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Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within is available at

Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within

by Kenny Werner

Jazz pianist Kenny Werner provides insights into how to stay out of the way and let music play itself and to be able to play material perfectly without thought.
Published by Alfred / Jamey Aebersold Jazz CD Edition 2009,  ISBN B001QJR8KY [Paperback,Kindle]
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Jazz pianist Kenny Werner provides insights into:

  • How to stay out of the way and let music play itself
  • How to play material perfectly without thought

I came across this book by accident when ordering another copy of The MusicLesson by bassist Victor Wooten. This book and CD looked interesting, so Ithrew it in the cart along with Barry Green's The Inner Game of Music.

Much of this book is about freeing the mind from the many distractions thatget in the way of effortless playing to play from a place called the "TheSpace".

The exercises will help people on different levels in different ways. For example, there are good players who, for some reason, have little impact when they play. Everything works fine. They are "swinging" and all that, but still, something is not landing in the hearts of their audience. They are trapped in their minds. Ther is no nectar, because they are merely plotting and planning an approach along acceptable, "valid" lines of jazz style. The same thing commonly happens to classical performers. They don't know what "channeling creativity" is because they, too, are dominated by their conscious minds. One must practice surrendering control to a larger, or higher force. It's scary at first, but eventually liberating. In Sanskrit the word is moksha, which means liberation. Moksha is obtainable through the surrender to the small self to the larger "Self." I will introduce exercises for achieving that goal in music. After one taste of moksha through the medium of music, one will never want to return to a life of "thinking music." As one moves beyond the acceptable to the inevitable, creativity flows. Personal power will increase many fold. p. 10.

Many of the ideas in the book will be familiar to those who practice and study meditation, Taoism, Yoga, or read literature about the different aspectsof how we think.

Many of the things that Kenny describes about the mental processes of playing ring true for me. I have known how to play drums from the "the space", where I just get on stage and play with other musicians without rehearsal or thought about what it is we are playing. It simply works, most of the time. It has been a mixed blessing in that when it does not work, my lack of preparation is evident. I have recently been learning piano, bass, and guitar. With piano, especially, mastery is slow to come. I recognize many of the mind challenges that Kenny describes.

The discussion and exercises of the book are designed to remove the mental obstacles to effortless playing, while developing an approach to learning and practicing that will lead to complete preparation for performances. One suggestion is to work on a tune or specific tune until complete mastery is obtained, which may take years. As I tend to gloss over many things at once, I think this is a lesson that I should take to heart.

There are suggestions specifically for pianist, horn players, saxaphonists, and vocalists. The principles apply to all musicians and artists.

The meditations on the CD are quite fresh and have strokes of genius. One is to simply breathe and give thanks for the breath. What a wonderful starting place!

Paperback,Kindle reviewed by Greg Dixon
Thursday, December 24, 2009

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Subject keywords: music, piano, self-help, psychology, meditation