Monday, March 24, 2008

My home recording setup has a new component:

shiney new iMac! This was a very good idea, for the following reasons:
  • The iMac is a really, really nice machine - quiet, fast, compact
  • GarageBand is way easier (though probably not nearly as powerful) as Cubase, the package that came with my audio interface (a Focusrite Saffire)
  • The value of being able to leave the whole setup, well, set up and just sit down to use it whenever is hard to exaggerate.
Here's a quick recording I did Tuesday night (there are a couple parts that need a little work, but it is mostly there):

The 2nd Law by Michael Hedges

The quality I'm getting off the pair of SM81's going directly into the Saffire and then into GarageBand is quite good, I think. The whirring noise in the background is the humidifier in my music room.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sunday, 3/16/2008

Practiced ~1 hr, Fare thee well (I have been playing this one long enough to know how to play around with it expressively, so that was a lot of fun), Cello suite 1 prelude, Slipper Hornpipe in DADGAD, Merrily/Cunla, and Murtach MacKhan. Overall, very fun, inspired playing, if not technically air-tight.

From working in the software industry, for a rapidly growing company that supplies software to Toyota/Denso, I've been learning in the past year about process-orientation and the "Toyota Way" (often called "Lean" in this country). Standards are used heavily at Toyota, but not in the way one might think: a standard in the Toyota culture is merely a statement of an existing process. It is a snapshot of where you are at a moment. Standards exist to be improved upon. It's viewed as a thought-trap to think of a standard as the right or perfect way to do something. Instead, middle and lower management are expected to constantly improve upon existing standards. This is change-for-the-better or kai-zen.

I read "The Perfect Wrong Note" late last year, and it has greatly influenced my thinking about practice and getting better at playing. The connection I see between this book and the Toyota view of kai-zen and standards, is that both advocate the capture of the current state of affairs into a snapshot or a standard. This is not a judgement nor does it have to be perfect (as if it could be!). It just provides a platform to figure out what needs work and how you can improve.

The problem with practicing a piece of music, mistakes and all, over many months to try to polish it up for performance is that most of the time you are addressing bits that don't require your attention, and the bits that do require attention only get hit once every 4 minutes or so. This makes my old method of learning music extremely inefficient in its use of time. There is no quick and easy way to get better, but in fact there is a quick and very very hard way to get better. The difficulty involves the concentrated application of attention towards solving very specific, scoped technical and musical problems. This requires a lot of energy and discipline. So the problem is not only knowing what to do but having available energy to spend and the will to spend it. One reason this is hard is because you have to say "no" to the fun of playing those parts you don't need to be practicing. Ouch. Practice time is work time. Play time is necessary too, but the two are very very different.

The problem always seems like time, but it most cases, it really isn't. We all have time, and you can't obliterate or create it. It's constant, always there: "what next?" The ability to decisively answer this question is an incredible asset.