For the last few years, I have been pretty passionately interested in the issues of age-atypical learners. I’ve started a blog, Minds On Fire, devoted to the topic. The first post is True Confessions.
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 ground Snyder’s sourdough pretzels (50-53 grams) (5 tablespoons)
just less than 1 tsp ground mustard ( dry)
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
Mustard and honey (roughly 2 tsp of each is sufficient for up to 6 boneless thighs)
To ease mixing, microwave the honey for 10 seconds if it is viscous
Mix mustard and honey and coat the chicken pieces. If possible let marinade for about 45 minutes (longer is ok).
To make the coating, put the dry ingredients together in the blender, grinder, or food processor and grind until the coarseness is similar to bread crumbs. The size will be somewhat uneven (which is good).
Put the coating mixture on a plate. Dredge the pieces in the coating. Shake of excess coating but make sure that the pieces are more or less completely coated (pressing on some coating as needed).
Preheat the oven to 375F with the pan in it.
A few minutes before you are ready to start cooking, put enough oil in the pan to easily coat the bottom. Put the pan back in the oven so that the oil heats up.
Put the coated chicken pieces in the pan.
Turn the pieces over after about 15 minutes.
Continue cooking for about 15 minutes.
(You can check the internal temperature to make sure that the temperature is 160. This recipe is pretty forgiving).
Remove pan from oven and remove chicken pieces to a plate to rest for a few minutes.
Alternate cooking method
The chicken can also be pan-fried.
Heat the pan over medium-high heat.
Add oil to lightly coat the bottom.
When oil is hot, add the chicken pieces and reduce heat to medium
Turn the pieces every 5 minutes.
They should be done after 20 minutes and nicely browned on both sides.
It seems like every few years, I need to be remind myself that playing within a style (let’s say be-bop) requires that you learn the vocabulary. When you develop your own voice, your playing will have elements that aren’t a part of the existing vocabulary — but you don’t start by inventing the vocabulary. You could possibly create powerful wonderful music without knowing the existing vocabulary — but that wonderful music would not be part of the style. That might be good or bad. But, if you want to be able to play in the style. You need to to cop its elements.
In the words of Francis Coppola: “you need to learn the script before you can forget it”.
The space between notes can influence the perception of dynamics. There can be space between notes (however minute) even when playing delicately and legato. Even on the piano (unless you are using the damper pedal), there is a little bit of inertia in the equipment that allows a note to resonate for an instant after you release the note. You have a split second to start the next note sounding without losing the illusion of legato. Even on the guitar, you have a moment (albeit not much of one). Allowing that moment can make your playing seem crisp without being staccato.
Play with the time between notes. I am beginning to think that in fast playing, you are playing beyond your ability if you can’t play with the space between between. On guitar, some player rely on right-hand muting, but I am noticing that many of my favorite players can play fast and play with the space-between without resorting to muting. And those players have a much larger dynamic vocabulary to draw from.
I will admit that I am finding it hard to find the patience to practice this.
Branch out. Don’t just practice the same old things every day and nothing else. This isn’t a revelation. But I keep forgetting it because there is so much room for improvement in the pieces that I normally work on.
There is a danger, though, in getting stuck working on the same old things. By all means, take time to get better at the familiar. But you also need to expand your horizons. You need to get your hands, ears and brain to continuously grow — especially if you are an improviser. Ever notice how some people sound great but are predictable? Their solos never surprise you. And there are other players who never fail to surprise you. If you remember basketball player Michael Jordan, one of the things that impressed his peers was his seemingly endless variety of moves. I’ve read interviews where his teammates would talk about how he would walk through crazy maneuvers when he would practice. He was expanding his vocabulary. The surprising moves he made in games were made possible by his continuously looking for new moves when he was practicing or imagining practicing (note to self: visualization is a powerful tool).
One of the things that you pick up when you transcribe (or otherwise learn) music from recordings by other people are patterns that you haven’t encountered before. When you really learn them, they become spontaneous options that weren’t open to you before. You might not use the same notes you learned, but you might use a fingering pattern that was previously foreign to you or a different phrasing.
Spend at least a few minutes every day working on something new and foreign. If I had done that for the past 47 years (eeks, I am getting old), my musical vocabulary would be a lot larger than it is today.
I have probably written this before. Lord knows that I frequently need reminding about it.
The notes on the page (when there are notes on the page) are not the music. They are clues to the music.
If the notes on the page were the music, a computer would be able (without all sorts of fancy programming) to give a performance as moving as B.B. King or Vladimir Horowitz. There are subtle nuances of timing and dynamics (which together make up phrasing) that make the difference between a moving performance and a robotic one.
Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1 is a simple piece. Many children have the skill to get through the piece, playing in time without flubbed notes. And, yet, a skilled player’s rendition will be more moving.
Music is tied to something deep in our mind’s, and we perceive subtle minute variations in timing and dynamics at a subconscious level. A great performer has their own personal interpretation. They play it the way that it moves them. And because, we have a different mind. Their unique way of playing it surprises (even if subtly) our expectation.
To be compelling, a performance must in some way satisfy our expectations while also surprising them.
This is also why other people’s performances can move us even more than our own. We cannot (except by accident) surprise our own expectation. But another performer can defy them in ways that we find thrilling and surprising even after hundreds of listenings.
Try to play along with Miles Davis’ solos on So What or All Blues. The notes are not difficult to play. But the when he plays them is a revelation.
Impatience stands in the way of skill.
Skill will come when it comes.
Attention is the key. Impatience robs us of attention.Our attention becomes focused on our impatience rather than the act of playing.
Much that we perceive as skill and dexterity are the fruits of patience and attention. When we are focused on our playing and hearing the sound from our instrument, our brain is able to make connections between our physical action and the sound we are producing.
Over time, patient playing and listening give us the ability to experience our playing as if outside of time. That passage that once seemed to go by in a blur becomes distinct. We can hear the space (or lack of it) between notes that seemed to be nothing but a blur.
The ringing of the notes becomes a choice rather than an accident.
It is better to play a few minutes every day than for an hour or two only occasionally.
You don’t have to love practicing to get better. You just need to do it.
If you love practicing, great. But, do it anyway. Persistence is more important than talent…heck, you won’t even know if you have talent until you have persisted. There may be prodigies that pick things up quickly. You probably are not one of them AND it doesn’t matter.
Most brilliant musicians struggled for years with their instrument…
Play because you love music. But practice even on days when you don’t feel like it.
Do that, and you will get better.
Progress is not linear. Long periods will pass when you seem to get nowhere. And one day (maybe after returning from a brief vacation), you will find that you play passages that previously seemed impossible with ease.
But that only happens if you have been practicing.