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This thread is a discussion group for the book Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner.


“The doubters said, "Man cannot fly," The doers said, "Maybe, but we'll try,"
And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
― Bruce Lee
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CHAPTERS 1 & 2
I really enjoyed reading this book knowing that all of you were reading along with me. So many thoughts went through my mind while reading the first two chapters (and the preface) of this book. I tried to keep it as brief as I could but I am sure I forgot some things. Looking forward reading your thoughts about what we have read so far.

[b]EDUCTATION: How much fault lies with education? [/b] Kenny mentions that in other cultures everyone is a musician. Unfortunately, for some of us we grew up in a culture that didn’t nurture the music within us and didn’t recognize its importance. He suggests that education destroys the musician and that the study of music robbed us of the ability to play. But does it? Personally, I think the wrong kind of education absolutely can do this. But, education is important and I don’t think we can dismiss it. The right kind of education should encourage growth and give us the tools and skills we need. He’s coming from a place where he already has those skills and the education. Maybe it’s up to us to not let that happen when we are first thrown into the educational system, to somehow to keep our artistic integrity while being educated. I believe there is a responsibility with the educator to know how to teach. But this is often not the case. I have had those teachers that don’t know how to teach beginners and over complicate things. It led me to believe that I would never get this stuff. Thankfully I kept at it and eventually ended up with some very inspiring teachers that DID know how to teach beginners so things made sense. This was exciting to me because I finally believed that this was something I could do. The right teacher can make all the difference in the world. Sadly, some people quit before they find this out. And sometime we have to have the bad teachers to understand who the good ones are. I had a teacher once who was so horrible. I dreaded everything about my lessons with her. It left me thinking “some of us have it and some of us don’t” and I unfortunately did not. This didn’t make sense to me though because why would I be given such a strong desire to play the piano if I didn’t “have it”. “What a cruel joke to play on someone”, I thought. So, maybe in many cases music is being taught in an inferior way. Maybe it’s up to us to follow our passion, weed out the bad ones and find the little gems that are hidden in a sea of miserable, un- motivating teachers. Or, to at least learn what we can from the “bad ones”, move on and let the rest go. I also wonder if we are not given the same seriousness from teachers because we are not training for a career in music further inhibiting our growth. Shouldn’t we all get the treatment and isn’t it up to us to decide how far we want to take it?

GOD: Ok let’s address the one topic that seems to be a common turn off for a lot of people. God and religion. Personally, I feel that using God as a catch all term is unfortunate. There are many different religious and spiritual beliefs and some people don’t believe in god at all. For the sake of our individual and collective growth I would like to propose a different perspective that might make it a little more comfortable for those who may be put off about the god/religious aspect of the book. Let’s look at it from the concept of “energy” and the idea that like energy attracts like energy. I think most of us can relate to this idea. For example: A lower/negative energy state is a place where we feel sad, down, depressed, and say bad things to ourselves. Things are sluggish, difficult, and things just don’t seem to go our way. When we are in a higher energy state of being we are happy, energetic, things seem to go our way. We have positive self-talk. We attract the right people and the right circumstances into our lives. It’s not a place of ego. It’s just a state of being. So, we can look at the god/religion parts of the book simply as higher energy levels. And there are higher levels of energy that we have yet to experience.

The EGO and the CONSCIOUS MIND- THINKING TOO MUCH: Kenny suggests that as a society we are very much involve with the ego as opposed to spirituality.

The concept is so simple: our conscious mind, our very own thoughts are our biggest obstacles. And if we are unobstructed by thought we can reach our highest potential
This is not a concept that’s new to me. And the solution seems so simple: change your thoughts. Easy right? Then why is it so (bleepin’) hard to do? Why do these sneaky little buggers keep coming back to stomp on our buzz. I heard someone say once that obstacles are there to weed out the ones who don’t want it bad enough. Well I guess we want it bad enough because here we are!

He also says that by being dominated by our conscious mind we cannot channel our creativity. We must surrender to a “higher force” and not “think music”. A part of me understands and agrees with this but I also think “easy for him to say”. He has all that experience and education inside him - we are just beginners. Of course we have to think music. Otherwise, how else can we do it? Don’t we have to think it as we are learning it? Isn’t thinking a necessary part of the process and maybe over-thinking is the actual problem (am I over-thinking things right now-tee hee)? Maybe there is a balance between the two. Think it, to learn it, then let it go. Maybe eventually we get to a point where everything is so internalized that we can play from “that place” were ego doesn’t exist and our conscious thoughts don’t get in the way.

“BE KIND TO YOURSELF”: Why do we beat ourselves up so much? Why do we say such negative things to ourselves that we would never say to anyone else (or maybe some of us would but that’s a whole other topic-he he). We must begin saying the warm loving supportive things to ourselves that we would say to the people we care about as we encourage them to reach their dreams.

WE ARE HEALERS? Kenny says “as musicians we are healers”. Is this the case for everyone? All musicians? When is one considered a “musician”. Are we musicians?
In my American Indian Religions class we were told that the healers, in order to become healers, had to battle the darkest of demons or go through a period of illness (to death and back). If they defeated these demons they would emerge as healers. It makes sense that our difficult times are our greatest gifts because we emerge stronger and more knowledgeable than we were before. So, now we are on this journey to “heal” ourselves so we can emerge as more compassionate musicians and heal others through our music.
FEAR and the COMFORT ZONE: Have we developed a fear of playing as Kenny suggests? How many of us go to lessons fearing we won’t do well. Then vow to practice more and do better next time then approach our practice time in desperation so as not to “mess” up as much next time or not to let our teacher down. Where is the joy in that? What is it we are really concerned about? Letting the teacher down? Looking foolish? Now I can see how all these ego driven thoughts are contaminating everything we do. I used to get all worked up about it when I thought about practicing. But lately I’ve been starting with the simplest exercises. I don’t even have to think about them (hmmm interesting look what I just said). I just do them and my scales, I love doing scales because I don’t have to think about it (there I go again) I just do them, and it’s relaxing and somewhat meditative to me. And when I used to think that I should be practicing for X amount of time I’d get really stressed out. Now I just start playing those exercises and then move on to the next thing and then the next and don’t give a thought about the time at all. I am now trying to take that approach to learning and playing songs. For some reason I approach them very differently than the exercises and scales. With fear, worry and anxiety.

Also, have we become too comfortable with our limitations? And if so why? I know I hold myself back because I don’t know what it feels like to be “that” good. So, it’s hard for me to believe it can happen for me. And believing is so important. I have an inscription on a ring I wear that says “if you can dream it you can do it”. I really want to believe that. I also heard a little twist on a popular saying “I will see it when I believe it”. I guess it’s time to start believing. Another reason I hold myself back is because I’m afraid I won’t live up to other people’s expectations. There’s that ego again. With all of this going on I can see how all of these irrational thoughts get in the way of my progress.

Madame Chaloff: Something he said here I thought was interesting and something I notice a lot in my life is she taught him something he wasn’t ready to learn at the time but encountered the lesson again in the future. I find this happens to me a lot. I will learn something that doesn’t have a lot of impact or relevance at the moment but seems to set the foundation for something I am meant to learn later. That’s why I try to keep an open mind whenever I am learning anything new-whether I like it or not-lol.

FINDING EACH OTHER: Just as Kenny was “delighted to find misfits like myself” at Berklee. I’m glad we all found our way here.

A FINAL NOTE: (oops was that a pun?)
If we got this far functioning from this place with all the obstacles we have placed in front of us just imagine what we could accomplish once we get them out of the way.



P. S.
OUR STORIES……
I thought it would be interesting to include a brief, personal story about how we got to where we are today. How we found our way to the piano, and what lead us to read this book.

3hearts



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And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
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Good stuff Kymber.

A few things he said I thought were interesting. The bit about the american population turning to TV dinner. And the conspiracy about keeping us all hungry and horny. I would think most folks on this forum watch very little TV, but we can see how TV could contribute to failure not just in school, but in life.
And then the bit about the dad asking if "Kenny practiced". I could picture the guy sitting on the couch complaining about the kid not doing his work.

Fortunately, not all parents are like that.

The fear of playing well I think can be thought of as the infamous "red dot syndrom". I think we naturally put expectations on ourselves and others, we grade ourselves, evaluate ourselves, keep tabs.
There's something bad about that.

At the same time, it's only through goals that we can accomplish anything. Without some kind of lesson, or direction, or "need" to play good, many of us would simply not get far. If you don't feel the need to play Bach "good", and wouldn't you stop as soon as you can lay the notes?

You never make as much progress as when you know you have a show coming up. That's when you put so much focus into one single thing, that stuff finally starts to happen.
Other events can also work as catalyst. The story about Charlie Parker as a teenager being laughed at hard because he only knew honeysuckle rose in F. "I didn't know about there being any other key!!".

I also don't buy the argument about the child touching the instrument for the first time, and then the adult ruining it for him. Children touch instruments, and get excited by it, but they move away from it very fast. And unless and until you push them to practice, they will simply never touch the instrument again. You can certainly find some exceptions, but I think this should cover 99% of children.
Excellent teacher will keep kids motivated and give them not just directions on how to play music, but lessons on how to love the music.

I think Kenny is somewhat in a special bucket because
1. he received totally inadequate education as a kid
2. he was drawn to music and nothing could keep him from it.


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As far as music education, there has been a certain "stuffiness" and formality associated with music, particularly classical.

You must play this note at this time at this volume...exactly. Now multiply times 10,000 notes and be ready for your recital!
Perfect 5ths, imperfect cadences, subdominant, supertonic, instructions written on the sheetmusic in Italian...the list goes on...

Years later I learn that most professional musicians (such as jazzers and rockers) pretty much picked up a few chords and licks on their guitars or keyboards from their friends and just started jamming. Then over the years experiment and share things with fellow musicians.

I was astounded when I leaned that Lennon and McCartney could neither read nor write music! Fabulous musicians and song writers nonetheless.

So some of Werner's writing on the topic of music education did resonate with me.



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>>Years later I learn that most professional musicians (such as jazzers and rockers) pretty much picked up a few chords and licks on their guitars or keyboards from their friends and just started jamming

I don't think this is typical of jazz musicians.

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First of all, I find it interesting that Kenny Werner, as the back cover of the book says, "began to perform at age 4 and by age 11 had appeared on television." I think this puts him in a very special class - at least for the era.

I started piano lessons at age 7 because my cousin played, and of course, I had to learn, too. laugh My lessons lasted about 4 years, because I then had to learn clarinet (like my cousin!). The one thing I can relate to concerning the educational aspect is that although I loved my music lessons in grade school (it was not regimented, and it was made to be fun), when I was ready to go into band or orchestra (clarinet here, mind you) I was told I had to switch to saxophone. That didn't go over very well with me at all, and pretty much squashed my music for a few years. It wasn't until I got to university that I renewed my piano. That was only a couple classes in keyboard harmony, though. I wanted to learn jazz, but the classes were so dry and methodical I lost interest.

I would hope that music education is better now, except that in many schools there is none. Then, the kids who do have a chance to learn an instrument are the ones whose families can afford private lessons. I know that there are some programs in some parts of the US that address this problem, but they are far and few between.

What resonates with me now, by reading this book, is the repeated, "be kind to yourself". I think this is not something children even let permeate their minds - this is an adult problem. We're so very hard on ourselves because we think we should know more, be better than we are, because we're adults.

When I look back at my piano learning, I should thank my teacher, were he still alive, for teaching me to read music so well. I'm a pretty good sight reader. On the other hand, I had practically no theory. Now that I'm taking lessons again, my poor teacher has had to spend a lot of time with me on theory.

I may be relating this book to myself a little too much, but that's me. I have read quite further in the book, and am waiting to discuss more. The whole religious inferences do not bother me - I don't think anything is being shoved down my throat, so to say, in that respect. Like Kymber said, we can replace "God" with whatever works for us individually. I like the idea of "energy".



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I had a gazillion thoughts about our chapters when I first read them, but in the time between reading and now, my book thoughts have gotten completely entangled with the all-encompassing personal transformation I've been going through in my musical life, and I'm having a hard time expressing what I'm getting from the book without putting it in the context of my musical history.

I've been writing for a few hours, and no matter how fiercely I edit, what's insisted on coming out is a description of what brought me to my first conclusion upon reading the book several years ago, which is that I was so far away from any sort of musical mastery that I just couldn't relate.

So, um, all I've succeeded in writing is hardly about the book at all. It keeps turning into the first chapter of my musical autobiography. <sigh! this reminds me of writing fiction when the characters insist on doing and saying things entirely antithetical to what the plot outline requires them to accomplish>

I'll post it if anyone wants it (it does conclude in why I couldn't relate to the book the first time through), but otherwise I'll keep wresting with the angel of history and hopefully eke out the next chapter, wherein I begin to discover the rewards of BE(-ing) KIND TO YOURSELF!

ETA: Check out my new avatar! It's from the poster I'm gonna put above my DP ( when it finally gets here ), to symbolize the transformation in my relationship to the piano!

Last edited by tangleweeds; 02/28/12 07:51 AM.

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I hate to keep coming up with golf/piano analogies, but the self criticism on the golf course is much the same..."YOU IDIOT! HOW COULD YOU (miss such a short putt/leave it in the bunker/top it after all these years, etc, etc...). All those people swearing on the course are really swearing at themselves.

The solution is just like Werner says: "To be kind to yourself". You'd never say such things to a friend on the course. An effective approach is to "role play" as your own caddie, offering assurance, focus, and encouragement. Same with piano, one needs to remain positive.

Last edited by Stanza; 02/28/12 03:24 PM.

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Hi All,
Great observations. I'd like to comment more but work got really busy. Plus we had an event with Lady Gaga and Oprah here so couldn't pass that up.

Looking forward to chatting more at the end of Ch3.

Peace!


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And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
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At first I was annoyed. Nothing in his experience seemed to match up to my experience. What use will this be, I thought, when he has nothing in common with me? But at the very end of chapter 2, the five finger exercise, egoless playing, and "be kind to yourself" started to resonate as a good path.


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I'm curious how someone can continue daily piano practice without cutting back time but also begin to practice getting into "the space" for playing. Summarizing what I think Kenny says, to get used to playing in the space you put down your instrument every time you start to attribute importance to the instrument and should put the instrument back down. That's all fine and good but I still have stuff to practice. I suppose you could slowly train yourself over time?

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Oh my goodness, the answer to all is BE KIND TO YOURSELF - well Mr Werner that is such a difficult task to begin with!

Of course he has a point -Nobody's perfect. But as adult learners we tend to feel we should be able to learn and register information quicker than children, we are full of self criticism but forget that our old brain cells are not as receptive as they once were. We are bogged down with adult problems, putting others before ourselves, and it is difficult to simply switch off and absorb when someone suddenly says "be kind to yourself"!
But he is correct, we do need to learn to be less self critical and concentrate on the music. It may take some time...

And I agree with what others here have mentioned, KW had a wonderful musical start - a very privileged education. Many of us here have had neither the time nor money to learn piano until later in life, taking lessons only after I retired, and then had to give up after a couple years to look after elderly ailing parents. A new beginning now, and I hope that I, and everyone here, will be inspired by reading this book and sifting out whatever works for us personally.

Lookinf forward to chapter 3 ! smile





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Originally Posted by RyanMortos
I'm curious how someone can continue daily piano practice without cutting back time but also begin to practice getting into "the space" for playing. Summarizing what I think Kenny says, to get used to playing in the space you put down your instrument every time you start to attribute importance to the instrument and should put the instrument back down. That's all fine and good but I still have stuff to practice. I suppose you could slowly train yourself over time?


Yes, and he also says it's ok to practice for just 5 minutes (especially if during that time you're practicing in the right way). I guess we're getting ahead of the current chapter, though.

I didn't have the kind of early musical training he did, of course, but I certainly recognize the tendency to compare myself negatively to others, and how destructive it can be.


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Hi All,
I suppose we all will have some difficulty and possibly some resistance as we work through this book. I think more than anything it is an emotional journey. But, as a lot of you have stated, at first you couldn't relate but then discovered something that resonated with you. I think that's what learning is all about. Getting all the different (and similar) perspectives is making this a much richer experience for me.


“The doubters said, "Man cannot fly," The doers said, "Maybe, but we'll try,"
And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
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RyanMortos

Quote
I'm curious how someone can continue daily piano practice without cutting back time but also begin to practice getting into "the space" for playing. Summarizing what I think Kenny says, to get used to playing in the space you put down your instrument every time you start to attribute importance to the instrument and should put the instrument back down. That's all fine and good but I still have stuff to practice. I suppose you could slowly train yourself over time?


The short answer is that in one of the last chapters he concedes that there will be those whose commitments (to gigs, a teacher, work, family, repertiore, etc..) require that they play and practice "outside" of the space. Says that is ok, just try to make some time, even if only 10 or 20 minutes a day, to work on getting in the space and developing masterery over some aspect of your play (as defined).


Sonata Pathetique-Adagio LVB
Its All in the Game- KJarrett trans.
Gnossienne No1 E.Satie

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Not to jump us ahead, but I want to report on what I'm doing while it's immediate. In chapter 3, Werner talks about playing nothing but C to G, up and down, for two weeks, and the great benefit this had for him.

So I'm trying it. Not literally, but in what I hope is the spirit of it. I resisted at first, thinking "But I've got to practice all these pieces for my lesson." But eventually I let go of that.

Day one I just played C to G, up and down, a few times, really noticing how my fingers felt. They felt nice and curved and contented.

Day two I added, just for fun and curiosity, some pentascale exercises from my technique book that I'm assigned for next week: up and down, in all major keys. Then I played Satie's Gnossienne No. 1, slowly and reflectively, from memory, enjoying it, and playing it slowly enough that I wasn't struggling to remember what came next.

Day three was today. Unusually, I woke up early. I got up and played my pentascale exercises; then added the next page which is playing them in contrary motion and changing octaves and dynamics. I didn't beat myself up when I missed a note. Just accepted it and repeated it correctly, enjoying playing at a relaxed pace. Then I played the Gnossienne, immersed in it and paying attention to voicing. Then I played Satie's 1st Gymnopédie. I have part of this memorized, so I played that part from memory and then switched to using the music. I played it slowly enough that I could find the chords easily in time. I didn't beat myself up for not having more memorized. I didn't wonder when I'll be able to play it up to its stated tempo of 66 bpm. I just enjoyed the reflective nature of this mesmerizing piece. Then I played my other memory piece, the Bach (well, Petzold) Minuet in G, again playing more slowly than I usually try to play it, and not beating myself up for slips, but calmly correcting them.

I have several other pieces assigned for my next lesson, plus some scales, but I'm putting it all on hold while I hopefully enter into the spirit of Werner's five notes up and down. My lesson will be what it will be, and I'm enjoying the calm and peace of playing this way.

Last edited by PianoStudent88; 03/03/12 10:42 AM.

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Something else I'm doing is, I am reading ahead in the book, but I am writing up my response to each chapter as I go so that when the discussion group gets to that chapter I'll be able to share my initial responses.


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That's great! Thanks for giving a glimpse of what's to come.
It's funny because when you mentioned doing only the C to G excercise I had the same thoughts you did "but I have a lesson to pracitce for".

I have noticed a difference in my playing recently. I think there are a variety of reasons for this. But a lot has to do with making that shift from thinking to just allowing. What's interesting is that now that I know what that feels like it's easier to do get there again.

My teacher commonted on the difference in my playing and I mentioned I wasn't thinking so much about playing. She said that's right and there's a time for thinking and a point when you let it go.

So it looks like we're all on the right track.


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Kymber, should we be reading chapters 3 & 4 for this upcoming week? I was thinking that might be a good combo since Ch 3 is pretty heavy on the spiritual stuff that some people have trouble with, while Ch 4 moves back toward one's thoughts while actually playing.

PianoStudent88, I think I am going to follow your lead and do my writing as I read, so Kenny's thoughts won't get so inextricably tangled with my own by the time it comes to discuss.

Thanks everyone, I've been enjoying your thoughts, even though I've been having trouble untangling my own! laugh

Last edited by tangleweeds; 03/03/12 09:22 PM.

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Hi Tangleweeds,
that's a good idea. I wasn't sure if people had time to read two chapters a week. Can everyone have that done by monday? Do we want to extend untill Wednesday?

I was thinkng we could put what chapters we are discussing at the top
of each post. In case some didn't get to read ahead and don't want to see the review yet. Personnally, I'm cool with reading the reasonponses even of I haven't read the chapter.

So everyone, let me know what you all think about 2 chapters a week.
And if you can have 3&4 done by Monday.


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And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
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Download Sheet Music
Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads
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Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads



 
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