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Day 389- Layers and Depth of Understanding

We have probably all experienced a moment where something ‘clicked’. That ‘ah ha’ moment (the scientific term for it is a Gestalt) where we are forever changed with our understanding and perception. As musicians, this can happen frequently, and the changes to our understanding can be quite small. In fact, the better we get, the smaller these changes are. Lately I have rediscovered so many aspects of playing. I thought I was playing ‘in tune’ before, but recently I had yet another breakthrough with an even greater depth of perception and understanding of intonation. The same is true for my embouchure, my tone, articulation, etc. The 380’s have been exciting for me!

It really hit me that the number of concepts we need to master are few, but the number of layers (depth) of understanding to each is infinite. Each layer is harder to become aware of, and, not surprisingly, it tastes even sweeter. Imagine a cake with 1000 layers- each layer is harder to get to, but each tasting richer than the last. YUM!

The gains that I have made as a musician have been profound this week, yet I thought I already learned those lessons before. The truth is I did already learn those lessons, but every time you become aware of an even greater depth of understanding, it will feel like a new lesson all over again. That is probably why true mastery is so elusive. It would be so easy to have a conversation with someone where both people are talking about (as an example) flexibility. Both have experienced breakthroughs and feel they have a command of understanding. But the two might not actually be talking about the same thing. In a way, they might be having two completely different conversations that are in some ways falling on deaf ears. When asked ‘what is jazz?’, the great Louis Armstrong answered it with ‘If you have to ask, then you’ll never know’.

Given this paradox, it seems inevitable that the journey (at some point) has to be travelled on your own. Teachers can guide you, but until you personally uncover that new layer of understanding for yourself, even the best teaching can fall on deaf ears. I will continue to provide opportunities for breakthroughs with my students, but it is important to convey that they have to take ownership of truly understanding the lessons. My hope is that I can convince them that the taste of that next layer of cake is even sweeter, and provide them with really sturdy forks.


Consecutive days with at least 1 unit of practice = 389

Consecutive days with at least 2 units of practice= 136

Consecutive days with at least 3 units of practice= 117

Consecutive days with at least 4 units of practice= 111

Consecutive days with at least 5 units of practice= 37

Consecutive days with at least 6 units of practice= 29

Consecutive days with at least 7 units of practice= 16

Consecutive days with at least 8 units of practice= 7