Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.
Baskets of Practice:
There are multiple ways to approach practice. I have just discovered composition, applying the techniques I have learned into active and interactive play.
Craft practice is the space and time to familiarize with the subtleties of guitar. This is the place to mess up. Hard. Flounder. Miss it. Let it suck. Just notice. This isn’t perfection in a blink, this is rewiring my natural tendencies.
Cognitive practice stretches my conceptual understanding of music and is the time to explore the connections ripe within any musical ideas, this includes reading new material.
I had to go back and double check all the journal titles I’ve used so far to make sure I wasn’t repeating myself with this entry, “Baskets of Practice.” This is something I’ve thought about so much and written in so many notebooks, I was half-convinced that I had already written about it – and you know, if I have before, I’m sure that this entry won’t be the last.
This way of relating to my musical practice is another gift from my teacher, Jay Rinsen Weik, and is something that I rely heavily upon in my own teaching and practice (even if my students don’t realize it).
The basic idea is this: it is possible to know the guitar, or music at large through different lenses. Although all of the lenses are inter-related, each lens provides a unique perspective into the universe of music.
When I first encountered the idea of “baskets” in music, it was in a conversation Rinsen titled “The Five Baskets of Knowing (On Guitar),“ which I dutifully scribbled down in my notebook.
And if my memory serves me off hand,(come on transient memory, let’s get it!) these were the baskets that he presented to me:
- Notes as Letters
- Notes as Numbers (relative to scale degrees)
- Notes as pure sound
I thought that this way of looking at Guitar, (which for me at the time, I was doing quite frequently and intensely) was absolutely brilliant.
Sure, I was aware of Shape on the guitar, that Basket of Knowing was probably the most familiar to me.
You know, because chords have different, like, shapes. For an instance, a G chord, cowboy style, its like a, a, well, I guess a big triangle? And C? That’s kinda like a staircase missing a stair, and then F Major 7? That ones is a STRAIGHT up staircase. And D major definitely has some MAJOR triangle vibes going on with it. D7 is like an INVERTED D major with triangular vibration. I guess A major is just like a block.
Scales have shapes, chords have shapes, arpeggios have shapes, the guitar can be a very visual instrument, especially when you first pick it up
All of my personal perceptions aside, the guitar basically presents like a gigantic graph, and people (myself included) tend to easily chart shapes of their own description onto the grid. In my opinion, it’s probably the most logical or natural way to start trying to understand the strange and infinite universe of THE GUITAR.
And in this particular lesson with Rinsen, I suddenly became aware of 4 new and distinctly different ways of conceptualizing and engaging with the guitar. A lot of the work I found myself doing in college involved getting to know the terrain of the guitar through some of these different lenses, or baskets.
Where do all the notes actually live on each string? How do the notes translate to numbers and scale degrees related to the major scale? What about the distance between notes? What does it actually sound like? Can you describe it and see it in all keys? Then, how do the baskets start to superimpose/relate to each other?
Whoa whoa whoa there cowboy, you are losing me.
It’s strange looking back now, having deeply investigated these five different ways of knowing. More than anything, I realize that I still have TONS to learn. But if someone is to pick up the study of guitar, (or music in general) in earnest, these different baskets of knowing can start to grow stable roots and can begin to inform the decisions a person makes when writing a song, taking a solo, or jamming around.
At school, I think my biggest wake up call came in the form of the following message: How can you be surgically intentional about what you play? How can we use our different ways of seeing and knowing, and how can we apply it intentionally rather than accidentally?
Of course, this doesn’t mean a player should be swimming in charts and graphs in their mind, thinking about every specific note they want to play and calculating or thinking about the right thing to play. Rather, how can we use everything we know to speak freely, to move fluidly through our baskets of perception, and to contribute something meaningful to the moment?
Are you still here?
For me, this was my first introduction into “baskets” of practice. Perhaps you can tell, but I was quite taken with the idea.
How interesting. We can investigate reality through different distinct lenses to help ourselves see things in new ways.
Rinsen had presented me with “The Five Baskets of Knowing on Guitar,” so I decided to look for ways to parse my musical practice out into different “baskets” or lenses.
SAM’S BASKETS OF PRACTICE FROM SOMETIME IN COLLEGE
In this entry, for the first time, I was recognizing that I could use musical composition as a way to practice, apply, and integrate new information. A new composition can act as a vessel with which to explore new concepts and sounds – we can create a container for ourselves to play within.
Another pillar offered by my teacher, craft practice involved studying the mechanics of the instrument, studying the techniques, and developing the ability to maneuver through musical space on the guitar. This includes Scales, Arpeggios, Notes on the Ax, cells, and shells. (I’m sure there are plenty of other craft-worthy pursuits that I haven’t mentioned.)
Conceptually, how can the musical universe be mapped out? What are the 12 major keys? How about conceptualized as 7 flat keys, 7 sharp keys, and C major? That gives us 15 keys. How about the relative minor keys for each of the major keys? That would give us 30 different keys (Thanks @Victor Wooten) What is the circle of fourths? Fifths? How do the 12 different tones stack out in minor 3rds? Whole tones? What is a major 6th? What does that sound like in all keys?
These questions can start to help us build a map of the musical universe. They can help us navigate and respond to different musical moments that we encounter, giving us the gift of options, rather than keeping us limited to guesswork and shapes alone.
My goodness, please forgive me, I just had my Covid Vaccine today and I’ve quite forgotten where I was going with this one.