Record Yourself Practicing (Jazz Organ Project 31/250)

When I’m practicing or performing, I have no idea how I sound. I’m thinking about my playing and listening to what everyone else is doing. From inside the music, a bad musical idea can seem good. Or a tiny mistake can feel like a colossal screw-up.

Listeners to the music are not on board the same high-speed train I am as a performer, so they focus on different things. A mistake I made might slip by unnoticed. An improvised idea that I loved might sound corny.

Each day at the end of my jazz practice session, I make a short 1-2 minute video of myself improvising, with no metronome or accompaniment. For me, playing solo organ is brutally difficult- I feel completely bare. Every tiny thing feels huge.

I record myself to see what I actually sound like. I want to know if I’m actually holding things together or not. I find that I’m often surprised that the tempo sounds different than it felt while I was recording. Mistakes are almost always easily forgiven when I listen back, as long as the overall sound of the improvisation isn’t disrupted.

In the following video, I had been practicing the chord changes to ‘All or Nothing at All’, using a four-measure sequence: one measure of rest/comping, one measure arpeggios, one measure deflection, and a measure of a scalar-based idea. So this is not a true improvisation, but more of an exercise.

As you can see, I break out of the four-measure sequence and start making it up. While recording this, I felt like it was pretty awful. Listening back, I see that there are things I need to work on, but I can be kind to myself and acknowledge that it was a pretty good effort; I have a long way to go, but at least I am communicating what I was trying to. I can tell that I need to quiet my mind and have the solo line feel less anxious. It would also sound good to leave more space.

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