Overcoming Practice Paralysis (for Improvising Pianists)

Hey Improvisers!

When I coined the phrase “Practice Paralysis” (sometime around 2014), little did I suspect that this affliction would grow much worse over time. In fact, the emails people send me demonstrate that it’s probably the single-most common obstacle that improvising pianists have today.

In pre-internet times, pianists used to get Practice Paralysis from the stack of piano books on their shelf. They’d feel inspired to sit down at the piano to practice, but their eyes would glaze over as they gazed up at that mountain of stuff to practice and before they knew it, they’d have the TV remote in their hand as they settled down into their living room sofa.

Nowadays, it’s much worse. Everywhere we look, there are videos (and more and more method books )telling us what we need to practice:

Rootless A and B voicings
Dozens of jam session tunes
Solos to memorize before we can even begin to develop our own style
Rhythm Patterns
Countless scales and modes
Learning how to apply a mode to every chord in a song

And this is just the beginning. Just in the past week, I’ve had new students tell me that they felt “inadequate” because a video told them they needed to spend hours per day transcribing solos and play everything they learned in all 12 keys.

Whew – it’s no wonder Practice Paralysis is running rampant!

If you feel this way, please realize that it’s not your fault. You’re being inundated with too much information and your circuits are being overloaded.

Secondly, please realize that there is a cure for Practice Paralysis.

Here it is:

1. Take a deep breath.
2. Focus on one or two skills at a time.
3. Surround yourself with at least one other musician who shares your love of music and has a relaxed, positive attitude towards learning.

Yes, there is a cure of Practice Paralysis, and you can start it today.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”


PS – Here’s today’s The Art of Keith Jarrett video, where I discuss and demonstrate the inspiration for some of his famous left hand “vamps.” Have fun!

Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
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