Book Reviews

Book Review: Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner


I received this book as a gift with no expectation of a review


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 ran into several mental blocks that really discouraged me. That is when my brother-in-law surprised me with a copy of Effortless Mastery. I was more than a little sceptical when I first started reading, especially since Werner’s biggest focus was piano. However, the stories he told spoke to me on a deeper level. I decided what the hell and started using the practises he offered. What do you know? They worked just as well for a baby violinist as for an accomplished pianist.


It was very hard for me to let go of the notion I had to do things perfectly, even though this was a brand new skill to me. Werner’s tools and techniques helped me find true joy in my learning. I can laugh at my mistakes, and be as enthused as a little kid at my successes, when they come. I let go of needing to do things perfectly, and let my body dictate the appropriate adjustments to suit the medical conditions I live with. I’m playing for me, only me, and to have fun. Werner’s Effortless Mastery helped me to accept and embrace these things. Practise had become something I dreaded. Now it is something I look forward to, and enjoy. As I have found more joy in my playing, and acceptance of myself, I’ve become more comfortable not caring if others hear me. I had been painfully shy, and wouldn’t practise unless I was alone. This also made it difficult to work with my teacher. I would get so flustered at having to play where another could hear me that I was terrible, even at things I could do quite well alone.


Werner’s work is quite readable, full of shared experiences relating how he himself evolved along the path he is now guiding others along. Many of the meditations and exercises are tools I am familiar with from my spiritual path, but here Werner has adapted them perfectly to a musician’s needs. These adaptations never would have occurred to me, and I am very thankful this book was gifted to me!


My only qualms were an overuse of exclamations and italics to get points across, and that at times it devolved into socio-philosophical ramblings which made some winnowing necessary in order to get the most valuable nuggets. It was quite clear, though, that the author was quite joyful at writing this book, and sharing his methods, and that made all the difference. I would highly recommend Werner’s Effortless Mastery to anyone who needs a new way to look at their music practise and find greater depths of enjoyment with it.

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