(Photo of me fixing my keyboard)
Since February, I’ve been trying to focus on one thing at a time. I practiced one thing until I could totally kill it. Now the pendulum is swinging the other direction and I feel like pulling bits from here and there, combining them and seeing how they sound. I have a random practice routine that keeps me mentally engaged.
Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with random number generators. In MS BASIC, the programming language that came installed on my beloved Commodore 64 computer, there was a function called RND() that gave you a random number between 0 and 1, based on the machine’s internal clock. So to get a random integer between 1 and 100, you would say something like R=INT(RND()*100) or something like that, I forget the exact syntax.
Thankfully I have a cool random number generator on my phone, so I can retire the old C64.
I have a playlist of 30 songs with interesting chord changes, so I pick one at random, and I pick a random key (1-12). Then I pick one or two ideas to run over the chord changes.
So yesterday I picked the song “Voyage”. I included this song on my list because it’s minor, and it has ascending ii-V’s on the bridge. I randomly chose to play it in the key of D minor.
For me this is the challenge that keeps my mind fully engaged: I play the bebop ideas alternating from measure to measure, linking them together as elegantly as possible, over a challenging set of chord changes in an unfamiliar key. I begin with the metronome at a slow setting, and gradually work my way up. I concentrate on keeping things relaxed and accurate.
I recently had a couple of keys on my Nord that were sounding a little funny. One note always sounded too loud, and the other was too quiet. After Googling the problem, I learned that I probably needed to clean out the key contacts. Some generous soul had published a PDF on how to take apart a Nord keyboard and solve this problem, so I bought a can of compressed air, and got my screwdriver.
After taking apart my keyboard and putting it back together 3 times, I fixed it!