In 2018, I started an experiment in the Member’s VIP Learning Area of the site, where I started recording myself practicing for an hour at a time so that subscriber’s to my website could learn from my example. As of this blog post, I currently have 21 hours of practice time recorded that member’s of the site can watch as part of their subscription (along with 600+ lessons they can choose from every month)
Why am I doing this? I think too often, students are told what to do, what to work on, how to practice, how to think, how to feel, etc……. The students goes back home and does the best they can in the privacy of their home. Very rarely, if ever, would a student ever see a teacher practicing and working on something they can’t do. Very rarely, if ever, does a student actually see these words of advice firsthand as the teacher practices.
When I was a young teacher, I thought the sacred rule of teaching was to never let a student see you make a mistake. Never admit you can’t do something. Never show a weakness. This is how I thought in those early days and it did not give me a sense of security and peace when thinking about teaching, that is for sure.
Now, years later, I think very differently about teaching. Students don’t need to be told what to do by a teacher that can seamlessly do everything perfect. They need to be taught by a human just like themselves who they can relate to. A human that has good days and bad days. A human that makes mistakes and gets frustrated. A human that is working towards a goal and trying to figure out how to overcome an obstacle to their progress. That is what most students need to see and understand so that they know they are not alone in their struggles and frustrations. Understanding this simple truth gives the most important element to the learning student…….hope! Hope that they can overcome and achieve their musical goals also.
Screenshot of ever growing “Practicing with Neff” VIP Lesson Area
Now, in this modern age of video, finally a student can see the truth about what goes into a real life practice session. The good, the bad and the ugly. These videos are not pretty. I make mistakes and I get frustrated quite a bit. Somedays, I can’t seem to focus and there are plenty of grunts and frustrated exclamations by me. Other days, things just seem to flow. There is a crazy amount of repetition to the point that it is extremely boring but the lesson that can be learned is not. The lesson is this: It’s not about talent, it’s about hard work. It’s not about just being able to do something naturally, it’s about figuring out how to do something effortlessly.
I’m going to keep recording these videos of me practicing. I always say in my lessons “This isn’t easy, but if you put in the work and stay focused, you will see incredible results”. I believe this with all my heart. People always say “Steve, you are so talented to be able to play the sax like that!” I honestly believe that talent has nothing to do with it. I was a kid that couldn’t sing the right notes, couldn’t tap my foot to the beat and didn’t know if I was in-tune or not. I still sing in church and to this day people around me still look at me as if they are bewildered at how I could be a musician. What I did have and try to still have is a determined focus on hard work driven by passion. If I didn’t have a natural talent then I would find a path through deliberate practice. The bottom line is that you have no say whatsoever in what talents you are born with. What you do have a say in is what you focus on and how hard you will work to get it……….
If you are curious about what I am writing about, then try a subscription. Download a few lessons to work on (600+ lessons at this time) and watch a few videos of me practicing something I can’t do. We are in the same boat, you and I. Let’s work together to become the best musicians and sax players we can be! See you inside! Steve