Habits to be Made sign

A Successful 1,000-Day Practice Challenge

I wrote about Jason Sulliman, the Assistant Professor of Trombone at Troy University back in the before times (January, to be precise).

Jason was taking the “100 Days of Practice” idea and (literally) increasing it exponentially, making it a “1,000 Days of Practice” challenge!

1,000 Day Goal Met!

Well, the short story is that he made it to day 1,000!

He completed his 1,000th day back in early May. He marked the occasion with a short blog post (actually on day 1,002), and set his sites on a 2,000 day practice challenge.

One of the most interesting things to me, is that in that post he doesn’t talk about taking a break or how he’s fixed all his playing problems. Instead, he says that after 1,000 days he “[has] a clear idea of what I need to practice, and how to improve. It’s just a matter of time to put it together.” The 1,000 days wasn’t a goal, it was simply finding his problems (and their solutions).

Like David Cooper’s interviews showed, you simply do not get to be good without putting in lots of consistent hard work. There is no “talent” that is a shortcut for consistent, daily, hard work over a long time period. If you want to be in the music business, you need to make working on music your business.

The Product Of Consistency

Jason also recently updated his blog, with a short note about a technique breakthrough he had on Day 1,032.

The specifics probably only matter to brass players, but I loved the way he described this aspect of what happens when an embouchure tries to go higher than the muscles can support:

Up until today, my face wasn’t strong enough to hold its shape through this, and it would ‘buckle’ and collapse into a different shape. My jaw would curl under, one side would puff out, I would frown on one side and smile on the other, etc. All sorts of weirdness. It was a mess.

The whole blog post is worth a read, especially if you’ve been struggling with a physical or technical aspect of playing. Sometimes developing the strength and control has no shortcuts. It simply requires working on the horn thoughtfully, logically, and consistently.

My Own Consistency Routine

As an aside, I too am a daily-practicer.

My own habit-tracker app shows that I’ve practiced every day for the past 383 days. I think it’s been longer than that, though, since that’s when I first downloaded the app!

I also relate to Jason’s experience with how the chops feel after even a short (few day) break, and that they seem to take a longer time to come back for me personally than for some others. At least that’s how it feels (and sounds).

The good news is that it’s not a brass-playing death sentence! But it does mean I can’t leave the horn in the case for a long weekend. Like many things in life, simply knowing a bit about yourself is the first step toward a solution.