When I first experienced Mike Mangini’s and later on Virgil Donati’s jaw-dropping musical independence virtuosity I thought to myself, “Well, great. Not only will I never achieve any of that but I will never even understand what’s going on” [sighs].
Hearing both of these artists turned into motivating moments of my career because I wanted to badly to scratch the surface of the talent they displayed. I spent a lot of time practicing and trying to figure out the best ways to achieve and maintain such independence. That practice created musical freedom for me and that’s why I want to share with you this approach that has already helped many of my students far beyond any of their expectations.
When working on independence I always advise students to stay away from trying to write things down, figuring out how it all lines up. To me, that conflicts with the goal of true independence. Here is what happens when you write music (or anything else) down. Let’s say you see that certain notes are suppose to be played together and that they fall exactly between other musical relationships on the staff. Whether consciously or unconsciously you will force them the notes to come out that way almost as if that was the goal. You’ll try to play those notes “correctly” regardless of what else is going on musically. On the other hand if you play your parts independently of each other yet both in sync with time (or “the master code” as I call it in my book In-Depth Rhythm Studies-Advanced Metronome Functions the result will be that those notes are being played together, exactly between other beats and so forth. But all the part will be played perfectly in time, which is the real goal.