Flying and Picking (5)

Red, Jan. 13th

Red Henry, Jan. 13th

Folks, a few days ago I had a great first cross-country flight with my flying instructor. After carefully plotting our course, winds, and checkpoints, we flew down the Shenandoah Valley to an airport 63 miles away, and came out right on target. I mean, we weren't a hundred yards off course when we got there. In fact, we were exactly lined up with the airport's runway.

Now, how do you make things come out exactly right on a flight like that? First you do your homework, getting all your preparation as right as you can get it. Then when you get into the airplane and take off, you get in a rhythm. You constantly check your altitude, airspeed, and heading, to make sure you're going exactly right. At and between your checkpoints, which are about 10 miles apart, you check your course on a chart to make sure you know exactly where you are. You get into a rhythm. After each checkpoint, you start getting ready for the next one. This combination of preparation, thinking ahead, and staying in rhythm makes your flight end precisely, and safely too.

So how can you apply this to playing music? In plenty of ways. Now, we practice at home and learn new tunes not only for our own amusement, but mainly (at least in my case) to get with a group of other musicians and either pick or perform. This means, that when you're at home, you need to do your homework. Practice your tunes, and stay in time. As Murphy says, don't play any parts of the tunes any faster than you can play the hardest parts. (Our two "Slow Jam" DVDs are perfect for developing this skill.) You need to have your arrangements down, so that you can play them in good time without having to think about every note.

Then when you're in a group, you can not only play the tune, but also pay attention to the other musicians while you're playing -- listen to the rhythm, and stick with it. If there's a particularly hard part in the tune, you have to stay in rhythm while you play it. As you play each phrase (your checkpoints) listen to make sure you're still with the others. And then, when you've navigated your way through your break so that you reach the end (your destination) right together with the other players, be thinking ahead to either hand the tune off or end it, and at the end, it's a great musical experience for everybody.

Flying and picking-- I love it.


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