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scott_9.12.07_2

Scott Amendola is easily one of my favourite drummers. I saw him perform with the Nels Cline Singers at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC a couple of years back, and although the whole group was incredible, Scott’s drumming was something extra special. I highly recommend checking him out live if you get a chance. Since graduating from Berklee* in 1992, Scott has become a staple of the San Francisco bay scene and has toured or recorded with Charlie Hunter, Bill Frissell, Dave Liebman, John Zorn and a whole host of others. He has recorded 7 albums as a leader, and his latest effort, 2010’s “Lift”, features guitarist Jeff Parker of Tortoise and bassist John Shifflett. Have a read on what he has to say about practising and dinosaurs:

* this website is not in any way affiliated with Berklee (!)

How many days a week on average do you practice?

This depends on my tour schedule (obviously), and my family schedule. These days I’m practicing everyday when I’m home, except weekends are questionable.

What time of day do you normally practice, and for how long?

This varies. I like mornings, but will spread it out between 9am and 2:30pm usually. Sometimes later in the day or in the evening.

What does a typical practice session consist of, does it vary at all, and how has it changed over the years?

It has changed tremendously over the years. I’ll work on music that I need to be dealing with. For example, I’m about to do 4 shows with the Nels Cline Singers. So I’ll revisit the music, and focus on that. But I’ve also been trying (for years!) to work on playing with a double bass drum pedal. I’m fascinated by it, and I’m terrible at it. So I’m trying to do at least 15-30 minutes a day focusing on it. But at least 10 minutes of solid work. I know, not much, but anything focused is good. I’ll jump into books, or rudiments, or play one groove for an hour or so. It really depends on what’s going on at the moment. And if I’m working on writing music I’ll be playing things related to whatever I’m composing and go between the drums/piano/electric bass/guitar/ and now harmonica (very early stages of that), and my electronics if that’s incorporated in the music I’m writing.

How has your current routine evolved to where it is now? Did you develop it yourself out of necessity, or have you been inspired by anyone else’s methods?

I’ve developed my practice routines myself. I try and focus on what I feel I need to work on and try to relate everything to what gigs I have coming up.

Do you try to make time to practice a little bit of everything each session, or do you spend more time on a few specific ideas before moving on?

Sometimes I jump around, sometimes I do one thing. It all depends on how much time I have.

Do you have any practice methods that you would deem unusual?

Gee, never thought of that… I doubt it. I like to play other instruments when I’m practicing. I think that’s a very valuable thing to any instrument.

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?

Definitely. I was able to practice 12 hours a day when I was at Berklee. And when I was in middle school and high school I practiced all the time. Summers during middle school and high school I spent many hours a day playing the drums. No question that FOCUSED practice for many years has helped me be the musician I am today.

Do you have any words of advice for anyone who is trying to practice more productively and become a better musician?

FOCUS! That means, whatever you are truly interested in musically, work on that. Work on technique. HAVE A CONCEPT! I meet loads of drummers that don’t have a concept around technique and it has clearly set them back, in some cases, years. It is VITAL! We do need to think about what were doing and work on that so we can get to the place of getting lost in the music. Good habits make the music go WAY deeper.

Mandatory random last question. What is your favourite dinosaur?

Ankylosaurus

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800px-Antonio_Sanchez
Flickr DaisyBasie

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.