Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We All Need to Practice

A little less than a year ago, I started playing the double bass. It's a challenging instrument. Not only is the fingerboard fretless, but the instrument itself is huge, delicate and expensive, and the strings are under a tremendous amount of tension. Everything a bassist does, whether playing or just getting the darn thing out of it's case, is planned and deliberate. Inattention results in pain, injuries and, even worse, out-of-tune playing.

What's more, a double bassist needs to practice constantly, since there are no frets to keep us in tune. It's necessary to practice everyday to keep one's muscle memory fresh and accurate.

Practice, unfortunately, isn't a quick run through of one's favorite piece, either. Practice is 15 minutes of scales, followed up by whatever other sick exercises your teacher came up with to torture you. This stuff is necessary, though, so when it's time to perform you don't sound like an amateur.

Teacher? Yes, a double bassist without a teacher is scarcely a bassist at all. Is it possible to learn on your own? Probably, but why waste all that time when someone who loves the instrument can show you how to play correctly and offer feedback right away?

Now, if you'll pretend this is a graceful segue, riding a motorcycle is very much like playing a musical instrument. Like a double bass, in particular: they're big, heavy, expensive and can mess you up if you don't know what you're doing.

If you're reading my blog, you've probably already taken basic rider's training. Have you practiced any of the skills you learned since then? Have you taken more training?

I have to admit that I haven't been to the advanced rider's training yet. I keep meaning to go, and keep not doing it. All the same, I do practice my basic skills: tight maneuvering, swerving and emergency braking (and we won't mention practicing wheelies...). That way, when I need those skills, I've got them.

Practice isn't glamorous, or exciting, or even fun, but it is necessary if you want to be really good at something. And if you're going to play in traffic with the rest of us, don't you want to be sure you're really good at it?


irondad said...

Lucky's right. A person's skills will only stay sharp to whatever level they're practiced to. One of the great values of taking professional training is in the quality of practice. Have you heard that practice makes perfect? Not actually. In reality, perfect practice makes perfect. Professional trainers help us with the perfect practice part by coaching and giving positive feedback. Practice on our own could serve merely to reinforce the wrong habits.

Anonymous said...
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Lucky said...

Hey, Anonymous, rants are welcome, but they have to be motorcycle related.