Antonio Sanchez has one of the most coveted seats in the jazz house at the moment; on the drum stool in Pat Metheny’s Unity Band alongside Chris Potter and Ben Williams (and Pat of course). He has been touring and recording with Pat for many years now, and has also found himself on dates with Chick Corea, Gary Burton and the late Michael Brecker. After attending Berklee for 4 years, he continued his studies with a Masters in Jazz Improvisation at The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and eventually moved on to New York City where he resides today (there is a pattern emerging here).
He has some interesting things to say about over-doing it in the practice room:
How many days a week on average do you practise?
As of late not that many because I’m so much on the road. After many years of practicing I felt like I need to stop and step back and take a close look at my playing.
I feel like when you practice too much you regurgitate licks and patterns more than being in the moment. I think when you are a creative jazz musician you can actually practice TOO much. I felt like I had too much technique and hand reflex that would sometimes override the creative side of my playing. I feel like I have less chops than before but I’m way more musical and creative and mature and “in the moment”.
What time of day do you normally practise, and for how long?
Lately I just warm up before gigs by stretching for about 5 minutes.
What does a typical practice session consist of, does it vary at all, and how has it changed over the years?
I can tell you what I used to do when I was practicing a lot. I used to work on my weaknesses and spend little time on the stuff I knew already.
How has your current routine evolved to where it is now?
It has evolved into me being able to play at a high level without being able to practice so much and a lot of mental exercises.
Do you have any practice methods that you would deem unusual?
Not at all.
We mortals have to constantly remind ourselves that exemplary musicians like yourself are really human. It is clear that personal practising is only one part of the puzzle in eventually becoming accomplished on any instrument, but do you think that it has played a major role in helping you to get to where you are today?
Of course. Nothing comes easily for most of us. Me included. I practiced a lot for many years to get to where I am now.
Finally, do you have any words of advice for anyone who is trying to practise more productively and become a better musician?
Don’t waste time practicing stuff you already know. When one practices stuff that you don’t master yet is natural to feel unaccomplished and uncomfortable but that feeling is an important step towards growth and mastery. It’s a matter of how you channel and harness that feeling that will make you develop and evolve.
Thank you, Antonio.
The following video is one of my favourite performances of ‘Bright Size Life’, and the first time I heard/saw Antonio Sanchez doing his thing.