Breaking Your Practice Rut
Usually, we practice repertoire and technique. Sometimes, we need a break. Here are five practice ideas that will greatly improve your musicianship, but also allow you to step away from your usual routine.
- Focus on Dynamics and Expression. Practice with greatly exaggerated dynamics. Make the clouds, softs, accents, and expressions as extreme as you can—cartoon, preposterously extreme. Prioritize expression over notes or rhythms.2. Improvisation. Put on a recording, or even the radio, and improve a part to go along with whatever is playing. Fit into the band. Take it seriously, as if it was a performance.
3. Add Mistakes. Practice making mistakes. Turn your music upside down, and write a few random dots on it. Then, turn it back normally, and play, but when you arrive at those notations, close your eyes and put your hands in your lap for a few beats. Then try to resume playing, as if the music continued and you have to jump back in.
4. Transcribe. Put on a great recording, any style, and learn the part verbatim, either by ear or by writing it down first, if you prefer. Make your copy exact. Even exaggerate the player’s style, trying to become more of that artist’s personality than they are themselves
5. Switch Hands. If you play guitar or bass, flip it around so that it is pointing the opposite direction as usual. If you play the piano, switch your hands. Set up your drum set in a mirror image to what you usually do. Lie on your back and play. Figure out some parallel universe of your instrument. Then, practice as usual. Your mind will bend! Then, when you return to your normal orientation, it will be so much easier. You will like you’ve come back home.
How To Buy A MIDI Keyboard
A MIDI keyboard is an electronic piano-like instrument that communicates with other MIDI equipment (computers, sound modules, other MIDI instruments, fog machines, etc.) via the MIDI protocol, which is a ubiquitous worldwide standard. These days, most electronic keyboards are MIDI compliant. (Many older keyboards, particularly pre-1990 or so, were not.)
Here are some of the issues to consider when choosing a MIDI keyboard.
Speakers. Some come with internal speakers, others require an external amplification system. The speakers add cost, weight, and size, and they are usually not sufficient for public performance. However, speakers are very handy when you are practicing or if it is primarily used for desktop usage, such as notation input.
Feel/action. Some keyboards have weighted keyboards and feel much like acoustic pianos. Others have a lighter, more plastic feel. There’s a wide spectrum. Non-weighted keys are cheaper. Weighted keys are more expensive and heavier. You might not be able to stand playing on anything else, though, so it’s critical to try it out in person before you buy it. Also, some are not touch-sensitive; banging on it as hard as you can make the same loudness as a light tap. So, make sure you are comfortable with how it feels and responds.
“Word endings can also be inflections, which indicate categories such as tense, person, and number. The inflection -ed can change a verb from present to past tense (walk/walked), and the inflection -s can indicate third-person singular concord with a subject. But inflections do not change the word class. Walk and walked are both verbs.”
Sounds The sounds included in the keyboard vary dramatically, from cheesy/tinny sounds to others that are difficult to distinguish from their actual instrumental counterparts. A MIDI “controller” has no internal sounds; it is intended to use the sound libraries of a sound module or computer. The included sounds might make a difference to you, but they are easily supplemented.
Other features. Many MIDI keyboards also have functions for recording, arranging, and automatically creating grooves. These capabilities have come a long way from the days of the old “foxtrot” button! What they can do will vary dramatically. Many have no features at all in this realm, and others let you program complex arrangements. Related to this is whether it can accept pedals.