I read the introduction this morning and have to say I am now very excited to read this book. If I didn’t have to work today, I probably would try to read the whole thing.
What got me jazzed up about it, you ask? The last episode of The Highland Woodworker had a nice interview with Jeff Miller. I didn’t know before, but Jeff used to be a professional trumpet player and teacher. I could tell where he is going with this book by the first sentence of the preface:
Over the course of a long teaching career, I have found that a large number of students – even the most thoughtful and well-equipped – lack the most fundamental level of knowledge and skills.I was also trained to be a music teacher and a professional brass player. I completely understand what this means, and would agree. I don’t think this is going to be a book about how the author cuts a mortise and tenon with his table saw and a $500 jig to make a project that is one of the chapters of his book, this is going to be a book about the nitty gritty basic skills that you will be able to use on the project you are working on right now. Or, better yet, how to practice those basic skills so you can use them with authority on every project from now on.
Another great woodworking teacher who is a former music teacher and musician is Shannon Rodgers of the Hand Tool School. I haven’t taken one of his classes yet, but I have watched a lot of his videos on YouTube. He also constantly speaks of Basic Skills, practicing certain operations and improving skills to use on your next project.
Let me tell all of you engineers what it means when one of us musicians keep harping on fundamentals, basic skills, or any other of our music education buzzwords that you have been programmed to ignore since your fifth grade band class. The most skilled musicians have only done a good job at internalizing these basic skills (such as breathing, posture, efficiency of movement, background knowledge of the piece, style, genre, etc.,) to such a degree that they can focus not on their technique, but on the overall effect of their performance.
I can remember one lesson I was teaching a young trombone player. I had assigned him a lyrical etude to practice the week before. Once he played it, I asked him how he thought he did. He said that it was hard, but he thought it was pretty good. He played all of the notes on the page.
I wanted him to see his performance from a new angle, so I told him to imagine that he just played that piece for a whole audience that had paid $20 each to be able to sit in the theater to experience that performance. “Did they get their money’s worth?” I asked.
“Try it again. This time your job is to make those people think they were lucky to be able to hear it.”
I could not believe the difference. Once this student learned what the goal of learning all those notes was, he put the piece he played in perspective. He actually did a good job over the week of practicing the fundamentals of that piece. He just needed to be shown what he could do with those fundamentals and what he should be thinking about and how to apply them once he had them.
I have noticed that just a few years ago I also was a fifth grade band student as far as my woodworking goes. Enthusiasm and nice tools are no substitute for knowledge of the foundations of woodworking. I don’t think it was really until I took a class and started interacting with other woodworkers and teachers that I feel like I am on the path to learning to be an effective woodworker.
Getting back to the book, I am looking forward to this read as I think I can relate with Jeff's style and I know the importance of maintaining the basics for becoming a better