There are several variations of this famous Vince Lombardi quote – and we may cycle back and look at some of them in this series. But for now we’re going to look at what this quote means from the perspective of practicing the bass guitar.Now there are two profound and separate statements contained in this quote. The first part of the quote says this:
“Practice doesn’t make perfect…”
This is contrasted by the phrase ‘perfect practice’ in the second half of the quote (we’ll come to that in a moment) and the clear implication is that there are different types of practice (i.e. just ‘practice’ and ‘perfect practice’) and that you get different results using the different types of practice. For example in this quote if you only ‘practice’ then you don’t make perfect. But if you use ‘perfect practice’ then you do make perfect.
The second profound statement is this:
“…perfect practice makes perfect.”
Again there’s a clear implication here: and that’s to maximize your practice time (i.e. the ‘make perfect’ of Lombardi’s quote) you need to employ a specific type of practice. For those of you who’ve read any of my writings on practice and deliberate practice, you’ll know that my humble (but accurate) opinion is that the very best type of practice is deliberate practice.
There’s a further kicker here though that I’ve rarely seen mentioned when ever anyone talks about this quote in relation to the bass. Scratch that, it’s not rarely that it’s mentioned….it’s never. The kicker is that what constitutes the ‘perfect’ of the quote – the achievement we are trying to reach with our ‘perfect practice’ – is different for every bass player.
For example if you were a bass player whose goal is to become a fluid jazz soloist then your definition of perfect is going to be very different from a player whose goal is to get a full time job as a ‘pit musician’ in London’s West End (or New York’s Broadway).
Now I deliberately chose two very contrasting bass players with very contrasting goals…but the point is that each of us should have our own unique idea of what we are trying to achieve on the bass and our practice should be tailored towards achieving those goals.
So to maximize the effectiveness of your practice time you need to know what you are trying to achieve on the bass, have a clearly defined learning path of how you are going to meet your goals, and use the principles of deliberate practice to actually guide your learning as you move toward those bass playing goals.
So the next time to sit down to practice ask these questions of every exercise that you practice:
- Is this moving me towards my bass playing goal?
- Am I practicing this in the most effective way possible?
Applied consistently and over the long term this will radically shorten your journey towards your goals because it will filter out practice that is doing nothing to move you towards your goals and it will force you to search for the most effective practice methods.