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I try to practice regularly. Optimally I try to do something every day. Often this means anything between 15 minutes to a couple of hours of playing pieces and doing various blowing exercises. Sometimes I find that I mysteriously forget to do this or I think that I don't have to do it today for some really lousy reason. Typically not practicing during one day makes it easier to skip it on the next one as well. From there on it just gets worse until eventually I just force myself to do it. That stops the cycle until I again find myself unable to play for a day or few.
How do you ensure that you are practicing consistently? Do you have some sort of schedule, either one you keep track of yourself or something you have written down? Do you aim to practice at the same time every day or do you just practice whenever there is enough time? Have you found any useful ways to remind yourself to get to work instead of just slacking off? How do you deal with the downtimes when you just don't feel like doing anything?
As things are right now I don't really have other people to practice with and I take lessons too irregularly for that to be of much help in maintaining a strict practice schedule. I'm the only person who can do anything about the situation. Self discipline is something I try to practice every day but the years of typical western lifestyle make it a rough road. It can sometimes be too easy to sleep for few extra hours instead of getting up to practice or do something else that would be useful.
Anything you've found useful in your own practice, shakuhachi or otherwise, would be very much welcome. Ultimately this is more an issue of self discipline than playing shakuhachi but shakuhachi requires a lot of practice which can sometimes be really frustrating. It can be really difficult to force yourself to do something you know isn't going to go well on those days when you really don't feel like doing much at all.
I set myself up on a schedule for nearly the entire day, as there are many things that I want to do, including exercise, reading, writing, meditating, AND practicing shakuhachi. I had set aside 30 minutes everyday right after work. The problem with my approach was that I did not set aside any "free time." I think I went a little too extreme, and as you say, once I let the schedule go one day, it was easy to let it go for the next week. It was good while it lasted, and I am going to try to get myself back on track over the weekend. This time I think I need to be a little more realistic about how much I can schedule for myself.
If only I did not have to go to work everyday. I'd be golden.
Here are a few things that work for me:
Decide on something rewarding to do after practice like a cup of tea or chill out time.
Don't procrastinate. Get the practice in early.
Don't worry if you only practice for a short time on off days.
I put on a backing track of easy folk tunes (Irish or Peruvian at the moment) to play along with. Time passes quickly.
I find having a choice of different lengths of shakuhachi helps. Somedays I cannot face a hassun and play a mellow 2.3.
If my energy fades during practice, I listen to a track of a honkyoku from a CD to inspire me.
Hope this helps.
If you really want to accomplish anything you have to do it every day. So you should have a fallback position of tunes and exercises you do everyday without fail. Maybe that's 30 minutes worth of playing. If you have more time than that work on the same materials longer or on different stuff. The biggest pitfall is not having a plan and not doing it EVERY day.
If my energy fades during practice, I listen to a track of a honkyoku from a CD to inspire me.
Interestingly enough, this works for me as well. Often when I listen to some honkyoku I get the urge to play a bit myself. It doesn't really matter much which piece or who the player is. I typically end up thinking "you know, I wonder if that might work..." and then I'm going to try it out no matter what. I've never really used this trick on purpose though. I wonder if listening to someone play something every morning would do the trick. That could even double as a less dramatic way to wake up in comparison to an alarm clock on those days when you aren't in any hurry to get up.
Another advice which I'd like to suggest to everyone with the same problem that I have is, go outside and play. The air outside is fresh and at least for me makes playing easier than the often less optimal air inside. I find it best to pick a destination which takes anywhere between 15-30 minutes to get to on foot and then play there for a set amount of time. You are less likely to stop playing after a minute or two when you already walked all the way over to there and you aren't constantly distracted by the things you usually like to do at home. As added bonus it doubles as a good way to exercise which also helps playing in the long run.
The biggest pitfall is not having a plan and not doing it EVERY day.
Yes, you need to be your own master on practice aspect...
Which master will let you not make zazen or to blow with the regularity that HE desires?
I had a similar issue a while back and found a fair solution... hope it helps:
At home, I have plenty of free time but there are far too many things to distract me from having a concentrated session. In my teaching job, I have 3-4 afternoons with a break from 4pm to 7pm, so I always tote a shakuhachi to work. With little else to do there for three hours, I often end up practicing for up to 2 hours a day. So my advice would be to find a time & place when/where you have little else to do -- being there will almost force you to practice. If you don't have such a block at work, for example, you could talk a walk down the street to a local park, or hop on your roof, etc. When the urge to stop and do something else pops up, I just space out for a minute or two and the urge to continue practicing comes back.
Zak -- jinashi size queen
I love playing the shakuhachi. Thats what drives me!. I try to make my practise diferent everytime. I just look for new things to play. I change them all the time. But, always I play long notes /harmonics-overtones / scales / intervals. They are my Core workout :-)
Make it a habit. I don't have to remember morning coffee, it's a habit. I don't have to remember to check the forum, it's a habit. And so on. I've been performing and teaching privately, (and some publicly), since 1966, so the question on any given day is not _if_ I'm going to practice, but _what_ I'm going to practice. It helps to have a plan, (written), and to create interesting practice sessions. Some of it is, at first blush, apparently drudge work, but I remind myself that I'm _always_ making _music_ , not creating mere acoustic artifacts. Creating interesting practice sessions can be a challenge, but we all possess some degree of creativity, so it's just a matter of practicing that too. An easy way to start the habit is to, on a daily basis, without fail, 1) Pick up the instrument, and, 2) blow just one note. Now that you've started, continuing should be less of a problem. Oh, and it helps if you have an obsessive/compulsive and/or prone to addictive personality traits. 8^)
From my personal experience the discipline of regular practice has changed tremendously as I progressed in my playing ability.
For the first two years, around, I sounded horrible. My ability to hit the high octave was just so inconsistent - some days I was ok - but most days it was just sad. I hope and believe that this initial start up period is shorter for most people especially those with some music background. (I started from nothing.)
So for this initial period I am just amazed that anyone makes it through. For some reason I just decided to mull through it no matter what and, truly, it was a decision I just made. I just decided it was going to be a priority. And this period was mostly about discipline and forcing myself to play.
But after I was able to actually make some music and it sounded somewhat pleasant finding time to practice was not a problem because I just enjoyed it. I used to play a lot of Atari video games when I was little. Man, I never had a problem finding time to play Atari! And that is how, on most days, it is for shakuhachi. It is a pleasure, so, somehow, I find the time to practice. Since the little one arrived I wish I had more time, but really even with my long work hours nearly everyday I find almost an hour to play.
I know a lot of people who are outright amazed that I do find the time to practice and when I talk it through with them I usually find there is one key little thing that can make a big difference: I don't watch television.
After blowing 15 to 20 minutes, I always feel this surge of energy and with an accompanying sense of well-being, which inspires me to practice longer. I think there is something inherently healing about blowing long exhalations that is responsible for this resultant phenomena from the shakuhachi. I'm sure for you all that have been blowing long this is nothing knew. But for this beginner it has been a wonderful discovery, and it is what, at this point I hope will continue to keep me moving toward a developing a better ease with technique, reading notation and all the other aspects that go along with learning to play compositions, songs etc. Its a nice little perk actually, this little lift shakuhachi gives you. Just breath, it says--breath, the rest will follow?
I recommend to my students to de-emphasize discipline and learn to cultivate motivation. "I can't wait to" is so much better than "I should". Ways of doing that?... Listen a lot to your favorite players, do research, visit the forum, invest in an instrument you love... etc. It will naturally make you want to pick up the instrument. Once you create the habit and the motivation things will be much smoother. If you don't play for a day or two... don't feel guilty... the Universe will be just fine and you'll pick it up again...
Surely Phil's "daily discipline" is Pepe's "habit". Different words to describe one way we overcome periods of frustration and inertia- by doing what we don't at the moment feel like doing. Pepe believes we reach habit through desire and Phil says desire's fine but fickle, so you'd better supplement it with a goodly dose of discipline. But is daily self-discipline possible without some strong underlying motivation? Phil's "deeper kind of love" seems in effect to be the very motivation that Pepe is seeking to have his students cultivate which is impossible apart from a deep and enduring desire. Pepe's motivating accouterments are, I think, more a symptom of enthusiasm (and consumerism) than a means of producing it, certainly in the long term. And listening to great players can as easily discourage as motivate a student, in which case it should probably be done in small doses and not very often. In the end I believe only those play who will play and lord only knows why.
Amen to all of the above. There are many paths to the top of the Mountain. Nyokai seems to imply that discipline comes from a deeper place than motivation and maybe for many that's true. For myself motivation is about tuning into my Spirit and really listening to it. Just like when we listen deeply to our bodies... we end up quite different diets. For me the "I shoulds" come more from a shallower place... if I tune in to my deepest self then there are no choices to be made, just an effortless knowing of what the next step is. I do, however, like to feed my motivation with fun "outer" accouterments (nice word, Rick ) I just got a 2.4 David Brown and I can't stop playing it!... but that's not advocating consumerism as a way (on the other hand, my ex bugged me all the time: "do you need that many flutes?"... (note the word ex)...
I just posted an entry on my blog today about practicing. I have a goal in mind when I start and work on it. I also found the book by Kenny Werner called "Effortless Mastery" to be invaluable. In all aspects of my musicianship this has helped me. I have a plan and I make sure i spend at least 5 minutes a day on doing whatever that one thing is and it always becomes 15-20min and so forth. I have a few times a day that I do that. It is like when I started exercising again. Developing the habit was the hardest, but now that I do it and it is habit, it is hard not to do it. You can check my blog out at: http://www.honshirabe.com .
"If you don't like to play scales, play scales until you do like to play scales."
~ Artur Rubinstein
Last edited by edosan (2008-11-15 21:55:52)
I'm pretty much addicted to playing every day; if I don't play for a couple of days I feel like something is missing and I notice a drop in my level of playing. Like Tairaku said, you've got to play everyday if you want to really get better at it. I've never had any problems with having the discipline to play a little everyday; perhaps that got drilled into me playing in band in secondary school; I usually start off blowing some long tones and maybe a scale or two, then play several pieces that I'm working on, and often end up by working on a specific technique or improvising. It's good to have some event that you have to play for occasionally as that will give you extra incentive to practice. The shakuhachi is easy to carry around so I usually have one with me no matter where I go so if I'm outside in a park or in some place where I have a few minutes to play I can do that but I generally have a certain time set aside each day when I know I can practice -- at lunch break or arriving home from work. Start off with just setting aside ten or fifteen minutes a day; anybody can do that. Just ask yourself what you want to do with shakuhachi; if you want to do more than just dabble at it then you've got to put in the time; it's that simple. It helps if you enjoy it.
Hi all, I tend to lean towards the passion of the flute makes me want to practice. Actually it rarly leaves my side, the problem I have is playing freely, just tootN around or actually practicing . Im still a noobie at all this so it's super fun just to make noise but I have to stop myself and practice things like going from low to hi octaves, and making that a priority than just playing around.
I think people generally have a negative understanding of 'Discipline'.
It can make a big difference to view Discipline as "that which is practiced by a Disciple".
Now wen I see myself as a Disciple of Shakuhachi, Discipline can only be a natural consequence.
I love that understanding of the word!. I'll adopt it from now on...
However, there are valid reasons to react to the word also. This is from the etymology dictionary:
c.1225, from O.Fr. descepline, from L. disciplina "instruction given to a disciple," from discipulus (see disciple). Sense of "treatment that corrects or punishes" is from notion of "order necessary for instruction." The L. word is glossed in O.E. by þeodscipe. Meaning "branch of instruction or education" is first recorded c.1386. Meaning "military training" is from 1489; that of "orderly conduct as a result of training" is from 1509. The verb is attested from c.1300. Disciplinarian "one who enforces order" is first attested 1639; earlier used of Puritans who wanted to establish the Presbyterian "discipline" in England (c.1585).
Well, all the good ones have been said already. Set your goal, and so everything to achieve it. Just make sure that your goal is what you want and especially, what you need. For example, to achieve a nice body, I put a picture of a sexy woman next to my bed, so everyday when I wake up, I am motivated the whole day! LOL!
The biggest recurring theme about practicing is to make it routine and eventually second nature. You just have to do it. And then do it again, eventually it's an everyday thing. My wife and I are so terribly lazy we had to convince ourselves that we couldn't make dinner if there were any dirty dishes. I think of it as less of a punishment as it is a reward. Life giving sustenance for a sink of smelly dishes. I guess it's a good trade off.
I've structured my life around being basically selfish with my time, which frees me up radically for my own projects including practicing shakuhachi. It became almost immediately integrated into my daily routine to where I get in at the very least 2 hours per day, and usually quite a bit more. I usually go through the same drills, but in different order, and am working on learning three pieces so if I get bored with one I can work on another. Another thing I've done with every instrument that I've ever played is to have more than one - this is especially adaptable to shakuhachi because we have different length flutes - playing different length/pitch flutes breaks up the sonic monotony, the subtle variations in playability stretches your technical adaptability, and different size shakuhachi stretch your physical adaptability to accommodate longer/wider instruments, slightly different utaguchi configurations, etc. I've found (at my beginning level) that working around (overcoming) material differences in playability translates to playing each instrument a little better ....and all this breaks whatever monotony one might encounter and keeps it interesting and variable while learning.
.....just my personal observations as an autodidactic novice
Last edited by ABRAXAS (2009-04-07 11:25:02)
The stuff that I do every day that really matters to me is stuff that makes me ME. The stuff that I do everyday that really matters to me I do because I am incomplete without it. If I don't do the stuff that matters to me everyday I am a lesser person for it, and I'm the one who comes off worst. The stuff that matters to me is my family, my health, music (except for country, pop, r & b and a few other genres that I just loathe ;-), qigong, taiji, zazen, remedial massage, and I've added Shakuhachi to that list since getting one recently. These I pay attention to everyday because I need to, because they're me.
I am not a disciplined person. I am an escapist, I'm lazy, and I love to waste time. I see the shakuhachi as part of a reprieve from this condition. I usually enjoy practicing, once I get started, but I have to force myself to start and the first ten minutes are no fun at all. I just hate it, but I remind myself that I like the instrument and that I am always glad I practiced once I finish. Eventually I forget about how hard it is to sit still and I just concentrate on the flute, experiencing the sound, and so forth.
I read a great article somewhere, maybe the NY Times? about a so-called 'moral muscle' that we all have. It is the ability to sit and do something difficult that requires concentration. We have a finite ability to do this each day, but the amount of time we can stand to do it increases with practice. So for me, practicing the shakuhachi is actually practicing two things: the instrument iteself, and practicing itself.