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  1. #1

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    I picked up this book at random while in a book store on vacation. I didn't recognize Kenny Werner at first, I have seen him on youtube though. I must say I was blown away at how powerful this book is and how hard it hit me. I've been studying meditation, buddhism and the science of flow states etc for about a year, which I think really helped set up a good platform to absorb this book. To have someone come along and really lay out such deep rooted problem and frustrations blew my mind.

    I have been enjoying music and studying more than I have in the last 7-8 years. It feels like the first few years of playing all over again. I would recommend this book to anyone who takes music seriously at all.

    I'd love to hear about thoughts or input from anyone else who has read this book and how it was for them

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  3. #2

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    I have found the book very interesting. (Also recommended: Victor Wooten's The Music Lesson).

    What I like about Werner is the idea of going deeply into one thing until you get it, not skipping around. And I found that after I listened to one of his meditations I practiced well that day.

    However, one thing I'm skeptical about. This is to paraphrase: you are supposed to practice in a meditative state. You don't try; you just watch your fingers play the music for you.

    This is the opposite of the other "how to practice" advice I've read. To me the idea is, you have to focus very intently on what you're doing, and slowly teach your fingers to do the right things. It's only after you've done this for a long time, that you get to step back and just "let it happen".

  4. #3

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    I think the idea being that you have to practice being in that state That is, you can't expect "for the magic to happen" just because you now have an audience. You play what you practice, therefore you must practice making music in that state. Not saying it's easy, or that I can do it, but I think that's what Kenny is implying.

  5. #4

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    Yeah and I think that medative state is more in termsof performance. As in you dont think while you play...you just play

  6. #5
    Thanks for the replies everyone.

    In terms of practicing in a meditative state, Kenny does say in his clinics that practice time is the act of absorbing new information and actually thinking about what you're doing, in a focused way. Absorbing things in small pieces until they are mastered. It would be of great benefit to be in a meditative state while doing this. All he means by meditative state is the lack of thinking about useless and distracting things at the moment. Most people have minds that run rampant with thoughts and worries, and find it difficult for the mind to be quiet. I like the distinction between practicing and playing, playing being just playing what you know and letting it fly out.

    I've had a daily meditation practice going for just over a year now. I just sit in silence for an 30-45mins 2x a day. It has improved my playing, learning, listening abilityand quality of life to a great degree. The brain does extremely well with some quiet each day.

    This always made me feel that learning jazz was a lot like learning zen. Zen masters are confusing when you read them. If you've ever read anything by Linji, Mumon or Huangpo it can be really confusing. The students keep asking questions and the masters keep answering in ways that leave you perplexed beyond belief. This is what listening to teachers like Joe Pass, or Benson, Metheny, or even Reg was like for me when first learning jazz. It sounded like they were trying to transmit something that was beyond conceptual reasoning. The teacher gives you gold but the student keeps asking more and more questions that miss the mark.

    "The art of learning" by Josh Waitkzin is also a book I would recommend checking out. He was a chess prodigy and went on to give up chess and pursue martial arts, but he found that he excelled at martial arts extremely fast by using the learning philosophy he adopted from learning chess. The biggest piece of advice I took from the book is something he calls "making smaller circles". It's the same thing Kenny Werner is talking about. Taking something small and mastering it to the degree of mastery where no thought is needed.

  7. #6

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    Great interview with josh here, highly recommend Tim Ferriss podcast



    Also check out "the one thing" by Gary Keller a great book on getting granular.

    Last edited by 55bar; 02-18-2016 at 04:09 AM.

  8. #7

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    I always mention Mihaly Csikszentmihaly's book on creative "FLOW" when talking about Werner.

    There's some leg work that needs to be done before one can get to this pace, but eventually, if the task is right, the action itself can get you there. Really cool stuff, and I've experienced it (more with painting, but with guitar as well)

  9. #8

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    I like Kenny's teachings. There are some people who would get a lot from his stuff, and I particularly enjoyed his video on jazzheaven.com, which I would highly recommend.

    Effortless Mastery, IMO, is useful for someone who does lots of practice but feels hemmed in by it all. I have felt this way in the past.

    (I have heard other musicians describe it as 'Effortless Mediocrity' though, not sure if it's right for everyone.)

  10. #9
    Thanks mr.beaumont ill check that book out

    The science that is emerging with flow states and the default network mode is very interesting stuff.

    Hey Christian 77,
    Thanks for the recommendation for kenny's jazz haven video. I have lage lund's and enjoyed it quite a bit

    I think youre right that effortless mastery is good for people who feel hemmed in by practicing. I felt very overwhelmed and pressured over the years to study and study, which got in the way of playing and the enjoyment of music. It makes sense that we call it playing, ie fun. Not working the instrument. It also seems like a good plan to make sure your playing/practicing with a healthy mindset before you even start. I can imagine a lot of people at music schools could benefit from Kenny's teachings.

    As far as people claiming "effortless mediocrity", I think youre right again, the book might just not be for them. If you had gave this book to me five years ago it would have ended up in the trash. I wouldnt have been able to relate to the material. It seems natural for peple to pressure themselves more and more to produce results, for somene who has never experienced this it can be hard to understand what it's like. The spirtual jargon would hav turned me off as well.

    Float tanks/sensory deprivation tanks are another interesting device/way to help us as musicians. I read a short brief of a study that had 15ish jazz musicians go in a float tank for 90 mins once a week for a month. After the 4 weeks they all (I believe it was all of them) claimed far more technical and creative proficiency.

  11. #10

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    this kind of stuff fascinates me to no end..the amount of self discipline required to learn your craft (the arts-ANY art) is never ending..and at a certain point should be considered and experienced as a reward and an opportunity to learn something new..about music and more important..about ourselves..

    I love puzzles..one of my fave is the "whats wrong with this picture" ok..at first glance it may seem nothing at all..but to really see whats wrong..we need to "slow down" focus and concentrate on ALL the details of each part of the picture..breath slowly but deeply..listen to our inner voice..really "see" each detail in the picture...Ahhh..there are two 7's on the wall clock..Ahh..the coffee table has only three legs...the cat has only one ear..the doorknob is missing..the table lamp is ON but its unplugged..and so on...

    in meditation it is much like that..as you slow down you begin to see "whats wrong" AND what is right..and at a certain point of "practice" the difference is less and less and you stop being the judge..now your just an observer..but your still aware of yourself being an observer..and go a bit deeper and that awareness has some "gaps" in it where you were not aware..ok..where did "I" go???..from this point on it gets "real" interesting...and you may try to recapture that feeling..insight again and again..but now you realize that your not an observer any longer your now a "seeker" .. looking for ways to solve the puzzle of "where did I go"..and then we ask seeker questions..wait..where did this I come from..whats an inner voice..and who tells it what to say..and who is hearing it..is it the same being or two different beings..ahh..see..interesting eh...

    so we have discovered the chromatic scale..12 tones...they make up all of western music experience..and if that's all there is..how can we play a "wrong" note..is this a "whats wrong with this picture" puzzle..lets see..lets take a major pentatonic scale..with notes 1 2 3 5 6..and create some four note cells...1365..ok how many different ways can we play these four notes..four you say..really..you sure about that..and suddenly you notice the cat has only one ear...

  12. #11

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    Anyone spent time with this book? I hear about it a lot elsewhere but not much on this forum. It focuses on getting out of your own way.

    It's very much not my style, but I think that might be a good thing.

    The meditations are a little cheesy, but once I actually gave it a try, it does seem to make me feel more at ease and better overall. Of course, I might achieve the same benefit from just sitting still and taking deep breaths for 15 minutes.

    As much as it goes against my nature, I know deep down that things like meditation and even yoga would benefit me. I have a lot of tension/stress/anxiety issues.

    So I guess from either the playing side or the health side, I would be interested in hearing other members' experiences.

  13. #12

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    There comes a time where meditation will be just practical and with no baggage of any crazy cuckoo crap.
    But pills are more lucrative. So it might take a bit.

  14. #13

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    I don't doubt this. If you have any other experiences with meditation that you'd be willing to share, I'd be interested. I'm willing to look a little cuckoo if it makes me feel better and maybe lowers my blood pressure a bit.

  15. #14

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    All I've done is to meditate for 20 minutes before work. When it goes well, that time it feels like being inside a fluffy white cloud. Later I do 2-3 minute more when in need of a reset.
    That's all. It's so helpful in stressful periods. Night and day difference.

  16. #15

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    That sounds like something I could get into. Do you use any specific 'method'.

    I don't know much about this stuff. I've just done the first 2 that come with the book so far. I'm assuming there are similar things that aren't music specific.

    Or do you just sit and breath and try to clear your head?

  17. #16

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    My parents took me to a cult-meditation thing when I was 14. They gave me a "mantra". I bet any old word wold do.
    But there is not much to it. Just relax, attention to the word or the breathing and wait for the fuzzy feeling. Then keep it for a while.
    I really can't say anything else. Never even cared to look for more. Works like that enough for me.

  18. #17

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    I read a bit of it a number of years ago and had a decently positive impression. It´s not a bad idea at all to discuss the inner-goings on of a musician. One thing that stuck with me that you shouldn't base your self-worth on music, your latest gig, solo etc. There's also a book called The Inner Game of Music that's apparently a bit similar.

  19. #18

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    The guy that wrote it did a clinic with our college jazz ensemble, trying to peddle his books to us.
    He went over the book with us. I said, "no thanks".

  20. #19

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    A few years back at a bluegrass camp, I took an elective workshop on performance anxiety presented by Jeff Scroggins, a truly amazing and gifted banjo player and bandleader. He began the class by sharing his personal struggle with stage fright and performance anxiety. He had entered the competition at Winfield years earlier as a way to help gain exposure and boost his nascent career, but prior to his appearance he was so overwhelmed by anxiety that he became physically ill. Luckily he regained his composure and had a successful performance, but he realized that if he was to have a productive career as a performing musician (that he would be able to enjoy) he would need to overcome his stage fright. He discovered Effortless Mastery and used the meditation techniques within it to gain that control. He was one of the most humble, sincere and encouraging lecturers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and hearing. I bought the book on his recommendation and found it to be quite insightful. I would recommend it to anyone struggling with anxiety or stage fright.

  21. #20

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    I feel like I've given it a fair shot a couple times over the years, and it hasn't seem right for me. I have a couple friends that claim his book was transformative. I would point out there is another older thread dealing with this that have a few links folks might be interested in. The book's been around a long time and is much discussed on jazz blogs.

  22. #21

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    Kenny is a mofo who plays with the best, it sure helps with the credibility of his concepts.


  23. #22

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    I put this book in the category of works that deal with flow states, mediation and so on. I don’t think there’s anything in here which is original or unusual to those who are familiar with the topic, but what is unusual is the focus towards musicians.

    One of the most useful concepts I got from this book (at least I think it was this one) is - separate playing and practice. The former should take place in an state of meditation the latter should take place in a state of conscious awareness.

    the more I lean into this idea, the more enjoyable I find music.

    Yoga is also good.

  24. #23

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    I haven't read the book.

    I won't argue or dismiss anyone who finds something that they feel improves their quality of life or a specific aspect of it in some way. We can all use all the help we can get. But I'm also prone to questioning my own beliefs and so I've had a quick look into 'Effortless Mastery'.
    Something that's described as 'effortless' but takes nearly 200 pages to impart? I'll volley that back with the explanation (among a few possibles) which is that publishing is the same as many fields, in that you need to play the game or you won't even get the time or day from a consumer, so, 'effortless' is a mild term compared to 'hack' or the horrific 'one weird trick'.
    The other thing is that even if it's indeed truly effortless I probably wouldn't find it so; I guess we're all built and equipped differently.

    For what it's worth I've found a combo of working out, Stoicism, writing a diary every day (going back decades now) and every morning about five minutes spent on this balance/proprioception exercise works -


    - and even if confirmation bias is fooling me to some extent, like I said, we can all use any help that we can get.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu
    My parents took me to a cult-meditation thing when I was 14. They gave me a "mantra". I bet any old word wold do.
    But there is not much to it. Just relax, attention to the word or the breathing and wait for the fuzzy feeling. Then keep it for a while.
    I really can't say anything else. Never even cared to look for more. Works like that enough for me.
    That sounds like transcendental meditation. They charge around a 1000USD for the information you just gave. I hope they won't unleash their expensive lawyers on you

  26. #25

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    I think we are finding out that some minds are so susceptible to anxiety and stress. For whatever, these folks need to do something to relieve the pain.

    Maybe meditation is a way to reduce or eliminate it for a while.

    When I was bedridden and recovering from a surgery, for the first time, I felt stress that my coping skills could not fully handle (and I have been in war zones).

    I am in a much better state now, but I do recognize that the day may come where I will be in bad health again. I am considering learning to meditate as a way to prepare for future trying times. Maybe yoga, as someone mentioned. I am going to have to do something to make my coping skills stronger - something besides drugs (legal or illegal) - in preparation for that day.

  27. #26

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    Well you know those reformed addicts who become carrot juice drinking yoga nuts?

  28. #27

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    Not getting annoyed when the student stumbles 10 times in 2 bars is a good test for successful meditation.
    It really works, nothing fake there. It's not like you don't give a damn.. you do, just not in a personally destructive way.
    And also, when such lesson passes and there is a few minutes time before the next, it only takes so little to do another reset.
    It's sometimes needed because it does wear off after 2-3 difficult ones. Takes more if the first meditation after waking up wasn't a good one.

    Btw, I've suggested it to many people who complained having stress. But the "culty" rep is still too much for most people. Doesn't have to be like that at all.
    And don't get me wrong here - I don't do it every day. Only when there is stress at work.

    And also - in my case, it never helped against stage fright. Made it even worse somehow.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu
    Not getting annoyed when the student stumbles 10 times in 2 bars is a good test for successful meditation.
    It really works, nothing fake there. It's not like you don't give a damn.. you do, just not in a personally destructive way.
    And also, when such lesson passes and there is a few minutes time before the next, it only takes so little to do another reset.
    It's sometimes needed because it does wear off after 2-3 difficult ones. Takes more if the first meditation after waking up wasn't a good one.

    Btw, I've suggested it to many people who complained having stress. But the "culty" rep is still too much for most people. Doesn't have to be like that at all.
    And don't get me wrong here - I don't do it every day. Only when there is stress at work.

    And also - in my case, it never helped against stage fright. Made it even worse somehow.
    First, bravo/brava for not losing it with such a student.

    The highlighted point; yes, we do - all of us care - there are many inbuilt natural reactions (some remnants of a primitive need for self-preservation) but while we can't stop those natural reactions we can choose how we then respond to them. Takes practice, but what worthwhile and valuable things don't?

    'Culty' - indeed. Excuses come in all shapes and forms.

    Anyway, excuse the self indulgence, but there are all kinds words of beauty in the world and I believe this an example of one -

    "Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing."
    Somewhere in Enchiridion 1, courtesy of dear old Hopalong Epictetus.

    The Internet Classics Archive | The Enchiridion by Epictetus

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu
    Not getting annoyed when the student stumbles 10 times in 2 bars is a good test for successful meditation.
    It really works, nothing fake there. It's not like you don't give a damn..
    I think teacher expectation management helps too... If your student is 'failing' it's because you are failing to teach the person in front of you and thinking of yourself.

    Interestingly, I can't think of the last time I had that situation. I don't think this is down to some improvement in my technique or my chops as a teacher, I think it's purely down to my becoming a lot more patient and willing to go slow if necessary.

    I definitely remember it happening a lot with my beginners 10 years ago. Now I just don't really remember it. I don't think it happens, or if it does I just don't really notice. I aim to teach fluency over accuracy, though, that's something I am conscious of. Flow first, accuracy second; like a professional sight reading a chart. Mistakes are OK. Don't dwell on them, we'll fix them later. That way, the lesson stays moving (hopefully.)

    I also like the Jeff Berlin thing when working on more difficult music - don't try to play in time until the mechanics are mastered. Such an important point, easily missed by an impatient teacher, and we are all impatient sometimes.

    I see talented student sometimes get a bit bored, and then you can challenge them.

    There's definitely an EM to teaching. IF you ever see virtuoso educators in action, you see that.

    Not sure, though. Easy to be complacent!

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlsoRan
    When I was bedridden and recovering from a surgery, for the first time, I felt stress that my coping skills could not fully handle
    This is what caused me to start this thread and what I found interesting and helpful about the meditation idea. I'm not bedridden, but my self-isolation basically started following a surgery in December, and that was supposed to repair a damaged nerve from a procedure in August 2018. So it's coming up on 2 years of pain and meds and 6 months stuck mostly at home.

    It's wearing on me.
    Last edited by morroben; 06-24-2020 at 11:02 AM.

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by morroben
    This is what caused me to start this thread and what I found interesting and helpful about the meditation idea. I'm not bedridden, but my self-isolation basically started following a surgery in December, and that was supposed to repair a damaged nerve from a procedure in August 2018. So it's coming up on 2 years of pain and meds and 6 months stuck mostly at home.

    It's wearing on me.
    I am sorry to hear about your injury and chronic pain. That is very hard to live with - I know from firsthand experience. I hope you find a path to wellness.

  33. #32

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    Ok, now that we're one big happy family again....


    F the book!!

    Sorry, mood swing----no, er, regression. Yeah, that's the ticket!

    Seriously, anything that can help get one out of one's 'bubble' and connecting with that higher plane where art lives, and is waiting to be plucked (no pun intended) is jake with me. Books; a few tastes, not overdone; meditating; levity to loosen---whatever one's form of communion may be I can dig it. There are many impediments to the space where it flows---where the music plays us. I struggle with it regularly, and am grateful for the solitude and additional 'ideation' option composing affords. It's just you and the muse then, even if said muse is reluctant at times (and that's as often b/c we're not tuning in). Performing with and before people presents a whole other set of challenges----but joys too, when connected in that way that supersedes the small i.

    I want us all to get there. Once achieved, there's no turning back. Gotta keep trying and thinking right...

  34. #33
    Scott Henderson highly recommends that book.
    As for me? It helps to know that the audience doesn’t hear one tenth of what you do so there is a lot of leeway to mess up.


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  35. #34

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    It might be a good book/approach or it might not. But make no mistake, the title is pure marketing gimmickry.

    Kind of like "easy weight loss, double your money, no hassle mortgage, five easy payments", or whatever. Or for that matter Mickey Bakers Complete Course in Jazz Guitar.


    None of those things are easy, hassle free, or complete. Mastery of almost anything worthwhile is the furthest thing from effortless. Think of how many jazzers there are. Then think how many are genuine "masters" of improv. Then read their bios and how they became that way.

  36. #35

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    I think some are confused about the title.

    His definition of mastery is to play effortlessly.

    At no point does he say the book or method are effortless or easy. Quite the opposite.

  37. #36

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    The overview of this book sheds a bit of light on what Werner was trying to address in this 24 year old book. Today with assembly line jazz academia, it seems more relevant than ever....

    Effortless Mastery - Wikipedia

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by morroben
    This is what caused me to start this thread and what I found interesting and helpful about the meditation idea. I'm not bedridden, but my self-isolation basically started following a surgery in December, and that was supposed to repair a damaged nerve from a procedure in August 2018. So it's coming up on 2 years of pain and meds and 6 months stuck mostly at home.

    It's wearing on me.
    I am sorry to read this, but hopeful that you can push through.

    It's no fun being isolated against one's will, especially due to illness or recovery. Night time was the hardest. I would wake up in the middle of the night and limp around the house. I overreacted to allergies and obstructions in my nasal passages affected my breathing - waking me up.

    Its funny how now, when allergies strike, it does not bother me like it did then, with that feeling of claustrophobia.

    Wishing you the best at getting your health back. I am probably at around 85%, and I will take that.

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by morroben
    I think some are confused about the title.

    His definition of mastery is to play effortlessly.

    At no point does he say the book or method are effortless or easy. Quite the opposite.

    Fair enough. When mastery of a musical intrument has been achieved it may seem relatively effortless to play, but it's not. The masters still practice - pretty hard.

    Take away that practice and let's see how effortless performing at the highest level is then.

  40. #39

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    It's a great book and definitely worth reading. If you even think you might be interested, just read it. It's short and excellent. I read it when it came out, and it really helped me a lot. I didn't do any of the meditation or exercises or whatever.

    As others have said, Kenny is a MFer, I've heard him live several times. He can really, really play. I saw him once give a talk at the New School maybe 20 years ago. He's salty in person, definitely kind of an old school NYC musician that isn't going to cut you a lot of slack on the bandstand. The highlight of his talk for me was his solo piano playing.

    He also did the thing he does where he plays "All The Things You Are" in Ab in the left hand, and plays lines in A in the right hand. Of course, it sounded great.

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by morroben
    I think some are confused about the title.

    His definition of mastery is to play effortlessly.

    At no point does he say the book or method are effortless or easy. Quite the opposite.
    I avoid anything called ‘mastery' as a rule, but this sounds like a good book with a bad title.

    His definition is unnecessary tautology, as it were.

    Many buyers would feel cheated when they find hard work is required.

  42. #41

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    This sounds like it could be applied to many things such as sport, acting along with music.

  43. #42

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    I've done various 'meditative' things (including TM) and by far, the most effective is simple slow breathing. Long and slow in through the nose, long and slow out through the mouth. No stress.

    It's the basis of lots of more esoteric pursuits and unlike them doesn't require you to hang out with earnest born again bankers who know better than you ever will.

    I think trying to quieten the mind but saying things, albeit internally is doomed to failure - at least it was for me.

    Breathing - the world inflates, the world deflates, and you relax. Eyes closed or open, then you can deal with what comes along so much better.

  44. #43

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  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMgolf66
    This sounds like it could be applied to many things such as sport, acting along with music.
    Yeah. A classic book is the Inner Game of Tennis...

  46. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Yeah. A classic book is the Inner Game of Tennis...
    That's a good one! I liked it better than Inner Game of Music.

  47. #46

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    Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

  48. #47

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    Golfing with Yoda is another classic.

  49. #48

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    Does it offer any "hacks" or a "one weird trick" for covering Coltrane changes? :0

    Just kidding. Things are getting pretty chippy up in here.

  50. #49

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    Not having read the book, it could be that KW is onto something, and it's as difficult as it is simple: getting past the small 'i' to connect with the stream---or whatever you wanna call it---that art flows from, and is always there to dip into. That's the good news.

    I'm not the metaphysical type (I once described myself as a 'swarthy Jew from Brooklyn'), but I really do believe that the unconscious and that higher consciousness (I know: 'higher' is a Western affectation. Pick your own word) are connected in some way I could never explain. I do know---no great insight---we have a hell of a better chance 'connecting' being loose than uptight, or ego-driven, or self-absorbed. And that, as the bard said, is the 'rub'---b/c we are those things, at times or often, depending. A guy at an ashram told me 'ego's like gas for your car'. OK, so how (where) do we park the car and get on the path to art---and benefit others, too (remember them? LOL)?

    I think it might be better to gently return to these thoughts and the OP topic. Please?---with the confection of your choice on top?...
    Last edited by joelf; 06-29-2020 at 10:31 AM.

  51. #50

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    I just received my copy of The Jazz Musicians Guide To Creative Practicing, discussed on another thread, a book I ordered based on the extremely positive review from my teacher (which coincidentally came the day before that thread materialized). I expected that the theory material would be pretty challenging for me but was intrigued by the fact that it contains as much sidebar/anecdotal/humor/philosophical content as it does practical jazz study suggestions. The author studied under KW and gives Effortless Mastery extremely high praise. So there’s another data point.