Has anyone ever become proficient by just jamming?

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    Liam M

    I have tried normal practice, but I seem to respond better to just jamming. I listen to a genre of music I like and start plinking along expressing my own interpretation… It is being received much better by my audience then the dull practice and I am happier doing it.


    Hi Liam,

    I think the ultimate question has to do with where you want to go with your music.


    Remember the advice of Groucho Marx- “If you come near the melody, play it.”


    Liam, When I began playing I had the same mindset as you. But my own slow improvement began to frustrate me as I wanted to learn more complicated and classical pieces. Then I had one of the greatest music philosophy changes in my life actually at an art workshop. The instructor, whose name was Jack Dempsey, told us “Discipline is freedom.” He meant that once you spend time mastering a technique (although it is tedious and boring at the beginning) when you have it internalized you open an entire new world of possibilities for yourself. It really “sets you free.” I sought out methods about scales, arpeggios, and etudes and made myself learn them with a metronome. It is true – discipline (technique) has set me free. Not only in classical but when I am playing receptions or more free-form events my music sparkles more than ever by throwing in a beautifully balanced run or cascading descending seventh, and it’s like my second and third fingers have minds of their own creating counter melodies. So don’t think of your routine practices as enslavement: think of them as freedom!


    Steven- That’s great advice. No matter what you want to play on the harp-classical, pop arrangements, hymns, jazz improvisation, etc.- you need the ability to get around the instrument easily, and the technique doesn’t change. Especially if you want to improvise on pop or jazz tunes, what you do in those improvisations will be directly tied to your technical ability. If that ability is low, then you’re going to be stuck playing triads and single notes in the middle two octaves of the instrument. As your technical ability advances, you will be able to use more of the instrument in more ways.

    Liam M

    Thank you all. Steven you truly hit home. I have been reading the replies aloud to my wife, (Micheal, she wants to know if you are my long lost twin?), and she and I both gave pause at Steve’s excellent advice and the very sincere manner in which it was offered.

    I leave tomorrow on a three week trip. Steve, my harp goes with me and I will be spending my motel evenings practicing. I will hate it, but I will do it. You are right.

    Thank you.

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