Drinks to Practice By
My name is Zane Forshee and I’m a coffee addict. Not tea, not cocoa, not a mocha frappucino with 17 pumps of whatever flavor you want shoved in there… Nope, I want 2 shots of espresso with a bit of boiling hot water added to it. You get extra cool points if you add a little cinnamon and nutmeg to the espresso before you brew it. We call that little touch “Christmas in a cup” around my house but that was during a kinder, gentler time known as: B.B. (before the baby). The new time period in my life, A.B. (after baby), approaches coffee with the understanding that this is how I get anything accomplished. Some people reading this are thinking “How can you do that to espresso?” My answer? It’s good, it’s cheap, it works, and I can make that cup last an entire practice session or almost 3-4 hours of teaching. It is the fuel that keeps the engine running.
As much of my life revolves around the guitar, beverages play a huge motivating factor in getting the work done. One reason for this is, I think, the simple ritual of making the coffee: setting up the pot to brew, preparing the coffee grounds, placing the cup(s) on the counter, turning on the kettle, straightening the kitchen, each action helps to clear my mind before I sit down to work, it’s a little like a meditation. The coffee itself is both a comfort and tool that makes the approach towards the practice chair that bit smoother. This is partially due to fact that most of my practice time, these days, comes either at an ungodly early hour of the morning or late at night. Ye olde coffee wakes me up with the same intensity as the Hive’s tune: Come On.
The funny thing about life is that everyday it manages to surprise you, and it’s up to you how you deal with it – you can tuck and roll and keep going or you can simply stop, and wonder what’s going to happen next. Example: if the tiny baby (who’s not so tiny anymore) wakes up early, or doesn’t want their nap. Although to be honest it is not so much of a surprise, there is a little glint in the eye and a raised eyebrow which communicates clearly that tiny baby doesn’t want to sleep but wants to par-tay! Anyway what it means is that the practicing is getting done a bit later in the day. I’ll be frank, it’s not fun, right now, to sit down to practice late at night. All I want to do is sleep, but if you’ve got put the time in…you’ve got to put the time in. There are two techniques I use to combat this lack of motivation besides the mighty espresso bean. #1: Piggy Timer (aka: Pomodoro Technique). The timer is the best way for me to get the ball rolling when I’m a bit reluctant to start. If I can make it through those first 15 minutes of a practice session, then I’m good to go for the rest of the scheduled time. I set my super pig for 15 minutes. This helps keep my warm-up focused and then I take a quick break, sip that coffee I so lovingly prepared, and reset the clock for another 25 minutes (repeat as needed). You can read all about this strategy by clicking here. It’s an interesting thing to observe when you give yourself a time limit on any given task (especially something as open ended as practicing sometimes might be). I find it helps to organize my work and provides a bit of comfort in knowing that there is light, so to speak, at the end of the practice tunnel. If I still can’t seem to motivate for an evening practice session, I lean on my next motivational tactic #2: Practice Reward. As the lack of motivation occurs, for me, primarily during evening hours, my reward usually consists of either: a beer, a scotch, a bourbon, a wine, and some sort of cookie type object (cake or pie will also do, I am equal opportunities sugar). This is helpful not only due to the fun nature of the reward but also because after working for a few hours at night, I can’t always slow my head down to go to sleep. Having a little “treat” serves not only help me get the work done, but to give me a few moments to unwind on the couch—I highly recommend an adult beverage accompanied by a good read. If a book isn’t your thing, you could try this fine approach created by Mr. Nick Offerman which you can check out here. Also, I should mention that it would be a single beer, or a scotch, etc. Not a beer, a scotch, bourbon, and a glass of wine. If that were the case, nothing would be accomplished for the rest of the week…ever.
As we are now fully ensconced in the “Holiday Season” (is that Mariah Carey I hear, or Slade for my British friends!), I’m changing up my post practice beverage of choice. The eggnog has been located and retrieved from the local market (no small feat!) with the first glass poured this past Friday. Upon finishing a late night practice session for a concert the following day, my head still filled with the Scarlatti sonata I was rehearsing, I trotted out of my musical vault to briefly revisit my childhood. One glass, one fresh pint of eggnog, a bit of nutmeg, and Nat King Cole’s version of the Christmas Song and—Boom! It was Christmas circa 1980 whatever it was… It made all the work a bit sweeter, and the concert went well, too. Never underestimate the power of sugar and dairy. As I have more concerts in the coming months (lots of exciting news about that soon), I’ll be leaning on the use of the super pig and a love of beverages, both hot and cold, to pull me through. What are your favorite drinks to help you practice and/or cope with the family over the holidays? Or better yet—what should I be trying: before, during, after? Let me know! You can find me on twitter: @zaneforshee – Cheers!!