Have you ever seen a group of musicians surrounding a musician playing, waiting for the cool chord or ridiculous run? I have often been in that group eager to hear the amazing. But I discovered something, “the amazing” was happening the entire time. What makes the cool chord sound cool, or the ridiculous run sound ridiculous is what was played before.
“You can play anything if the ear is properly prepared to receive it.” – Tim Haden
One of my professors once told me, “You can play anything if the ear is properly prepared to receive it.” This idea completely changed my focus from the big chord, riff, or run, to the preparation for it.
So what does sweating the small stuff mean?
Even a jazz great like Bill Evans, when asked what he practiced replied, “…the minimum.” Meaning, he practices the smallest idea or concept, and works on perfecting that, instead of the really grandiose chords and runs. And once you’ve mastered these smaller ideas, you discover the bigger ideas are just smaller ideas put together.
So What Do I Practice?
So I often get this question, as students are many-times overwhelmed with the amount of material they have to learn. Well, I suggest finding ONE idea that appeals to you, break it apart into smaller segments, and learn it really well. Don’t try to learn everything. Just ONE thing really, really well. We actually did a video that shows how to break one idea into many:
Where Do I Find These Ideas To Practice?
These ideas are everywhere! When you hear something that you really like, stop and learn that one idea. But in case you are still having trouble finding an idea, on our YouTube! channel, we have two videos where we examine and demonstrate 20 “Piano Hacks” or small ideas that you can use to drastically transform your playing. Check them out as they are a really cool resource for those looking to find areas to improve their playing.
“…in order to be a great musician, we have to sweat the small stuff.” – Corey Taylor
We’ve often heard wise people give advice like, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” But in order to be a great musician, we have to sweat the small stuff.