Music Inspiration Journal: #17 Warm Up

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.

Original Entry: Warm Up

Jam on tunes in the repertoire I have gathered and play with ideas.

Current Reflections:

I’m finding a handful of these microscopic entries in my inspiration Journal. It’s funny, I decided to give them a clear H E A D I N G, a nice colon: then proceeded to write a single line and move on.

This one seems pretty obvious: warm up. But I think there might be some nourishment to unpack in here. If I were to rewrite this entry, now modernized with everything I now know, I might say something like this…:

PS. I’d also like to add, if you don’t care for the technical jargon of a Jazzer, skip down to “Current Reflections Part 2,” There is some human shit there.

Revised Entry: Warming Up

I have a collection of tunes that I’ve assembled throughout my years studying music. Each tune is comprised of a variety of elements that define it’s character – these elements include (though are not necessarily limited to): The Melody, The Chord Progression, The Rhythmic Feel, and the way I approach Improvisation.

It is possible for me to create a routine that helps me warm up my approach to practicing/performing repertoire. From this Warm Up Routine, I want to give myself the experience of playing music; if I was taking a more traditional approach to the jazz idiom, I would want to evoke the melody of the tune, comp through the changes, and take a little solo that expresses the harmony and gets the creative wheels turning.

Beginning with repertoire that is more familiar and comfortable, I can use this warm up as a way to cultivate focus and intention that I can begin directing into new tunes and the novel challenges they bring. As I warm up with these familiar tunes, I can also give myself the opportunity to view the music from new perspectives – I could alter the rhythmic feel, I could interpret the melody more freely or personally, I could play with the harmonic structure and upper tensions of the piece, and I could try new approaches to improvising.

Alternatively, I could use these ‘warm up tunes’ as a launch pad for studying new ideas and ‘vocabulary’ when improvising: What if I treated all the dominant chords with melodic minor to give them a b13 kind of feel? Or what if I try to (god help me) creatively and musically apply the diminished scale to these chords? What If I try to target the third of each chord? How about the seventh? What kinds of ideas might I find if I took the time to become intimately familiar with the Melody, harmony, and rhythm of these tunes?

Current Reflections Part 2:

If you are still here, I appreciate you. I recognize that this entry specifically is starting to get a little niche to improvisation and jazz, which is definitely NOT everybody’s cup of tea. In fact, it’s not always my cup of tea, if I’m being honest.

As I think back to myself, way back there in college, scribbling “warm up,” in a blank notebook, and now, as I try to more clearly express myself in this CURRENT moment, I find the experience in my body quite fascinating.

Part of me LOVES this shit. I get thinking about all the cool practices and applications this simple idea – “warm up” – holds within it. But another part of me feels internally strained, like I am reaching for something just beyond the grasp of my fingertips. This is SO SPECIFIC to my process of learning the jazz idiom, in college, to “succeed.” It’s basically one among the thousands of “good ideas” that I had in my undergraduate process; ideas that I frequently had but never got around to cultivating into a regular or reliable habit.

Of course there is benefit to warming up this way. Hands down. But this is not the only way. I know for me, I have a tendency to get so transfixed, so hooked in, so wrapped around ideas like these – “If I could only force myself to do ‘xyz,’ then I would finally be the player that I want to be.”

The honest truth is I’m afraid.

Afraid of what, Sam?

I do have a sense about what I’m doing with music. I know my way around the fretboard, the circle of 4ths, and across the strings; I’ve walked around the block of playing in all keys. And I know that there is real, honest to god, verifiable benefit to practicing in these ways.

But what is this recurring feeling? What is this fear, this thought that says, “Oh, if only [blank,] THEN…then I would feel like I can trust myself (as a performer)?”

Maybe it’s true for all of us who find ourselves in the performing arts, (and I’m quite sure that it may be true for all of us, at a deeper level) – I know it’s true for me, performing still FREAKS me the FUCK OUT. And it’s for all of the human reasons:

  • What’s going to happen? (Fear of the Unknown)
  • What if I fuck up? (Fear of Rejection)
  • (Pretty much any other unhelpful ‘What If…?” that you can imagine.

And that’s okay.

Music is a process. I am in the process, doing the thing. The presence of fear doesn’t devalue any of us. I just want to learn how to better hang with the fear.

“Show up, Contribute, Learn.” – Jay Rinsen Weik.

From a life-saving conversation that I had with my teacher in college, these three simple practices are a way to guarantee a ‘win’ in life. Even if we are afraid. Even if we don’t know what’s going to happen. Even if we don’t have the PERFECT PROCESS, INCLUDING A PERFECT W a r m u p, WITH WHICH TO DOMINATE THE MUSICAL WORLD AND TO CATAPULT HUMANITY TO THE STARS VIA SHEER SONIC AWESOMENESS.

Let’s just keep practicing together. And yeah, it’s definitely a good idea to warm up.

Love and Bows



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