Effortless Mastery and Kenny Werner Workshop


in Learning Music, Resources

This week I was fortunate enough to sit in on a Kenny Werner Q&A and concert. What a great opportunity and thought provoking experience this has turned out to be.

For those of you that don’t know Kenny, he has written a book called Effortless Mastery.  It discusses what we go through as musicians to learn and play music. The book explores the obstructions to creativity in music and what processes we need to consider in mastery of music which is accessible to every musician.


The best statement of this is in the realization that you are not alone in facing the issues surrounding your education in music and your ability to play well.

“Effortless Mastery” has worldwide acceptance and has literally changed the way musicians and would be musicians think about their music and their life.

Every musician should pick up this book and digest every aspect of it. I was introduced to it by my mentor and have not given it the due it deserves. Having sat in on the live program has given me new motivation and causing me to think about the study and art of music playing again.

I will be revisiting the book and plan to post commentary on what I’m reading as we work our way through the coming year. I’ll try to share my thoughts and experiences on the subjects. I hope that you will share yours as well.

Most significant thing I got from Kenny

In any one event that I attend I have usually one thing that stands out more than anything else that I learn. In this case there were several concepts that stood out. These are things like playing from a place of totally believing what ever you just played is absolutely the best sound you ever heard, letting whatever you play completely fill you up, getting away from needing to be good vs. just being there, and others.

All of these take time to set a foundation of context for in order to understand and I hope to be able to expound on that as we go forward in this year.

There is however, one thing that sit out in my mind that is applicable to where I’m at and what I’ve been trying to accomplish. That is:

Practice vs. Playing

One thing that Kenny Werner commented on was the difference in practicing/learning music and playing music. It was an interesting in that the explanation focused on the difference in right and left brain thinking, though not absolute in accuracy, the idea is in the logical versus the creative part of the brain and the translation to playing music.

The idea of playing is in the creation of the music. It is being in the moment of the sound that is created. It comes from the mastery of the knowledge of music. Your focus in not on the playing of the notes, but on the sound you are creating. You know what needs to be played, your attention is on creating the sound not the following of notes on a paper.

This concept is a bit hard for me to relate in words, but one result is you sit at your instrument and make music based on what you have already mastered and don’t need to think about.

Practice on the other hand is a concentrated effort of focusing on theory, playing technique, moving chords back and forth, taking some aspect of music and mastering one small part of it.

I was totally thrilled when he said five minutes of concentrated practice on one thing is worth more than two hours of practicing a dozen things.  “Exactly what I’ve been preaching in all the course materials here at the workshop.”

Oh, That Rhythm Thing

He had mentioned every musician’s nemesis of rhythm and how just concentrating on rhythm only for a week transformed his playing ability as it translated from the focused attention into part of his mastery.

My take away? Practice is the concentrated effort of learning and improving. Playing is the effortless incorporation of the practice you just mastered.

Think about this. Have you ever realized that you learned a scale or chord progression and eventually you no longer think about where the fingers go or how to make it sound a certain way?  That’s the mastery part.

For me, it’s back to focusing on one very specific thing that I’m having difficulty with, until I master it. Then when I sit down to play I’ll be letting that thing automatically incorporate into the playing.

There is much much more to be learned here. Let the journey continue.  Get  your copy now and let’s journey together.  Your thoughts?


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