Time flies. It does. I’m happy that I made the best of it so far. I’ve been doing this for more than two years. It was extremely hard in the beggining but it became easier as soon as decided to commit. I didn’t know a thing about Rudiments, I couldn’t make the difference between a 8th and a 16th unless you directed my attention and once.
Today I hit the 365 days milestone
I’m glad that I’ve made it so far. It never felt easy, that’s for sure. During this journey I’ve learnt more than finger drumming. My biggest takeaway is that you can do whatever you want as long as you write it down on a piece of paper and commit to it. It all started with me looking at those pads and realising that i was using only one of them, one finger at a time; that was such a waste of pads. I wanted to do more than that. A friend told me that there’s an app for that. This is how I entered the Melodics world.
Here are some experiences and takeaways from my journey so far.
Picture yourself starting a new lesson. You feel enthusiastic because it’s something new. In a couple of minutes you figure out the finger positions. A couple more and you *** Perfect 100% the first two parts. You feel unstoppable. Until… Yes that syncopated note. You try again and again. The harder you try, the harder it gets, your fingers are not responding to your commands anymore. You notice that you forgot the parts that you just learnt minutes ago, you don’t even get close to 80%. What happened? What should I do now? you ask. I found out that there’s no turning back. So you have to go on, move forward. This is the first sign that you are almost there. Keep practicing, ignore interfering with your inner voice, just let it mumble. As long as you keep practicing, your brain will make new connections, and you’ll suddenly feel that you’re out of the darkness. In no time you’ll hit the 90% milestone, 94% and 100% Perfect. Now it all feels easy again.
I knew that this is what I wanted to do, but it felt extremely hard to start. In the beginning it felt easier for me to start running for 40 minutes than to open Melodics and practice. I felt that I didn’t have enough time, I felt like I was too old to start learning new skills. I had to make the time work for me, not instead of me. This is when I found out about the Pomodoro technique. I have this app, a timer where you can set three different periods of time, let’s call them pomodoros: one for exercising, one for a break and a longer one for a break after 5 complete periods of exercising. I started using this technique on the 7th of June 2016. I’ve started with a period of three minutes for practicing, a one minute break and a two minutes break after 5 pomodoros. After almost two years of practicing I’ve managed to increase the time for exercising to 15 minutes and I left the break durations unchanged. I practice at least 90 minutes daily.
Something about the routine
After you do it every day for a period of time, you start feeling different. You hear the displacement of the notes and your body starts to move in a certain way in order to get the groove right. There’s more than fingers involved. After practicing sessions longer than an hour, I feel like I’m meditating, I breathe in a different way, sometimes I find myself talking to the pads… :)
I’ve always been a fan of games, actually I’ve been addicted to computer games. There was something that made me repeat the same process over and over until I levelled up. I felt very good every time I was doing this. Even though I became skillful, there was no return of investment, except having a great time. I have started practicing finger drumming with “becoming the best in the world” in mind. In order to practice daily I took the gamification theory that made computer games appealing and applied it to my finger drumming routine. I’ve created my own game.
And this is how it all started. With gamification on my mind, I took the 90/90/1 challenge (from Robin Sharma): for 90 days I devoted the first 90 minutes of my work day to the one best opportunity in my life, finger drumming practice. It was hard because sometimes I was on the go. When I had to wake up in the morming, I always took the challenge into consideration and woke up with at least 100 minutes earlier.
Once I had to practice in my car at 6:00 AM. There was this time I forgot the USB cable from my controller at home and I had to do 90 minutes of practice on my MacBook keyboard. Other time I had to practice for 90 minutes on the balcony of the hotel room in order not to wake up my girlfriend. If it hadn’t been for this beautiful journey I wouldn’t had these beautiful experience until now!
You’ve practiced for more than 30 days, 5 minutes a day, but you haven’t finished more than two lessons? I’ve been in this situation and, even though I felt great because I was taking the 5 minutes session, I felt bad because I felt stuck on the same lesson. Don’t just hit the pads, try to commit and be present. Even though you don’t have enough time to practice, every time you do it bring in the right attitude.
The right fingers first?
Every time I approached a new lesson I was thinking of speed. Lately it occured to me that if I don’t practice the placement of the fingers first, and I don’t pay attention to this, I might learn to play the lesson with a different fingering technique than the one suggested. This ended up in a block because I couldn’t speed it up. So I had to get back to learning the lesson from scratch with the proper fingering.
Speed it up/slow it down
While practicing at different speeds, you’ll feel the music different. Not only it helps you when you approach future lessons, but it’s also a great source of inspiration when you produce music. For example, you can record a drum groove at 60 bpm and then double its speed for a house tune.
It just sounds right
The difference between the moment you start a new lesson and the moment you master it is that, after you learn it, you don’t know exactly how you do it. The fingers just touch the right pads at the right time and it just sounds right.
That repead button, your biggest enemy
“I’ve hit a couple of wrong notes just in the beginning of the track. I hit replay now because I want to get them right from the start.” And this is how you end up hitting that repeat button on and on without even finishing the lesson once. Stop replaying, even though you hit wrong notes! Just finish the song. Do this again and again. Fail fast! After a couple of minutes of unconstrained practice, you’ll notice the improvement.
The 5 BPM Leap
This is terrible. It wasn’t like this forever. At first Melodics didn’t have this feature. I remember that I used to add one more bpm after 3 minutes of practice. When I first used this feature it seemed impossible to work at the new speed. One day I realised that this is the main reason behind the 5 BPM increment, to get a little bit uncomfrotable and to leap! I ended up acquiring new skills much faster.
Fingering and riding a bicycle (not at the same time)
What does finger drumming practice have in common with learning to ride a bike. Do you remember when you first learnt to ride a bike. You were trying and trying until you realised you were pedalling. The very first moment you mind started to wonder “wow, how did I do it?”, you fell. The same thing happens when you practice a new lesson on Melodics: you practice for a while and you find yourself hitting all the right notes. This is when you hear that voice: “wow, I did it, I did it, how did I hit all the notes?” Suddenly your fingers start to hit only the wrong notes. This is the first sign that you are almost there. Take a break if you need it and then start with a confortable tempo and build on your way up. You’ll get to *** 100% Perfect in no time!
365 in your life
After you practice for 365 days you develop your mental state as well as your ability to go on no matter what. If you were to take this workflow and apply its framework to another goal, it’s a matter of time until you would start seeing great results.
Until this moment I’ve been practicing for 541 days, totalling 536 hours and 2 minutes and I’ve finished every lesson until level 10 with three stars. My target for 2018 is to practice for a total of 1000 hours and finish with three stars all the lessons until level 15 (inclusive).