When you’re learning to play jazz, you take a recording and break down everything – especially the improvisations, note for note. It takes patience and focus. There’s a reason jazz musicians call working this stuff out “woodshedding” (or “shedding,” or “hitting the shed,” etc.). It’s all about whittling the block down into tiny parts.
After you’ve shed an idea for a while, you want to apply it. You might quote some of the lines directly, but you also might start developing your own versions or renditions when you’re playing with others.
I had a teacher who used to tell me anything you were working on in the shed would take 6 months to show up in your natural live playing. Patience and focus again, with the constant need for practice. If you want to perform it, first you have to shed it.
In all walks of life, just like in all styles of music, there’s a difference between being in the shed and being on the stage.
Practice in private. Patient and focused. The shed is where the work happens.
But then –
Perform in public. Passionate and practiced. The stage is where the shedding gets shown.
It’s no use only doing one without the other.
ps. The humility of feeling like a chump inside the shed, imitating your idols… the frustration of feeling like you’re never going to get a part… the triumphant excitement of when a lick comes together… If learning an instrument or any similar art form does anything for us, it teaches us to be cool with shedding. I’m forever grateful for it.