Should You Train To Failure?

Our Practice

I just heard a strength and fitness trainer advocating “training to failure,” and I thought that was an odd thing to say. I had to hear more.

First though, you need to understand something. It should be obvious by now that I am a big fan of improvising in music, and in fact, that’s what this website is about, in part. But not just improvising out of rebellion to the composer, but in order that the music set aside for worship can be the best possible music out there. There are times when improvising isn’t the best thing to do, but in general life throws curve balls, so I think we should look at improvisation as practice for real life situations.

With that understanding as our foundation on this topic, I’d like to explore both what the Fitness Trainer said, but in terms of our musicianship, and also another saying no doubt you have heard which goes like this:

“Practice Makes Perfect!”

Hmm…But does it really?

Like so many sayings we have come to believe because we have heard them so often, which may or may not have an element of truth, this one too, could be true or false.

Let me explain:

It doesn’t take long to think up a situation where it would not be true. If you are incorrectly practicing a piece of written music, or failing to execute a technique correctly, than you won’t get it perfect (even if everything else is right except one little thing). In this all-to-common scenario, instead, practice makes pathetic, because the incorrect rote practice now becomes a habit that is very hard to break.

However, it would be true if you practiced it perfectly through and through, each time, which is what we strive for.

Let’s face it though, how many of us actually really do this? Of course we are human and will make a mistake, but many of us are also lazy, especially when it comes to worship music? I’m not sure why, but in 22+ years of playing in churches, I have witnessed the general unspoken consensus among the musicians, that, It isn’t going to be as good as the symphony, so it doesn’t REALLY matter.

That is a sad indictment, and I hope it isn’t true of you. I’m sorry to say it has been true of me at times.

I’m not sure if it is a lax attitude among laymen because we aren’t paid, so why bother, or maybe you are paid, but you feel it is not enough to practice like a pro. Or maybe it is because we feel like the people who are listening don’t care, which is a mistake in itself because our music shouldn’t be for them, it should be for our LORD.

And He deserves only the absolute very best.

But is that even possible to deliver?

That is really the crux of the matter and a question that only you can answer:

Do YOU give YOUR very best?

Do you do as good as you would if you were first chair Violinist, or a musician invited to play with the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall?

And that brings me to the other thing I want to explore:

Our Training

Some of us practice daily, while others are lay musicians who practice when they can. God has called each of us to different walks of life, and I get that. However, if He has called you to make music for Him, you should have some sort of a plan in place to ensure that you are giving your very best.

So how should we train?

Each of us will be inclined to one method or another, and some ways may work better for others. That’s understandable. What I want to do is encourage you, whichever course you take, is to train to failure. Not for failure, but to failure.

In other words, train until you can’t anymore. Until your muscles give out from exhaustion, Your brain can’t take it anymore, and there is nothing left to learn.

I don’t typically listen to celebrity trainers but as I said earlier, I happened across a short clip of celebrity trainer, Jeff Cavaliere, advocating “Training to Failure.” Since that seemed contrary to my thought process, I thought I would see what he had to say, and I heard this:

“Train until you reach failure in your technique, where your 
technique is good, but you go as hard as you can and if you 
have to change your tempo, that’s okay, as long as your form 
is still good. 
What you don’t want to do is change your… form in order to 
keep going, that would not be training to failure.”

Does that make any sense? He’s advocating training with the right technique and not letting up until you can’t go any further.

He’s not saying train so you WILL fail, but UNTIL you fail. Only then should we take a break.

This isn’t just true of athletes. I know musicians who would practice something until they got it right, and then, at that point, they would play it 100 times in a row nonstop. If they got it wrong, they would start over. And that wasn’t even for the LORD!

If we are going to bring the LORD our very best, than this kind of hardcore training is necessary to condition ourselves into the proper technique, the right notes, the perfect tempo, the exquisite dynamics, the perfect phrasing, etc.

I know that some of you won’t even know what songs you may be called on to play next. I played for many years at a church where they called out the hymns from the congregation, so I never knew what I was going to have to play. But still, I had to be ready. And you can be too. You can practice through your whole hymnbook if you are a church pianist, until you know all the hymns by heart. Words too.

I must admit here that I never learned every one of them (partly because I was lazy, and partly because we didn’t sing certain ones) but I know most of them to this day, by heart.

We can be ready for whatever we are called to at a moment’s notice, by taking the time and energy to train like an athlete. In a very real sense, this is a sacrifice of praise.

If a concert pianist would train like an athlete in preparation for a concert, why shouldn’t you or I train like an athlete in preparation for Sunday morning worship of the God of all the Universe, who gave His most prized possession to purchase us?

I’d like to know if you agree or disagree, or if you have another opinion. Please leave a comment below, and if you found this useful, share it with a friend.

 

 

 

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Free Master Class This Saturday with Faye Lopez and Greg Howlett

Free Master Class This Saturday, February 4th from 1-3pm Eastern Standard Time (10am-12pm Pacific Standard Time).

Faye Lopez will be joining Greg Howlett for an online group Master Class. The class is free to observers, and participants are $25. I would highly recommend this class! I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to take some classes from Faye, and learned a bunch! Plus, she’s the nicest teacher ever! She won’t let you get away with poor quality music, but she will guide you in the sweetest way so you can make it better.

This class includes the added benefit of having pianist, teacher, arranger and producer, Greg Howlett, as well! He is excellent at teaching, and super nice! Greg brings a wealth of experience to the table you will be blessed by!

This is a great opportunity I don’t intend to miss, and you won’t want to either!

To learn more, go here and grab a spot before it fills up: Greghowlett.com/MasterClass

Even if you are not an advanced player you will still learn a ton from these two and the participants, and how can you beat the price? I’ve already signed up…what are YOU waiting for?

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How Can We Help You This Year?

As we are beginning a new year, would kindly take a moment to give us some feedback as to how we can help you become a better musician in 2017?

At Hymnprovisation.com, we strive to bring you valuable resources and education and techniques that you will find useful. We attempt to distill all the many video clips, writings, websites, blogs, deals and sales that you might find useful as a church pianist/organist, worship leader, or simply as someone wishing to expand their skill set and knowledge of effective accompaniment.

So now that you know why we need to hear directly from you, just exactly what you feel is lacking, and how we can best serve your needs. Please take a moment to answer each of the 16 questions as best as possible, and then let us know at the end if we forgot anything.

Thanks!

P.S. There are no wrong answers. Every answer will help us to serve you better!

Please click here to fill out the survey

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Book Update January 2017

I don’t know about you, but I had set my sights pretty high last year. I’ve been trying to finish a book on accompaniment techniques which I had started several years ago, and instead, ended up:

  • Building this website
  • Playing piano and sometimes organ for my church
  • Organizing, Producing and making Powerful Praise Music Conference happen
  • Going to Pine Lake Music’s Composer’s Symposium put on by Joe Martin,
  • Playing piano at several weddings and a memorial service
  • Working in Los Angeles for two months
  • Playing piano for a recording
  • Accompanying and singing with Men of Grace at the N.W. Gideon’s Int. Conference
  • Working in my regular day job
  • Singing in a Choir
  • Playing Piano for a Christian Camp which I play at every year
  • Taking an online Composing and Arranging class
  • Writing out my first piano arrangement
  • Assisting with our Church Choir and Christmas Cantata
  • Writing out my first arrangement for Children’s Choir
  • Shoveling Snow in the Beautiful Northwest!

And you know, in spite of all that, I still was able to make great strides toward finishing the book! I have almost all the musical examples in and checked, and am in process of some final additional details, building the index and appendixes. Then it will need to be proofed, formatted and printed. I think you will be almost as excited as I am when it comes out (HOPEFULLY ) By March 1st!

All in all, I think it was a pretty profitable year, not monetarily, I can assure you, but in knowledge and understanding, and that ought to be worth something! So for those of you who have been patiently waiting…and waiting…and waiting… would you mind praying that I would have wisdom and understanding as I wrap up the final details?

Thank you for your continued patience with me!

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“Essentials for the Worship Team Pianist” Webinar

88 Creative Keys is putting on the Essentials For The Worship Team Pianist Webinar on Monday, January 16th from 11am-1pm Eastern Standard Time.

The cost is $49 for this two-part, three hour online class taught by Leila Viss, Drew Collins and Bradley Sowash.

I have not taken their classes, but heard of this through James Koerts. 88 Creative Keys offer several webinars throughout the year on all sort of musical subjects such as chords, rhythm, teaching, improvising, etc.

  • In the first portion of the webinar, Drew and Leila will discuss:
    Leila Viss

    Leila Viss

    • The three roles of a worship team pianist.
    • The latest tech tools used by most worship teams.
    • Tips on how to build required skills.
    • What worship leaders expect of a pianist.
    • Common mistakes pianists make when playing with a band.
    • Five characteristics of a strong worship team pianist.
    • Some tricks of the trade.

    In the next portion, Bradley will cover:

    Bradley Sowash

    Bradley Sowash

    • What to play when unrehearsed background music is needed.
    • Heighten your awareness of thinking and playing in musical layers.
    • More tips for pianists on feeling a groove.
    • Improvising and/or arranging a traditional hymn for contemporary worship.

     

    For more details, and to sign up for this class go here.

Will I see you there?

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Skill vs. Anointing: The Heart of the Matter

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You’ve probably heard someone say, “God doesn’t care what it sounds like, as long as their heart is in the right place.”

But is this true?

I’ve been thinking about Skill vs. Anointing (or learning a skill, vs. being gifted with a talent) and I’ve come to some personal conclusions on this matter which are pretty evident to anyone who is familiar with this website and it’s purpose.

What do YOU think though, does God really care if you sound good or not?

After all, isn’t it the heart that matters?

If it is the heart that matters, why should we strive for excellence in worship through music?

Here is great article from TheMusicMinistryCoach.com which explores some of these thoughts. I found it interesting, helpful and thought-provoking, and I think you will too.

I’d love for you to leave a comment and let me know what you think about this!

 

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Sale: James Koerts Piano Music

James Koerts’ piano music is on sale until Friday, December 31, 2016 (11:59pm).

These are pretty big discounts. I don’t know where else you can get a collection of 9 brand new Sacred Piano books for less than $12ea.

Use the Promo Code WINTER2016 and get 50% off your entire order of $50 or more!

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Questionable Music Theory-Chords

And just for fun, here is a short video about music theory (chords in particular).

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Online classes with Faye Lopez, and Greg Howlett

Take advantage of online classes with Greg Howlett and Faye Lopez!

greg-howlett-picture

Click on photo to learn about Greg Howlett

faye-lopez-picture

Click on picture to learn about Faye Lopez

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning in 2017, you will be able to take online classes with Greg Howlett, or Faye Lopez, one of Conservative Christian Music’s most prolific composers.

Through Greg’s website, you’ll be able to take private lessons, master classes, and college prep theory classes.

If at all possible for you, I would highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity from some amazing composers and arrangers!

I personally have had some opportunity to take some classes from Faye, and she is a wonderful person, and excellent teacher, coach and mentor in my pursuit of excellence in sacred music

I met Mr. Howlett at the Pine Lake Music, Composer’s Symposium in Atlanta this year. Greg is a brilliant man, and an excellent teacher, arranger, pianist, and producer, as well. Though I have not taken lessons directly from him yet, I would highly recommend him as well!

Either of these individuals would be able to take your musical knowledge and skill to a higher level. As musicians in the house of the LORD, we ought to always strive for excellence. Both Greg and Faye have a heart to see excellent music in church settings and are launching this opportunity so you too can become a more excellent musician.

To learn more now, go to greghowlett.com

 

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How To Read Music

Learn how to read sheet music in two minutes and 15 seconds…kind of.

Someone put together this short video, How to Read Sheet Music, highlighting some of the basic musical notations and their meanings in a comical way. Sometimes it’s good to take a moment off from all your seriousness and just enjoy something that makes you laugh.

In case you always wanted to know what a demisemihemidemisemiquaver was, well now you can.

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