the four-foot wave of the bore tide to take them
on a ride that might last up to a mile if they could stay on
the board. Goat families on the cliffs above the road stared
2 | THE ROAD TO HOPE AND BEYOND

placidly down at shutter-snapping tourist families below.


Much as I wanted to stop to watch the spectacle that is
summer in Alaska, I couldnt. I was late and too nervous to
appreciate it anyway.
During the long road trip honeymoonas happy as I
was pennilessId rediscovered the joy of playing music,
improvising, and most of all, the peculiar frustrating joy of
practice. While in Mexico, I practiced for two or three hours
each morning a few hundred yards down the coast in a beach
chair with a mute in my horn. Even though Id been playing
trumpet for over twenty years at that point, and had six or
seven years in on guitar, I was still trying to figure out how to
practice in the way most of us learn to practice: through trialand-error, alone, with little to no information.
In the ten years since that trip, Ive continued to learn
more about practice, and a lot more about music learning in
general. My journey to better understand practice led me to
Chicago where Ive been incredibly lucky to hear some of the
best musicians on the planet, and talk to some of them about
practice, too; youll meet some of them in this book.
While in Chicago I earned both a masters and PhD
degree in music education from Northwestern University, a
top-tier music school. Im incredibly grateful to all the
wonderful professors and colleagues I met and learned from
during my studies.
In the course (and courses) of my quest to understand
practice Ive read hundreds of research studies and have
conducted formal research of my own into practice. Ive
talked about practice with some of the best musicians
anywhere in many different traditions: jazz, classical, and
pop, as well as other genres like West African djembe,
Australian didgeridoo, and Brazilian samba, just to name a
few.
But all learning is nearly meaningless unless its used, and
so Ive been applying and experimenting with my own
practice in order to discover what strategies, techniques, and
JONATHAN HARNUM | 3

patterns of thought help me get better. Most work, some


Ive had to tweak for my own purposes, and some just dont
make sense to me yet; and may never make sense, at least
for a trumpet player.
This is the best way to aproach the information in this
book yourself: dont take my word for it. Try these things
out, change them, adapt them to your particular needs, and
above all, experiment. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh
said, Our own life is the instrument with which we
experiment with truth. Sage advice.
Over the last ten years of study, Ive learned a lot about
practice and as with my previous books, its my goal to
share what Ive discovered in a way that I hope you, dear
reader, find both useful and engaging. These discoveries are
attitudes, strategies and philosophies that musicians of
every caliber apply to our pursuit of playing music better,
and they work. They can work for you, too.

Music-making Should Not


Be Left to the Professoinals
At this very moment across the globe, cases are being
opened, bows are being rosined, mouthpieces inserted,
reeds wetted, strings tightened, and drums are being tuned
as millions of people of all ages from every walk of life sit
down to make sound with their instruments or with their
voice. Millions of households in the U.S. alone have at
least one musical instrument in them, and
Many who start playing an instrument will give up on
making their own music, and though the reasons for this
are myriad, one main cause is what I call the disease of
professionalism. We tend to believe that what one does
should be done well enough that otheres will pay us to do it
as a professional. While this might be a good thing in
business, its a disasterous philosophy when applied to the
arts.
4 | THE ROAD TO HOPE AND BEYOND

Weve all heard the lame excuse for why people stopped
playing music, or painting, or dancing: I just wasnt good
enough at doing it. The benefits of artistic pursuits run
much deeper than doing them well, let alone getting a
paycheck for doing it. Both of those things are nice, of course,
but not the purpose and sometimes are in opposition to the
pursuit itself. But this isnt the only reason people stop playing
music.
Another reason people get frustrated with learning to
play music is that they dont get better, or at least dont perceive
any improvement. This is most definitely not because they
dont have some natural talent or gift. Both of these
notionsaccording to a lot of research Ill introduce you to
laterappear to be utter bullshit when it comes to being
good at anything. It takes practice to achieve even the most
basic level of competence, but not just any kind of practice;
its got to be the right kind of practice. People arent getting
better because they dont know enough about practice. This
can mean many, many things, and youll discover many of
them in this book.
Even though the principles in this book can be (and are!)
pathways toward becoming a professional musician, that is
not my goal in writing it. My goal is to give practical
knowledge to the tens of millions of happy amateurs out there
who want to take their music to the next level. This book is
for beginners, comeback players, parents of budding
musicians, as well as teachers and professionals, too.
But this doesnt exclude those with a burning desire to
make music for a living, whether you dream and work
towards being an indie rocker, singer-songwriter, jazz hipster,
classical soloist, or the best nose-flautist the world has ever
heard. This book is for those of us who love to play music and
who want to improve as much and as quickly as possible. If
your goal is to be a professional musician, thats great! But I
like to keep in mind what Michelle Shocked said: Musicmaking should not be left to the professionals.
JONATHAN HARNUM | 5

Nobody is so good they cant get better., and nobody


has such utter lack of ability that it cant be improved. Ive
talked to world-class musicians, people who have been
playing phenomenal music for decades in some cases, and
nearly all of them are still working diligently to get better
every time they pick up their instrument. Theyre still
trying to figure it out, too.
Youll meet some of them in this book, people like Rex
Martin, tuba player in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
and veteran of thousands of commercial recordings. Youll
meet Nicholas Barron, singer-songwriter extrordinaire who
has an interesting philosophy about practice, and a not-sounique challenge to getting better that many share with
him. Bobby Broom is a renowned jazz guiatarist who has
played with jazz greats like Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, and
Miles Davis. Hes one of my favorite Chicago musicians
and youll hear from him, too.
Youll also hear from my own experience as a
practicing musicain, mostly some of the foolish things Ive
done during my ongoing quest for musical understanding.
Foolish, but necessary, I should add. And speaking of
which....

Hope Revisited
At the Seaview Inn that night, when Amanda started
in with her solid rhythm guitar, chunking away on 2 and 4
with Luke on upright bass, and when Alan began to play
fluid melodic lines, I knew I was in way over my head, but
it was too late to back out, even if that had been an option.
With ears wide open, I launched into the experience. Im
thankful that attempt is lost to time. At one point an
audience member (one of four) felt inclined to tell me,
Youre not as good as these other three. Ouch.

6 | THE ROAD TO HOPE AND BEYOND

Despite the heckling, that experience was fun, nervewracking, and occasionally embarrassing for all the reasons
you might imagine. I played many times with Jazz Farm over
the next year, including a tour of Southeast Alaska that was a
highlight of my summer. Later in the book Ill introduce you
to the Zone of Proximal Development, a zone I was in every
time I played with Jazz Farm.
One of the goals of this book is to show you effective
ways to think about practice, introducing you to strategies
that work (and why they work). I hope this book helps to
provide you illumination on a piece of the map while you
navigate your journey.

JONATHAN HARNUM | 7

HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS


THAT PERCHES IN THE SOUL,
AND SINGS THE TUNE
WITHOUT THE WORDS,
AND NEVER STOPS AT ALL.
~ EMILY DICKINSON, POET (1830-1886)

| 7

THE CAPACITY TO BLUNDER


SLIGHTLY IS THE TRUE
MARVEL OF DNA. W ITHOUT
THIS SPECIAL ATTRIBUTE,
WE WOULD STILL BE
ANAEROBIC BACTERIA AND
THERE WOULD BE NO MUSIC.
~ L EWIS THOMAS, BIOLOGY WATCHER (1913-1993)

8|

Int ro du ct io n

O VER VIEW
or

THE CHAPTER EVER YONE SKIPS

Maps encourage boldness.


Theyre like cryptic love letters.
They make anything seem possible.
~ Mark Jenkins, adventurer, author

USIC PRACTICE IS A BIT OF A BLACK BOX,


even for those of us who do it regularly. Inside the box are the
secrets of good practice, but the box is tightly sealed. Not only
that, but the box differs from genre to genre and even from
person to person. Most of us have to figure out what we
should put in this black box on our own.
In the many conversations Ive had with musicians of
world-class caliber, nearly all of them said they had to figure
out how to practice on their own, especially early on. As
accomplished adults, few talk to their colleagues about
practice, and those who do dont talk much: a suggestion here,
a strategy there. either.
There are lots of reasons that practice remains something
of a mystery, not least being the fact that practice is a personal,
vaguely intimate endeavor. Its a time during which we face
our shortcomings (if were doing it right); its a time when we
THE PRACTICE OF PRACTICE | 9

try to fail, and that is necessarily private, for most of us. It is


for me, anyway. In fact, this is one of the memes Iand
many othershold about practice, a stereotype that I had
to overcome in the course of learning more about what
practice is and can be. One of my favorite musicians,
Nicholas Barron, has a comnpletely different philosophy of
practice, which Ill tell you about in Chapter X.
Mysterious though practice can be, there are some
great teachers out there who talk at length with their
students about practice and help them become more
efficient at doing it. A great example of this kind of teacher
is Hans Jensen, a master cello teacher who helped one of
his students master a tough cello etude with just two
minutes of practice a day! Youll meet Hans later, too, as
well as many other master practicers in these pages.
There is more information that will be helpful to gain
a high-resolution picture of whats in the black box of
practice. Part of getting a clearer picture is to look at what
researchers have discovered about music practice, and
human learning in general. There are six or eight fine books
available on practice (see the bibliography in this books
index for a list), but none of these books take a look at
published research on music practice
The purpose of scientific investigation is to see the
world with greater resolution, and there are a lot of
excellent research studies that help us understand effective
practice more fully. Its my goal to share this research in a
way that translates the often dense academic research
language into something thats more enjoyable to read.
So thats the why part of this book. I wrote it
primarily to clarify my own experience with practice and to
synthesize the hundreds of resarch studies Ive read, as well
as a way to make sense of my own research into music
practice.
It is my goal that this book be used to help one think
deeply abouut practice, and not just about the obvious how
to do it stuff. This book also explores other issues
10 | THE CHAPTER EVERYONE SKIPS

surrounding music practice, or any endeavor. Many of these


principles hold true for getting better at anything, whether its
sport, art, games, or relationships. Let me take you through
how Ive organized the book and then well get to how to use
it.

Imagine youre stannding in a stiff summer breeze that


blows off Lake Michigan just north of Chicago. You hold a
brightly colored pinwheel in your hand, each of the six blades
a different color. You hold the pinwheel up into the breeze
and the blades spin until the six hues become a blurry
rainbow disc. Colors blend and blur as boundaries dissolve
until its impossible to tell where one blade of the pinwheel
begins and another ends.
Trying to see those boundaries while
the pinwheel spins is like trying to
understand everything about practice: its
impossible to see anything clearly. Good
practice is also in motion and just like the
pinwheel, we can winnow out a few things
by looking at it in motion, but not in a lot
of detail.
You have to stop the pinwheel in order to see the distinct
colors, the shape of the blades, and how theyre attached to
the central hub of the toy. Its the same with practice. You
have to stop it in order to perceive how it works.
Freezing practice to examine it is a lot like dissection:
practice has to be killed in order to take it apart and
understand it more fully. Living, breathing practice is more
complex and interesting and magical, just as a moving
pinwheel or a happily hopping frog is more interesting and
beautiful and magical than the one sitting there lifelessly, not

JONATHAN HARNUM | 11

moving, not performing its function. Without the breeze, a


pinwheel is just cheap colored plastic.
But heres where the analogy breaks down: a pinwheel
is an amusing toy and there is no need to understand how it
works, really. You cant get better at using the pinwheel, you
just hold it up to the wind and watch it spin. Practice is
different.
Practice isnt a toy to be used for amusement, its a tool
for improving your musical ability, a complex set of
behaviors, philosophies, and practices (please forgive the
pun) that are designed to help you get better as quickly and
efficiently as possible. But you have to know about them in
order to use them. And that, dear reader, is why you picked
up this book.
In speaking with professional musicians from diverse
genres of music, nearly all of them told me that they had to
figure out for themselves how to practice. This strikes me
as both odd and sad. After all, if practicing the right way is
so crucial to making good, steady progress, why is it
neglected?
For the coming practice dissection, no concepts were
mortally injured and all were released back into the wild,
unharmed.

Organizing Principle
The simple principle behind the
structure of The Practice of Practice has
been learned by cub reporters and
neophyte philosophers at least since
ancient Greece, but I have a suspicion
someone in China or Persia invented
this strategy first. The simple principle
is whimsically conveyed by Rudyard Kipling toward the
end of the original version of The Elephants Child (1902):

12 | THE CHAPTER EVERYONE SKIPS

I keep six honest serving men:


(they taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who.
My goal is to present this information in a friendly,
simple, and engaging way. But beware! Just because the
information is relatively simple and engaging doesnt mean its
all easy. Some of the simplest ideas will still kick your ass.
And thats a good thing.
I agree with Charles Bukowski, who said, An
intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a
hard thing in a simple way."

Part 1:
Whats Goin On?
What is practice, anyway? This section will answer in a
general sense, how practice has been defined by others, what
practice it is, why practice matters, why we do it, and how the
essential techniques of practice are the same whether your
goal is to become a world-class Master, or your goal is to
simply improve your ability a notch or three.
This section also takes a look at the effects of practice
and what it can do for you mentally and physically, including
the astounding ways it can change the very structure and size
of your brain.

Part 2:
Why ? Getting Pumped to Practice
How do people stay motivated to practice? More
importantly, how can you stay motivated to practice? You
might be wondering how to keep your kids motivated to
practice.
JONATHAN HARNUM | 13

This part will introduce you to how motivation works,


and how your secretly held beliefs about talent, intelligence
and who is to blame for everything that goes wrong will
have a profound impact on your motivation to practice.

Part 3:
Who? You and Them
In this section, first well tackle you. Turns out that the
beliefs and philosophies we hold about ourselves and the
ways we think the world works have a profound impact on
our practice and how we approach learning in general. In
the motivation section, you learned about how your beliefs
about talent and intelligence influences your motivation. In
this section, youll learn who is to blame for the mistakes
you make.
The selected others who influence your practice
include: teachers, idols, peers, role-models and parents.
Some important others for many of the people I spoke to
about their music practice are people theyve never even
met. In this section youll learn about people youre stuck
with and many that you can seek out to help you improve.

Part 4:
Time, Time, Time, Is On Your Side (Yes, It Is)
What time of days best to practice? How long? How
much is too much? Whats the minimum I can get away
with? How little is too little? Several sessions, or one long
one? All of these questions are addressed in this section.
But wait, theres more.
Another when to cogitate on is a developmental
when. When is it too early to start and how does practice
look for very young children? When are you too old to start
and what is good practice for an adult, or an elder? How
long does it take to get good and what are the stages of
practice expertise? Find some answers in this section.
14 | THE CHAPTER EVERYONE SKIPS

Part 5: Where the Streets Have no Name: Practice


Space and Place
John Cheever, the suburban Checkov, would wake in the
morning, shower and shave, put on his suit and tie and ride
the elevator down to the lobby with the other working stiffs
headed off to the office. When the elevator reached the lobby,
Cheever didnt get off with everyone else. He continued down
to a small room in the basement where he would take off his
suit, put it on a hangar and proceed to write in his underwear.
This change of place helped Cheever get his mind in the right
place.
Theres another important where that we have limited
control over, especially those of us who havent moved out of
the house yet or those of us who cant change our location
because of other obligations. What Im talking about is
context. The fact that I live in Chicago and have access to a
huge diversity of great musicians and teachers and
performances is a helpful (to say the least) context for any
musician of any level or any aspiration. Learn more about
other aspects of context and what you can do to improve your
own in this section.

Part 6: How Do You Do the Things You Do?


This is the part everyone talks about. Theres so much
information about how to practice that this topic gets its own
section, but its also threaded throughout the book. In here
youll learn the difference between skill-based practice and
strategy-based practiced, as well as lots of examples and
suggestions of simple things you can do to improve your own
music (or anything really) quickly and efficiently.

JONATHAN HARNUM | 15

So, there you have it. There is something of a narrative


in this book, so reading it front to back will work, of course,
but its also fun to just skip around, open and read at
random, or go straight to the topics youre most interested
in learning.

16 | THE CHAPTER EVERYONE SKIPS

IF A THING IS
WORTH DOING AT ALL,
IT IS WORTH DOING BADLY.
~ GUSTAV HOLST, COMPOSER (1874-1934)

| 15

PART ONE
W HAT S GOIN ON?
What is Practice and Why Does it Matter?

Learning without thought is labor lost;


thought without learning is perilous.
CONFUCIUS (551-479 BC)

T H E T A L E N T TR A P

No, it [excellence] doesnt start with talent, it starts with love.


~ Malcolm Gladwell, author (1963 - )

OVE IS BLIND, TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN


fiction, lol cats, and the notion of talent are all memes. A
meme is a persistent idera thats been around for a while,
sometimes thousands of years, and its not necessary for a
meme to have roots in truth. Like the idea of talent, for
instance.
Talent permeates our culture. Take Harry Potter and
Hermione Granger, for instance. Who usually works harder
and smarter; who studies the most and knows the most?
Hermione does. Who comes by his notoriety and ability
because of accident and serendipity and from a gift from the
parents? Whos the more powerful wizard? Harry, of course.
And who is the hero and saves the day? The gifted one. Sorry.
The Chosen One.
In a way, Harry and Hermione can also represent whats
known as declarative and procedural memory, a topic that is
crucuial in fully understanding this book and benefitting from

THE PRACTICE OF PRACTICE | 19

it. Its crucial to the book, but Ill only mention it briefly
now before getting back to the idea of talent.
If you declare something, youre showing you can talk
about it. If youre completing a procedure, youre
demonstrating you know how to do it, even if you cant talk
about it or describe how you do it at all. This is the trap of
writing about practice, or doing anything for that matter.
Its a form of declarative knowledge. Its passive. It doesnt
work or manifest itself fully unless you actually do it, or
strive to understand the doing of it to the best of your
ability. Your discoveries may be different than those offered
up here. Thats a good thing..
Talent is a meme for some genetically gifted ability
that allows a person to perform above normal ability. But
heres the thing: the ability to perform above normal ability
has little to do with genetic giftedness and a lot to do with
practice. The role of talent in expertise has been either
entirely dismissed or severely downgraded in its importance
in the last decade or two.
Researchers have shown that some natural ability is
simply not a factor in expert performance whether were
talking about musicians, chess masters or x-ray analysis.
The flag-bearer of this charge against the idea of giftedness
is K. Anders Ericsson, a researcher who, with many others,
has studied expertise and its acquisition very closely. Many
of these researchers are convinced that genetics have
nothing to do with excellnce. Its all about practice, and
more specifically, a certain kind of practice that Ericsson
and his colleagues named deliberate practice. Well get
deeper into that in a bit.
Its hard to believe that talent doesnt really exist
naturally becaue when we hear an amazing musician, its
impossible to perceive the thousands of hours of work and
circumstance that underpins that persons ability. When all
that work and circumstance are combined over long
periods, the human animal is capable of astounding feats,

20 | THE TALENT TRAP

so incredible and moving that it must be a gift. Right? Wrong.


Talent is accumulated expertise. If there is any gift given
to those who do what they do well, it is the gift of the natural
curiosity that we all possess, combined with lots of work, and
most likely some circumstantial serendipity, as Malcolm
Gladwell reminds us in Outliers. Other excellent books that
drive this point home are Dan Coyles The Talent Code, Geoff
Colvins Talent is Overrated, and David Shenks The Genius in
All of Us. For more reading than you need (or want) on the
topic, check out the reference list in this books appendix.
If talent is anything, its curiosity and a willingnes to
explore, a willingness to not know what youre doing. To
wallow in that not knowing, like Picasso, who said, I am
always trying to do that which I cannot do in order that I may
learn how to do it.
It is in the wallowing of uknknowing that we learn. That
is the true gift. The good news is that we all have it, and we
have it throughout our lives. Over time, if our natural
curiosity for a subject persists, we begin to show evidence of
what so many people call talent; when that natural curiosity
turns to love, we begin to see and hear truly magical things.
Talent is a myth. This can be a hard truth to swallow. Its
easier to feel better about ourselves and our missed
opportunities if we believe that talent exists as a gift. Its easier
to think that we just werent lucky enough to get a talent for
music instead of thinking that we just havent gotten down to
doing the work required to show this thing called talent.
Believing in talent as a gift bestowed on a lucky few puts the
blame on an external source instead of squarely where it
belongs: with the individual. With our self. With you. More
on this issue later, in the Who section of the book.
What talent is, if it is anything, is accumulated
experiences, countless numbers of them. One of these
experiences, the one that incerases our ability in concert with
lots of other activities, is practice. But what exactly is practice?
In my research into practice, Ive talked with professional
JONATHAN HARNUM | 21

musicians: world-class jazz cats, djembe masters, superb


singer-songwriters, and members of major symphony
orchestras like the New York Philharmonic and the
Chicago Symphony. Ive also talked with master music
teachers. Youll meet some of these people later.
Despite making music in distinctly different genres,
all of the musicians I talked to, including myself, see just
about every type of musical experience as practice:
performing, listening to recorings, watching others play,
playing with others for fun, teaching, and of course, the big
daddy: deliberate practice, the topic of this book. So lets
figure out just what that is.

Defining Practice
The boundaries of practice reach well beyond the
walls of the practice room in which the solitary individual
hammers away at technique whether its the bass, tone, slap
and rhythmic patterns of djembe music, or the alternate
fingering for fifth-line F on trumpet (its 1-3), or how to do
a smear on clarinet (hold your fingers partway down on the
keys).
That kind of focused and intentional behavior is
certainly practicelets call it intentional practicebut
there are a whole raft of other activities and behaviors that
also contribute to getting better as a musician, and those
range from personality, to your theories about intelligence
and ability, to what you listen to, who you hang out with,
and even where you grow up.
Some of these aspects you have near-total control over,
like what you listen to and how often you listen; other
things you have partial control over, things like attitudes
and habits: they can be difficult to change, but its possible.
Then there are things you have no control over whatsoever,
like who your parents are. Althought Ill touch on some of
the things you have no control over, like parentage, most of
22 | THE TALENT TRAP

this book deals with things you can do to get better playing
music.

JONATHAN HARNUM | 23

WE CANNOT ALL DO GREAT


THINGS, BUT WE CAN ALL
DO SMALL THINGS
WITH GREAT LOVE.
~ BLESSED MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA,
NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER (1910-1997)

NUN,

16 |