Using Midi Files
Midi is a way for musical 'instruments', these days meaning computers, to talk to each other. Sounds are assigned to channels, which have 'instruments' attached. These are told to play and stop, and furthermore how to play (loudly, quietly, etc.) by putting a string of numbers into a table. This takes up much less space than mp3 files. Also, we can quickly make mathematically correct changes in speed, by telling the computer to read the table more slowly. This is what is useful for practice.
You don't need to know what midi is to use these files.
The Magic Maxim:
"If you can play slowly you can play quickly, but the converse isn't necessarily true..."
This means exactly what it says - the better you become the more exactly you should be able to control what you are doing, and so to test ourselves, we shouldn't practice more quickly, but more slowly.
To think again like computers - a sampling rate for a recording is a measure of how many times a second the computer will measure what is happening in the sound. A higher sampling rate makes for a higher quality of recording, up to a point beyond which it doesn't make much difference. It is the same with piping - the more times in a beat you can say exactly what is happening, the better your piping, up to a point..
By remembering the five steps in learning (see how to practice), we can see that at the point when we assign time to our actions we can get better by increasing our sampling rate. We do this simply by dividing by two, and playing at half speed, with awareness of twice as many points in the beat. When we succeed at this level, we half our speed again, and double the number of places in the bar we try to feel and be aware of what is happening. We keep doing this until every gracenote can be measured opening and closing. If you know the 'New French Method' of rhythm, this helps dramatically, as it automatically gives us a sampling rate of four points per beat.
To use the midi files, start with a quick one (or a medium one) and when you feel you are playing with this nicely, go to a slower one, and try to feel more detail. First listen carefully, bearing in mind that most things are divided by two, to find where the actions occur. Obviously, when you accomplish this, go to the next slower file.
Once you have gone to the slowest file and played along correctly, start to go through the faster ones again to see how much more precisely you are playing, and hearing what you are playing.
Playing exactly with the midi files at a quarter speed is a fairly good test for a group, and this extra secret can dramatically affect the strength of playing within a band, and the confidence. It is true that using this approach, you can bring about a positive revolution in your band's playing and attitude.
If you know the New French Method, great. If not, you will need to' feel' the rhythm (until we can figure out how to explain the method via internet...).
Please note, that between X+O, the five steps and practising more slowly and increasing your sampling rate, all with seven repetitions, you can genuinely guarantee your band can play technically perfectly. It can be mind-numbingly difficult and very challenging, but remember, no-one wants to be the person do make the mistake on repetition six...especially at low speed.
It's a simple set of tasks, the trick is in disciplining yourself to do it.