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Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within, Book & Online Audio

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  1,688 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Playing music should be as simple and natural as drawing a breath, yet most musicians are hindered by self-consciousness, apprehension, self-doubt, and stress. Before we can truly express our inner self, we must first learn to be at peace and overcome the distractions that can make performance difficult. Kenny's remarkable work deals directly with these hindrances, and pre ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published November 1st 1998 by Alfred Music (first published January 1996)
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David Lafferty
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As a jazz pianist, this book was a paradigm changer. Kenny Werner goes beyond chops, theory, and fashion, and focuses on what music ultimately comes down to, spiritual communion. Miles and Monk get it. Neither of them were known for chops, but both forced you to stop and listen. This book explores (among other things) the necessity of great music making to be easy. Yes, easy! If it's difficult for you, you can't let go and create. This doesn't preclude practice, it just looks at 'practice' diffe ...more
Adina
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, music
A must for Musicians, but also for writers , artists , dancers ... Actually, for anyone that has a passion in life.
It's helped me more than anything , get out of the way of myself. That's an important lesson for anyone , not just musicians, to learn. Practice seems less overwhelming.
It's brought back the joy I had forgotten I had for music in all the midst of self-abuse as many of us do.
Peter
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still great after reading it again. I understand more of what he is saying these days and am going to apply the concepts to my life. This should be mandatory reading for jazz musicians.
Dahn Jahn
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Lifechanging.


But alright, I should elaborate. It's now been a month or two since I read this book. I wanted to wait at least that amount of time to really make sure the feeling that filled me during reading would stay and would transform into what the book offers. I will probably add updates later.

First, some warnings and possible negatives. The writing style is very simple and quite unrefined whereas the messages sometimes might feel clouded in newagey mumbo-jumbo. This book is not to be read b
...more
Bill Gathen
Aug 16, 2012 rated it liked it
An interesting approach focusing on releasing tension and preconceptions, but so much of it is focused around accepting your playing as masterful and "the most beautiful sound I've ever heard" that it could be mis-interpreted by players who haven't properly prepared as saying "all your mistakes are just as beautiful as the notes you intended to play", ergo there's no need to practice because everything's the same.

At the same time, his advice on practicing is very good, focusing on "chipping away
...more
Emily
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy playing the piano, but get serious anxiety if I have to perform for anyone (even my teacher). I am a mess before and during my recitals twice a year. Its horrible and ridiculous. I read this book hoping it could help me bring the joy and calm I feel while practicing on my own, to my performances. The beginning was kind of slow for me, but I was really impressed with the practical ideas this tiny book was packed with. I have read books on mindfulness, meditation, fear, ego...and this book ...more
Petteri Hietamäki
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The most important book for me.

Thanks Kenny!
Lauren
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, music
A great resource for people whose self-worth is tied to performance level, and/or encounter anxiety related to their musical career.
Chris
Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Eastern mindful approach to practice and performance (of any craft really). More philosophical than a practical guide, but if applied will reap great benefits.

Encourages slowing down and feeling before playing. Don't let thinking (fear, expectations etc) get in the way.

"Just before I play, I like to feel that no one has ever played the piano before...that every note I play is the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard".

Really absorb your practice. Don't rush through all the material to get through
...more
J Aislynn d'Merricksson
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
***I received this book as a gift***

Werner’s Effortless Mastery was just the book I needed. I am a baby violinist, having taken it up at the advanced age of 38. I had inherited a violin, and decided this was the perfect thing to help keep my neural pathways healthy. Learning new skills is always good for that. The practise has been beneficial in many ways. For the first time in decades, I could consciously release the tension in my wrists. It was great for teaching that skill!

Unfortunately, I r
...more
Isaac
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
So far this has been much better than I thought it would be after popping in the meditation CD that comes with it. I have gone through many torturous, self-hating hours of music practice thinking that it would somehow be beneficial to me because I was "suffering to be an artist". Werner is very good at picking out negative habits of mind when it comes to music practice, and his aim is to make us understand why any period of time spent playing music should be joyous. This doesn't at all mean that ...more
Bill Branley
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: musicians
I read this book twice and watched several of his DVDs about learning to play music in an effortless way. I also met Kenny in Seattle when he played at Jazz Alley in 2014 and I distinctly felt (and so did several people I spoke to) that his playing was coming from another place. I play jazz piano and have had many professional teachers swear that when they perform they stop thinking and play from instinct. It is very hard to learn to do, but I have made some progress by learning a piece so thoro ...more
Douglas H. Reynolds
What I’d been searching for... but didn’t realize I was searching

Immediately captivated, “Kenny is describing me”. After the first chapter I found I couldn’t pick up my guitar. I wanted this change and wanted to understand how to really practice. Two weeks later I worked through the fear of it and meditated, guitar hanging from my shoulders, imagining looking at myself from a detached self, focusing on being light. I just began to play and it happened. No plan, no controlling thoughts, just play
...more
Clint Looney
A mindset book, not a technique book.

If you're having trouble with motivation, this book is for you. It gets pretty new-agey, so heads up if that's not your thing.
Matt
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not a musician, can't play an instrument, and have never attempted to learn. Kenny Werner is a jazz musician who writes to other musicians. This book shouldn't have ended up on my radar.

So you're not a musician. Maybe you're a writer, an artist, a glass-blower, a short-order cook, a big-rig mechanic... anyone who practices a skill. Someone who needs to practice.

If that's you, then you probably know the ugly truth: practice is hard. Practice sucks. Practice is boring, repetitive, uninteresti
...more
Aviana Gedler
Apr 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: better-self
I am not quite sure how I feel about this book.

I’ll start off by saying it has shifted my perspective on music. It brought me to many conclusions about how music brings meaning to the life we live, and how we can connect with it spiritually and meditatively. I’ve already seen it helping with my nerves and self-awareness as I play.

That being said, I had a lot of trouble trying to understand the steps Kenny takes in going into the “space” when he plays. Basically, I don’t think I’m yet at the le
...more
Tim Franklin
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Too religious / new-agey for me, but that doesn't mean it won't be helpful. I wish there was a book that took these concepts and discussed the science and psychology behind them instead of using wishy-washy spiritualism.

The lessons come down to this: surrender to the music and your training, relax while you're playing, cultivate a positive self image about yourself and your abilities. If references to a divine power bother you, substitute "subconscious" for "god". The positive affirmations are
...more
Allen Riberdy
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am constantly reading this over and over. It has been within easy reach of wherever I am for a few years now. If only I could get his ideas through my thick head. They're very easy to understand, but somehow I always think that they don't really apply to me once I start practicing. Then I beat myself up for the rest of the day for being so arrogant. And on and on it goes. I do think I'm starting to get it though.

The comments about this book being new-agey are not really fair. It's about music.
...more
Carole
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is my new favorite book . It is full of limitless inspiration. It affirms what I intuitively feel. How to enjoy 1 sound and practice with the freedom of slow progress not rushing through to the end. It is still difficult to believe that us ordinary people are Masters. But, it does feel great to master a small amount and build on it daily even if it takes years. I just spent 1 year on 3 piano accompaniments of Debussy for violin and piano. It is still only almost mastered, because it is not ...more
David Geschke
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great book on how our thoughts impact our playing as musicians. Really decent advice on the importance of mastering a piece of music before moving on to the next thing whenever possible (it’s not always possible if you have to learn forty songs for a show next weekend for example). But has certainly had an affect on my thinking as I work on my technique. “OK” is no longer good enough. I need to really be comfortable and play without thinking - having mastered the piece - before moving on and try ...more
Unpil Baek
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: musicians
Recommended to Unpil by: my piano teacher
Shelves: music-jazz, favorites
This is an interesting book on music practice (and mastering anything in life, really). I especially resonated with his statement that musicians should be a channel of the divine power to resonate with the listener's heart on the same frequency, called humanity, that ties all of us. In order to be such a channel, we must pursue effortless mastery over what we play and practice. I found the four-step practice routine very intriguing, and I plan to implement it in my future practice sessions.

Great
...more
Sa'shel Del
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-challenge
There are No Wrong Notes! Essentially, you can play the piano effortlessly when you stop the judging mind. Playing an instrument should be approached as a form of mediation. I found that Kenny Werner utilized a good portion of Zen discipline to illustrate the importance of complete engagement in performance. Greatest is uncovered through ease and patience rather than through rigorous diligence The concept of this book can be incorporated many other art forms outside of playing the piano. Great r ...more
Marci
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s dated. The language is nerdy but the concepts and principals are powerful. I enjoyed it so much I tracked down a copy and bought it! My only disappointment was the accompanying cd when I checked it out of the library, was broken. The one I ordered didn’t come with one. I’d love to find it someday.
kelly
Nov 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, music
Supposedly there is some music mastery wisdom in here, but the writing was so awful I couldn't make it past 10 pages.
UPDATE: I just read all the goodreads quotes and they're all so excellent and inspiring. I guess I just can't be bothered to wade through all the drivel to get to those gems, but thankfully I don't have to since they're all laid out right here.
Dave Johnson
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing inner journey with this book, which I treated as a workbook to greatly assist my music performance. Especially good at helping to go deeper into the beautiful "Space" of being present, witnessing yourself as you play:)
Bernardo
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I expected a more practical approach but instead this book is a transformative experience in the way to approach learning, performing and ultimately enjoying music.

It's about learning to channel the artistic expression into mastery through meditation and self-awareness.
Chris
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
A book I read in high school and recently read again. Helpful for musicians who are struggling with their ego getting in the way of their practice. A little new-age at times, but overall Werner has a great message.
Puffling
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really needed this. Thank you, random internet recommender! I read it fairly quickly, doing the meditations but obviously haven't yet sunk into the week+ on the four steps. I'm already scheming how to transmute some of these ideas for my young students...
Kelly Doddridge
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
all musicians need to read this. very insightful and inspiring
Lori Beals
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Guidance to release youreself from your inhibitions regarding music, to allow yourself to share and improvise music. Psychological advice not musical theory.
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Kenny Werner is an American jazz pianist, composer, and author.

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“We are all part of a universal game. Returning to our essence while living in the world is the object of the game. The earth is the game board, and we are the pieces on the board. We move around and around until we remember who we really are, and then we can be taken off the board. At that point, we are no longer the game-piece, but the player; we've won the game.” 3 likes
“The thing that becomes true about you is the thing you think the most often.” 2 likes
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