The practising article is made up from the various contributions so far received in response to the above question. So, firstly, many thanks to those who have replied. Before going straight into the contributions, perhaps I should briefly explain why the question was asked at all.
There were really several reasons; mostly to do with personal curiosity. The relation between my own playing and practising is something I've been thinking about for sometime and , as most of the musicians I know also do a fair amount of playing when alone , I was interested to find out what their thoughts and attitudes were on the subject. Oddly enough it is not something often discussed in a musician's normal shop talk. Another reason was that, during workshops for example, when talking to people who want to play improvised music,
the question "how should I practice this?"
or "how do you practice?"
sometimes comes up.
It is not easy to answer. Usually I describe what I do and then say something about playing to yourself, listening to what's happening, emphasising or repeating the things you like, trying to stop the things you don't like etc. etc. As an answer it is not a very satisfactory way of getting at the improvisational process. I just wondered how others would react to a similar question. One further reason was that, in my view , the discussion on technique (music's 19) suffered greatly by concentrating on overall notions and definitions of what is technique - a rather intangible and abstract thing now that new musical practices have brought about a revision of previous ideas. In contrast practising is something more concrete. Almost anyone can say I do this , or that , or these particular things on my instrument , and , although the question can widen out very quickly at least there is a solid base to start from . Attitudes to practising have much to say about attitudes to technique.
Steve Beresford (1) 1979
Derek Bailey Commentary and reply to the question
Very , very nice to hear from you . I hope you are well and that everything else is at least .Fine . It's nice to know people are still buying INCUS in holland. What a wonderful country!
Do you think the "one question postal interview" is here to stay ? It occurs to me that we must have met hundreds of times over the last few years and you've never brought up the subject of practising before. Well , I guess you were containing your curiosity until such time as it could operate on a proper statistical basis.
Practising . it seems to me , is the most personal aspect of playing and even when drunk, which is the proper state for any kind of musical analysis, I doubt whether I could say anything of any significance about it. Also the thought that all this might appear in MUSICS makes my blood run white and sets me wondering if I know exactly when to use practise and when to use practice. Something that four years of Musics has tought us (is it only four? Seems like four hundred) is that the whole business of improvisers writing about improvisation very quickly leads to delusions of grandeur , a complete disregard for any observable truth and galloping aesthetic debility. Whatever happened to the `I just play, man` man?
By the way ,is it true that in holland now there are two different subsidies available relating practice? One subsidy for practising: on the grounds that if you are practising you don't have time to look for gigs and so need the subsidy to live on. And one subsidy for not practising : on the grounds that if you don't practice you won't get any work and so you need the subsidy to live on. I expect to be in holland in ten days' time.
Look forward to seeing you then when we can revert to the usual gossip.
Derek Bailey. 1979
LARRY STABBINS- saxophone
Yes. Quite o lot I suppose. Mainly conventional stuff- scales, exercises, long notes - to keep my chops together. As far as new ideas, techniques, etc., quite spasmodically as they crop up. I don't have a routine, it depends how I feel, but I like to play something most days, though it might be for 2 minutes.
Web page editor's note: Be aware this 1979, the communications may have involved the following: Envelopes (made of paper), pen, hand writing, a stamp, a letter box & a post worker. and lots more..
Click the google drive logo to open the full article, with up to thirty names in the contents list responding to Steve Beresford's questionaire about practising.