The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
One foot in front of the other, big step, small step just keep em coming and we’ll get there. That’s always the goal, the how and why are crucial but the steps are what makes it all happen as long as we make sure they’re going in the right direction.
Yesterday I had a guitar lesson and it wasn’t like any I’d had before. For the first time I “jammed” with my teacher as part of the work I’m doing on my confidence/tension issues. The results were surprising, very much so in a good way. Everything I’m doing genuinely seems to be working and I actually did ok, felt relaxed, had control and enjoyed it (ish). I’ll leave the (ish) out of this because it’s complicated but let’s take the win!
But there’s more... today for the first time I managed to play without “anxiety loss”. Just once but just once is a huge breakthrough after six years. Not the jamming (that was full of flaws but still much better than I expected), it was the rhythm guitar ive been learning. I played through once and it was meh but still better than normal by a long way for a “once only try”. Then I did a second take and with the backing track pulled down in volume (thus upping the pressure) and I performed so better, as my teacher put it, 50% better! I actually played it as well as I do on my own when I’ve been warmed up. That’s never happened before on any instrument.
I was actually focusing on my movements and how normally that would make matters worse ... FAR worse but today it made things better, substantially so. The changes are working but it also means so is the practice, the combination of method and psychology are working in multiple ways but it is just the start of a long road. Still a start is great!
I spent half my lesson complimenting my drum teacher and guitar teacher. I really do love these guys. Thanks to them I’m doing the impossible and yes it is down to me too, after all I’m the one who’s fighting hard and I’m the one winning but not without their incredible help.
Why I was predestined to end up here even though I don’t believe in destiny.
When I was 5 my Mum took guitar lessons, only for a short while but watching her play set something alight in me. I had already developed a love of music even at that age and from then on it grew & grew! We’d watch Top Of The Pops, listen to the Top 40 every week & I’d obsess over my parents record collection. Music was always on in the car, I got Walkman’s, Diskmans and stereos I had on constantly. I loved (and continue to love) music so much.
To continue...! My mum bought a piano for my brother to learn but he was judged too young by the teacher (I was around 8-9) and a few years later I would get a taste too but the method of learning (terrible teacher) and the time (it would be decades before I developed the skills I needed to really learn) wasn’t right but the seed was sewn.
Around the time I stopped learning piano a girl in my music class tried out a set of drums during our class. Rare for a set to be there but maybe it was fate!! She could just do it (Sam could just do EVERYTHING!) and I remember feeling sooooo incredibly jealous and in awe too. It had never occurred to me girls could play drums and it still didn’t that “I” could. As I grew older my friends at school always seemed to played guitar and I wanted to so badly too but even when I got one I didn’t know what to do with it. I just never seemed to be able to germinate that seed.
And so it was sewn and left buried..... for decades. As a final twist it turns out my dad was a fan of drumming (explains why he took me to jazz sessions as a kid ... I HATED it) and actually had a kit at one point but it never took. I only discovered that very recently too. So as crazy as this life is, it isn’t as surprising as it might seem. My great grandfather was a radio pianist, very talented from what I’ve heard. My mum was drawn to guitar & piano, my dad drums and I was fed GREAT music constantly from an early age. It was always there and once the sapling finally appeared it was always going to grow into something incredibly big.
This wasn’t predictable in any way, quite the opposite in fact but it certainly shows how it happened isn’t random at all.
I thought I’d give a specific example of the kind of things I’m exploring within this strategy. It’s an exercise I’ve visited before so I had some muscle memory, I’ve generally improved in the techniques the exercise utilises and until I’m tested in lesson, to see whether the progress sticks and therefore works, it’s very much my opinion on the success of it. Ultimately it’s hard to measure this stuff short term, the results have to be replicated regularly under different circumstances and then built on to see a consistent curve of success that shows the method works. But the thought process behind this is valid for all kinds of things from learning a new computer program to solving a puzzle to doing your shopping in the most efficient way!
Just remember the exercises themselves help but it’s the ANALYSIS and adaptation that is what I’m really working on. The science part.
This is the exercise and what I’m doing is breaking it down in different ways. I work on just playing all the left accents through the exercise. Then just the right. Then both. Then I’ll work on the doubles keeping the roll going and doing a bar or two of each combination and seeing if I can make it smooth. Then looping the doubles & accent combinations and looking for exactly where tension and anticipation starts to affect things (and when). I’m listening for a change in clarity so I can pinpoint the moment I’m losing control and work out why. What I want is each stroke to be independent and not reliant or anticipation takes over and the flow is lost.
I look at ALL the combinations of movement to try and work out what’s comfortable and what’s feeling forced or sloppy. Then I look at why, hand position, tension, approach, technique, finger movements, body position etc. That’s where the science comes in then I work on trying to work on that specific issue. It’s a much more fussy way of doing it but it’s working on the details as much as the combinations themselves to isolate problem areas.
In other words I’m trying to make each stroke whether it’s an accent or a double or a normal stroke be it’s own individual controlled intentional fluid movement within the roll. Harder than it sounds, I’m not very good at it but I am seeing improvement especially in my overall tension.
Like I said this is a work in progress. The idea here is to look for specific combinations of movements that are not feeling natural and then drill them and work out the tension, learning to feel it, watching how I move, how I transition and learning how it feels.
So far the results are promising and I’m finding at 90bpm I can read the full Etude playing through focusing a lot more on just the roll and yet thinking a lot less letting my eyes tell me accent/double. It’s a start but that may all go down in flames in my next lesson. What I need to do is to see what improvement I can hold on to, look for where it breaks down and figure out why. I won’t explain how you can use this to shop more efficiently but you’ll just have to take my word for it! It’s the WAY of thinking not necessarily the specific methods which unfortunately change from activity to activity hence why it’s taking me so long to work out how to apply it here.
I don’t KNOW if this will work but I do know that I need to find some way to compensate for my shortcomings as a player and I’ll keep trying until I find it. I have a very good feeling about this though, long term at least.
It was Autism Awareness Day on Friday so I thought I’d talk a little about that today. When I tell people I think differently to them 99.9 out of 100 dismiss me. They either make comments like “we’re all different” or they give me THAT smile that I’ve seen so many times. I can’t read people but I recognise THAT smile when I see it ... and I see it a lot.. The mistake people make is assuming I think it’s a good thing & that I’m saying I’m better than others. It’s not & I’m definitely not.
I overcomplicate literally everything. It certainly has benefits but those benefits represent 5% of the whole experience 95% it’s just complicating my life. I care so much about people but I always say or do something to make people angry or cause them to get fed up with or tired of me. I often misinterpret what people are saying and can never seem to communicate what I’m saying. I’m such a brave, adventurous person but I’m suffocated by so much fear. I have so many ideas and have no one to share them with. I feel so much emotion all the time and am not able to regulate it.
No Im not saying it’s good to think differently but I do and while it does upset me I try to make the best of it. I apply my over thinking to my passions and to other peoples problems, I try to help as much as I can. I try to recognise patterns in peoples behaviour so that I can connect their words to them and try to understand their meaning and try to avoid upsetting people (this I’m least successful with). I pour my emotions into my music and I use my empathy to make sure I’m always there for people if they need me, I’d never turn down a request for help not even from an enemy (even though I probably should).
They say if you’ve met one Autistic person you’ve met one Autistic person and my (admittedly limited) knowledge really backs up that view. Everything I read or learn and my experience with my father and my son highlights just how different we all are even though we are all so similar too. Recognising others on the spectrum is much easier for those of us who are which is why I suspected my son was, after I suspected I was, after learning my father was. It wasn’t the genetic relationship that set off the alarm bells it was the similarities in our thought processes and the pattern of problems we shared because of them. I’ve found on social media that others on the spectrum recognise it in me easily while “normal” (no one is actually normal but to me you guys are a very different species) people often dismiss me and refuse to believe I’m even on the spectrum. That’s because what they’re looking for is behaviours but it’s the way we think that’s different and that SOMETIMES leads to different behaviours.
One further thought. I have spent my whole life trying to learn how to fit into the world of neurotypical people .... to date NO ONE not even my hubby has spent any time trying to learn how to fit into mine. At best people make allowances for me and they put up with my quirks never considering just how much I have to do that for them...! Now imagine what it’s like to hear those comments or get THAT smile? It hurts a great deal, especially because I care about that person automatically and would absolutely help them if they asked.
No I’m definitely not saying I’m different is a good thing but yes... I do think I am special, not better than anyone else but I am very special. So as you read this blog try to bear in mind what you take away from my posts may not be what I intended but as long as you find something positive to help you then ... as we say down here in Australia ... “It’s all good”!
That’s my current go to learning strategy right now but it’s taken me a long, long time to realise how to use it. I’ve had to learn all about the “elements” within each technique in order to understand how I can connect them to achieve what I want and even now I’m still only beginning to really make ANY progress with it.
So while it sounds obvious it’s really not. It’s not the same as “going slow” or “practicing each note consciously” it’s about focusing on the science behind it all. The physiology, the physics and the sequence of events and connecting it all to my motions, muscles, sensations and learning to make it all work together fluidly.
I’m not very good at it yet mainly because I don’t know enough but the more I do it the more I’m learning. I believe this will be one of the biggest solutions to my tension problem but also to my co-ordination issues and of course combined they’ll make a difference to my flow and confidence... eventually.
This is a mammoth area and it’ll take decades to learn but I’ll be benefiting more & more as I learn. It requires me to consider what’s happening and what I want to happen and work the science behind how to get from one to the other. The first things I tried this on were my double strokes and my bass drum technique and obviously they took years for me to figure out even how to start but eventually I did - I didn’t find perfection but I found the progress I needed to break free of my “push the pull door” problem. I haven’t solved every (many to go!) problem because I’m not aware of every problem and I have so much to even start to yet working on but the important thing is I took what I learned from that and applied to new areas.
It works. The results are consistent even if they’re still rough, progress is progress and this thought process works. Logically it should of course because that’s what they use to train athletes but with music it’s different. When I do a new action now or learn a new groove I first try to do it to feel where the tension is or what it sounds like. I then break it down as far as I can looking at exactly what is happening with me, the instrument, my sticks or pick or fingers/thumb etc. I think about the movement (start, finish positions and how it all relates). I try to understand what each hand is doing which is definitely NOT an original concept it’s what we should be doing but I try dig a little deeper and connect that to myself.
I’ll leave it there because right now I don’t know WHAT I’m doing only that my instinct (and what I do know about recommended practice) says I’m on the right path. The first step took a few years so I’m not expecting fast results from this but the fact I’ve been able to replicate results and build on them is very good. This is one of the hardest parts of all this, trusting our instincts and knowing when to keep going and when to quit. We won’t always be right, there’s no manual and we’re all different but part of learning how to learn and getting good at it is trying, trying, trying, trying, trying.
Just keep trying and keep paying attention, adjust, tweak, adapt, be brave, be creative, no idea is bad but try to learn which ones have merit and which don’t. What you’ll find - what I found - was that it was my so called silly ideas that had the most value because they pushed me much harder in trying to make them work and that opened my mind up more and stopped me assuming, stopped me being lazy or complacent and it developed my creativity in the most amazing ways. The thing I had to learn and it took me a long time was to milk it and dump it as fast as possible. Don’t invest too much in the wrong ideas.
I’ve mentioned before about my past owning a business. It’s a really bitter (mostly) sweet thing for me because I did have a beautiful business, I did love my products and they ultimately benefited my life and my children in huge ways. I owned a traditional toy shop and as you can imagine I applied myself in much the same way I do to this, it was quite something. We still have soooo many of the beautiful games and toys and they’ll go down to my grand kiddies some day and maybe even theirs. I could never have afforded this lot so I feel very privileged to own it. But there was another good side to it too, I learned the skills I now apply to all this. I learned how to learn, I learned how to force myself to do things I REALLY didn’t want to do but had to, I learned how to think outside the box, I learned how to fight, I learned how to be patient, I built up resilience and I learned problem solving skills I never could without basically spending 6 years bailing out a sinking ship. I was once told by someone that I was the only person who could have kept that business afloat as long as I did. I wasn’t the only one who could have obviously, I’m not that amazing (or at all really) but I do believe I put up a very impressive fight.
The question is… should I have? The answer is NO NO NO NO NO.
I made three HUGE mistakes.
People tell me to forget the past, to put it behind me after all we all make mistakes right? Yes of course and we shouldn’t bury ourselves in them at the cost of moving forwards. So surely as much as it cost us (everything and MORE) I should forgive my mistakes especially as they were made with good intentions? Yes of course I should and I do but…. should I forget them? NO. I don’t drag them around and wallow in them and I don’t let them prevent me moving forwards .... obviously. After all how many people would decide “oh I know I’ll be a multi-instrumentalist songwriter starting from scratch at the age of 39” after that kind of huge failure? I think not many so I’m definitely not shy of giving it another go even in crazy ways. What I am shy of is not learning from my mistakes and repeating them. I must absolutely be aware of EVERY mistake I made, not just what the mistake was but how I could have prevented it, so as to be aware when there’s a threat of me repeating them and that has helped me more than I can stress.
I’ll take the three big mistakes above and demonstrate how I use them regularly to guide me.
One other thing I learned the hard way is make sure it’s worth the effort full stop, that can be long term benefit of course but ultimately think, choose well and know when to STOP. I do make bad choices but now I know when to let go, cut my loses and move on. I made one of those choices this week, a very hard one but I realised that after much effort the wall was getting bigger not smaller and that I was still hammering away at it because I wanted to get through it so I stopped to ask if I genuinely thought I could. I have no regrets for trying but in the end if I kept trying I knew I’d not only not succeed but the act of trying was putting my health at risk. Tough choices like this are not easy but they’re much clearer to me now because I keep my past mistakes very fresh in my memory.
Now and again they do throw a dark cloud over me but I simply dig in harder, make sure I’m more productive and come out better for it. I’ll never let my past own me, instead I will use it to make sure this one works as much as I CAN… ultimately the last lesson I learned is that I don’t have full control, there’s far too many other factors at work. All I can do is try to be aware of as many as I can, be flexible and yet resolved, be open and yet decisive, dig in but know when to let go, evolve but be sure why and believe in the dream but not without constantly questioning it.
Once bitten twice shy.... that's an understatment! The full story would make a good book some day… maybe I'll write it when I find a happy ending.
Holiday plans... rest? Of course not!!! Where’s the fun in that.
Nope it’ll be full steam ahead for me. Drum song to finish learning, new one to learn, old one to keep working on. Single stroke rolls, sextuplet rolls, paradiddle-diddles, accents, and six stroke Etude to relearn. Started a new Pink Floyd guitar solo to start working on my chops and feel. Rhythm guitar practice still ongoing. Bass is about starting a new slap song, carry on working Can’t Stop up to performance standard and whatever comes up next lesson. Songs to finish, songs to start! Covers to do, original Blues song to write. Problems to keep chipping away at and three weeks is suddenly a very short period of time.
I don’t need any more to work on but I got some more inspiration in my lesson today. Side note on that, definitely noticing the new approaches paying off which is such a relief. Still a mountain (actually about 20!) to climb but I take what I can get. Anyway....
After my “performance” this week my teacher gave me some feedback or more like suggestions and really stirred up some ideas on how I can get extra mileage from the songs and how I can use them long term. What I love about working creatively with people is that ideas can come from anywhere and when they argue out an idea it sparks new ones in my head because I’m either a) agreeing and deciding how to approach or use it or b) I disagree but I’m trying to work out why it’s not appropriate and often decide upon what would be but at the same time I’m considering how the idea could benefit me. This thought process sparks more feedback and more ideas and... you get the point. I love it!!!
Anyway back to the point the three ideas I like most (a mix of mine & his).
I love getting new ideas!
I’ve started on another book lent to me by my teacher, The Inner Game Of Music and I think I’ll enjoy it. I’m sure it will give me new avenues to explore and again reaffirm conclusions I’ve already arrived at and as such be very useful in both helping me grow and give me perspective on what I’ve already achieved. I’m sure I’ll find some thoughts to share as I go through it!
But for today one question that hangs over my head is “When will I have achieved enough to believe others - including myself - should take me seriously”. The point here is not just when should I feel like I’m a “fill in the blank” it’s when should I feel confident in standing shoulder to shoulder with others in that field and not feeling like a fraud. This I think is a nightmare question MANY musicians grapple with but it’s one I do not want hanging over my head forever because it will prevent me from realising my goals & as we know I don’t let even me stand in my way once I decide on something.
I live right now in a bit of a protective bubble. I never ask anyone if they think I can be the player I want because I don’t want to know & I truthfully at this point I don’t need to know. I’ve noticed areas people often express confidence in me in (even my teachers) are areas that aren’t the one they’re an expert in. See the ultimate problem with that... it cancels itself. This bubble has actually served a very important purpose up to this point but in order to hold my own eventually I’ll have to break out of it. The question is... when?
I don’t think there’s any formulaic answer to that which is a nightmare for me. I will simply have to decide for myself and accept that there will be people who think I’m wrong, there are always people who think we’re not good enough - those people won’t worry me if “I’m”sure of who I am. I need to pick a line, cross it & own it. Its never the same for any musician and it depends on our goals and our own personal expectations. Take Bez from The Happy Mondays. He plays shakers & does a silly dance and he’s made a career out of it. Is he a musician? According to his tax return he is, he’s part of a band and he performs with that band. To me he’s not a musician but I’d be perfectly happy to accept he thinks he is. There is NO fixed definition and there’s no qualifying markers. It varies so a drummer in a successful band IS a drummer and while I can play better than some (a couple anyway!) of them I’m definitely not a drummer, not yet. Figuring out where and when that line is, is so difficult.
I think what normally happens is most people drift over the line (they are in bands, they perform, they teach, they work in the industry etc) but that may not be so easy for me to do and also I think it’s why musicians often question themselves so much, they’re not sure if they ever really made the grade. I think (if I can) it’s much better to take responsibility for this, to decide for myself when I will deserve to be seen as a “fill in the blank” and for now at least deciding where that line might be FOR ME is a good first step to taking down my protective (and limiting) walls. People always tell me the goal posts always move so I’ll never be happy... I don’t believe that to be true. I’ve passed many landmarks I set for myself and felt completely satisfied each time. The trick is not to see it as a single goal but as blocks of progress each as their own seperate goal. They don’t move, they connect.
I’ve definitely got a LOT of issues to work through in order to do this and for anything other than music I’d say screw that but for this I’ll slap myself in the face, grab myself hard by the shoulders look myself in the eyes and tell myself to get my sh*t together. That of course is the easy part but it’s also probably one of the most important.
Will I ever get bored of all this, it's normal to hit plateaus or loose interest so do I think I will eventually stop being this obsessed? Obviously that’s not a question I can answer with any degree of certainty but I can hazard a guess and I can give reasons for my answer that are based on experience and instinct. First off I suppose I should clarify … bored with what specifically? Let’s say the following are all up for debate and the level of interest is based upon my current and historical interest to date which has been fairly consistent even if my productivity itself has increased 10-fold or probably more.
Learning to play songs
Seeking out new music and listening
Conscientious practice first. This is split and based on my organic interest I’d say that bass I will go through lulls with or may even enventually stop pushing but I hope not entirely. Guitar probably go through phases too but far less often and it won’t take much to pick up my interest again and drums almost certainly never. The reason I think I’ll stick with long, long, long term drum and (mostly) guitar study and practice is because both fascinate me in their own right and I’ve found that the more I’ve been able to do the more I can see and appreciate and use the skills I’m developing. I have a tonne of books, videos and other resources I’m just itching to get into but I’m years away from really being able to use it. As I’ve said before I’m not interested in following them from an exercise point of view (although that too will be fun) but from a conceptual point of view. The ideas in those books can be applied to standard exercises which when applied in a musical context will create new sounds. Some terrible, some interesting, some really cool. But in order to really benefit I need to be able to run through hundreds of them quickly to find the “patterns” that work and then use those to then develop ideas. That means having a skill level FAR beyond what I have now. Getting there is exciting and I can see the progress day by day now so it’s really inspiring and when I get there I’ll be in creative bliss. So I think for that reason I won’t ever get bored, this is the part that interests me most…. The creative science part of music which sounds like an contradictory phrase but it makes sense if you think about it. Art is science even though it’s approached in a different way.
Writing music. I think I’ll have times when I’m really into my writing and times when I fit it in and I suspect there will come a point when I’ll be writing an incredibly large number of songs but then I’ll begin refining more and more based on the results I get from those. There are sooooooo many ideas I want to explore and it will take me a long time to get through those and as before the more I improve technically the easier that is to do. I think there will come a point where my playing skills allow me a much greater freedom to really push ideas, my theory and scoring skills will be high enough too. But ultimately I think I will always be evolving in what I want from my writing and sometimes that will mean I pull back quite a lot and perhaps try to achieve something more specific. So writing yes and no! I think I will get bored but only after a huge push that’s a long way off.
Learning to play songs. Yes I think I will get bored because while I enjoy it it’s not my favourite part by a long way. I love to play because I like to know how it feels to play the music I love and sometimes it’s absolutely amazing, sometimes it’s really meh. It doesn’t distract from the song, I still love it, but sometimes the effort is a bit much for the result. I do want to do a lot of far more technically challenging songs but again that’s because of the songs I want to "experience" not because I specifically want to play technically challenging music so again that appeal will wear off or reduce as I go through my inspirations.
I will always enjoy playing songs but I think I’ll definitely go through phases of not doing it so much because the results can be mixed. I think I’m most likely long term to enjoy playing songs as a path to my writing and creative elements or to work on my technique than to do it purely for playing sake.
Studying. I don’t think I’ve ever not studied something, my brain likes puzzles and new information. I enjoy developing my knowledge and I like the challenges so no I’ll never get bored of studying. It’s the element I enjoy most about all this and that’s why I really enjoy practicing. A big part of my practicing is studying how I learn better and then how I can use it etc. This one’s for life I think.
Seeking out new music. Again I’ve been doing this for 40 years BUT I haven’t always been actively looking for new music in quite the same way, that's come and gone a few times. That was because other interests took over and it’s certainly plausible that I’ll be distracted from it again. It’s a passion yes but it’s not a priority in all this, I fit it in when I find a bit of time I certainly don’t make time for it. Will I get bored, no, will I possibly do it far less yes that might happen. I think it probably won’t but it definitely could.
So based on the last six years (and my natural habits over the last 40 odd years) I would say the technical side will continue to fascinate me for a very, very long time. The writing side too will be something I rarely if ever get bored of or pull away from. The playing side will come and go and I’ll always enjoy it but at times I may feel the effort outweighs the benefit but probably not for long. The studying I’ll always do in one form or another but music is such a HUGE subject I can keep changing that up and never get bored or run out of new options. The listening obsession will continue but I may well be distracted from it. I’ve had other interests that were extreme, it’s part of my makeup and ASD, but my photography, art, business, kids etc never made me feel the way this does. I enjoyed those in the present, just doing it with intensity was enough I never felt a pull in the same way I do with this. With all this I feel completely absorbed into a new world where it’s more magical than anything and I don’t want to ever leave. There's so much to explore and it's all amazing. It will never become dull or loose it’s charm because it’s charm is so big it not only stays fresh it keeps getting exponentially more amazing.
I thought I’d lighten the mood a little with this post. I’ve been incredibly intense the last few months!! The extreme ups and downs, the intensity, the drama, the frustration, confusion, joy, excitement and hope and sorrow. It’s all real but while I don’t get a break from the overwhelming nature of my “emotions” this blog sure can!!!
So seeing as I have a one track mind let’s talk .... shock, horror.... music!!! I thought I’d share some bands & songs you’ve probably never heard of that are cool, fun or both! I’m an IDEAS person so if you check them out try to listen for the concepts, sounds, ideas or original vibe that made me like them. Listening to music like everything else must be learned and it can be done in many ways. Listening to it technically is a great skill to have and takes years of experience to develop but so does listening to it creatively and it’s a far less studied method. So give it a try and I promise if you learn how you’ll never EVER be bored listening to music again. You can’t be!!!
Let’s kick it off with something totally daft and seriously fun! Don’t let this put you off trying the rest if you don’t like it. I love this song because it stands out but it’s an acquired taste! It’s what I meant by enjoying the creativity.
Dead Man Live - Rhino & The Ranters
Next some atmosphere and “feels”, look out at the rain, let your mind wander and feel the dream.
Lloyd - The Lane
This’ll put a spring in your step! Funky and really fresh feeling.
Funk Engine - Kaphunk
Beautiful, soothing Jazz that just melts my heart every time I hear it. Recommended to me by a teacher and it’s my favourite Jazz song ever, one of my favourite songs ever in fact.
Theo Travis Quartet - Shore Thing
Funky pop with kick arse bass ... seriously its one of those tracks that gets better as it goes on. It’s so catchy and feel good!!!
Barbudo - Magnolia Mansion
Goth rock with fresh take on old school sounds. I love how this songs moves so well without ever going anywhere!! I find myself desperate for a drum fill and yet so satisfied in never getting one, I’m waiting for the change that never comes and I’m glad. It’s intense but relaxing.
Actors - Strangers
That’s enough for now!!! Don’t forget that if you hate music there’s a lot of value in figuring out why. Music is like people, it’s takes us a while to get to know it, find what makes it different and enjoy it for those differences. Over time the more you do it the more difference you’ll recognise until you can take two almost identical songs in any genre and to you’ll they’ll sound completely different. Keep studying and you’ll learn to create your own ideas while you listen and each time you hear a song it will be slightly different. Keep listening, keep enjoying it and keep challenging yourself!
Just remember if you find yourself struggling to find music you like, think it all sounds the same, listen to less and less genres instead of more & more... maybe it’s not the music that’s causing the problem. After all I can’t find the time to listen to my backlog of saved music, keep enjoying my thousands of favourites and continue to dig up more and more. Stay open and work on your listening skills as you would your playing skills and it will repay you.
There’s so little time in each day and so much I want to get done. It’s very difficult to balance out focusing on technique, hitting targets, thinking forwards and setting up the next set of “dominoes”, keeping my writing moving forwards, finishing up incomplete music, making sure I work on the performance & relaxing side of things, making sure each instrument moves forwards, finding time for the other elements that will benefit me hugely but aren’t as high a priority such as sound engineering, scoring, theory etc. *phew*!!!
It is a lot isn’t it.
It’s easy to get lost in all that and end up completely unproductive and at times I do find myself drifting and incredibly inefficient. That’s why I really enjoy having specific focus and guidance and targets set by my teachers but at times even that can be tricky because it takes my eyes off the big picture for too long and I drop too many balls. It’s so complicated.
What I’m trying to do is tie as much if it together as I can so that it’s easier to keep my eyes on more things at once. For example one of the things I’m pondering at the moment is whether to take the plunge and finally work on some songs I’ve been sitting on for a while. It may distract me from the anniversary song or it may serve as a great way to test out some of the strategies I’m planning to use on it. Ive waited on these because I didn’t have the skills to do what I wanted and I still don’t but I think I can make it work. Ultimately I would be working on my technique too just not as structured. At the same time though I don’t want to compromise my learning, not with me finally started making important progress on my playing and issues. Choices, choices.
I’ll give it more thought and with the holidays coming up maybe I can dig in even more than usual. Just for a short while, I’ve got a lot more “gas in the tank” I’m just hesitant to use it.
Back to this week though I’ve got the bass initial performance coming up, I must make progress on the lyrics for the anniversary song, I’m determined to get in some good guitar practice and I’ve got some really tough targets on drums (several) that’s got me listening to a lot of metronome! Like I said I really like the focus and could happily just dig into these things (and I have) but I do think I need to find time for the writing until I’ve got my next album together and the big song well under way. Plus I’m enjoying the newest performance song SO much and I’m making more & more progress on the previous one I could happily just work on those except I can’t!!!
Argh... balance, it’s so hard to find!!!
So ... much .... to ..... do!!!
1/4 year roundup. 3 months gone already and as I always do (although I don’t usually post) I’m doing a mental assessment of where I am. What I’ve achieved and what I want the next 3 months to look like. In June I’ll do both a quarterly & bi-annual review to set me up for the second half of the year.
It was a rough start mostly down to my illness but there was also the HUGE reality check - sort out your tension or pay the ultimate price. That’s my voice in my head obviously not what was actually said but ultimately it’s what I needed to hear to face up to the big recurring problems I had yet to even begin to think about a solution to.
Since then. I’ve worked HARD to understand the causes, find solutions and devise strategies. I’ve put some of those into action in all three lessons and I’ve started to see results. Small progress as yet but it’s the first real progress I’ve ever had and it’s not just what I’m seeing in my playing thats the win here it’s what I’m feeling in my body, what I’ve feeling in my mind. I’m starting to learn to take control of this Mount Everest of a problem so a little progress is good but I cannot take my foot off the gas so to speak. There’s a L-O-N-G way to go.
Drums: My right foot has improved a LOT. I’m relaxing more, getting more control, improving speed and accuracy (but it’s still poor). My doubles, rolls, accents etc are all improving as I learn how to relax and FEEL the motions. Still far too much tension but I’m finally making progress with it and it’ll come. I’m performing a “little” better. Learning songs a bit faster. Started prep for the exam & I feel like I’m starting to find my flow again.
My writing has improved again, I’m more confident using loops & Im writing slightly more adventurous parts for bass & drums. I’ve started work on THE song & that’s going well. I’m doing a course on film scoring that’s given me lots of ideas to explore as has the Drumeo live feeds with Aric.
Guitar: My rhythm guitar continues to improve, my hand is looser (even when I’m tense performing) and my timing is much better. I haven’t done anywhere near enough here though. Tsk tsk.
Bass: My technique has improved, my slap playing has improved a lot. My sight reading is slowly coming along and I feel my overall feel has improved. I’ve worked on strengthening my pinky.
So? Am I happy, yes but not 100%. I’ve not been as productive as I wanted to be but when I’ve worked I have definitely made it count. What I want to see over the next three months on drums is my confidence begin to improve too. I want to see constant progress with the exam “elements” list and I want to be applying that progress to songs which will then also serve as performance pieces to keep moving along my tension problem. On bass I want to keep improving my slap, start a second major project and generally improve my playing. On guitar I want to start incorporating regular exercises into my practice. I want to be preparing for the songs solos and I want to keep stepping it up with my rhythm playing.
My writing I want to keep doing the genres, finish up the songs I have so as to release my next album. Be very close to having the anniversary track ready for the final recording and mixing.
I also want to be improving in my overall performing and feel much more structured and focused as that’s been missing a little from this first quarter. Better get back to work then! But it does demonstrate how much we can do in just three months, it’s very encouraging.
How much should I “expect” from my teachers in regard to their role in my progress? After all I pay them to teach me, they’re the experts etc!
My answer ... nothing. It’s me and me alone who carries the responsibility for all this madness (even though I certainly wish it weren’t). I’m sure some of my teachers have some vested interest but that’s not responsibility it’s simply kindness, a kindness I never take for granted nor rely on. At the end of the day if they were responsible for every student they’d collapse, it’s not feasible.
But that also means if they’re not responsible for my future then relinquishing or neglecting control over that future is not something that should be done lightly. Think about it, when we pick a teacher etc we tend to follow their instruction blindly, I certainly did when I was young but over the years I’ve realised the price of doing that can be high and these days I don’t think we should... or at least I don’t think I should. What we do will determine our success, that’s an important thing and it should be considered carefully. One thing that I never see in any of those books I read on success is advice about choosing our actual path and those involved in it carefully. I don’t know why, it’s affects the likelihood of success so we really should. I don’t believe that means having the “best most qualified” people necessarily but the ones best for our personal needs. That’s a whole other post!
That’s why I don’t automatically trust people to make the right decisions for me if they have no significant investment in the outcome. I make ALL my decisions but always based on their advice/teachings of course. I do respect their experience a great deal but the point is I don’t “assume” it’s correct, I try to make sure it is because at the end of the day all this is solely on my head. I’m sure they find me infuriating at times because I don’t just walk the line (I really am!) however it’s my risk, it’s my investment, it’s my dream and if anyone’s going to mess it up ... it’s has to be me.
That is actually a very daunting responsibility and one I (obviously) take very seriously especially as I’ve catastrophically messed it all up once before. Getting a second chance is an honour but the pressure not to get it wrong is ..... significant!
To sum up. My journey, my responsibility, my choices, my risk and therefore it’s all on me and what I’m saying is choose wisely who you pick to be a part of your life, your goals or your journey. They’ll affect it in massive ways but ultimately we’re the ones who are responsible for that.
My trust as per earlier posts is not easy to earn, in fact it’s so hard that if anyone does... they’re very special. Two of my teachers ARE incredibly special
So here’s a few updates on my actual journey.
My guitar teacher will be recording a short solo on one of my tracks, first time ever and I think it will be the first of many projects together. He may be moving away but I think we’re tied to each other now and we will always stay connected through music in one way or another. He called me relentless yesterday, told you! He also said if it weren’t for me he would have long ago stopped progressing on guitar… now THAT is a compliment I very much appreciate. I’m so glad that I got to give him that wonderful gift, it’s not remotely equal in value to the one he gave me (his faith in me when I needed it most) but it’s nice to know I could give some back.
The anniversary song is coming on. We’ve decided on two solos to stick to the “comfortably numb” format and as with that song one will be light, the other darker. The first shorter and more melodic and rhythmic, the second much longer, it’ll be dramatic with a lot of tension and movement and the song will fade out on it. I’m definitely reaching for the stars on this but why not, there’s nothing to lose by trying and my method of “write first, learn later” I think will be key to making this work. We have our five Gilmour solos that we’ll take inspiration from but the idea is to take concepts not just copy lines although we will do that too (but obviously make them my own, not just copy paste).
The next twist in my story is that I’m hoping to attend a college in 2-3 years subject to my drumming, guitar playing and bass playing reaching a standard I feel is appropriate. There’s a long way to go until then but if my learning curve over the last 3 years is any indication then I can do a lot in that time. It’s a one year course at Abbey Road Institute in Sydney and aside from not being able to afford it (I’ll cross that bridge IF I come to it) I think there’s no reason not to go for it. I would be learning production and sound engineering amongst other things and then I think it’s time to get out there and put this all to use.
I do think my music will be perfect for sync and it’s an industry I have a lot of interest in but there’s one kink, I don’t want to score music over movies. I like writing the style of music a great deal but I don’t like the idea of writing it in a forced nature or compromising on it or even the idea of working to film itself. I’d rather write music and adjust it where required or simply license it out and let them do that themselves and there’s definitely a market for that so it’s one thing I’ll be working on but there’s an option I think I’d enjoy far more.
Production…. Plus extras!
I love writing music, exploring ideas, being creative, messing with different genres, learning skills as a means to write and writing as a means to learning skills. I also think production is something that comes relative naturally to me although as with everything 99% is down to experience and hard work but the fact I write songs prolifically means I’m putting in my hours and over a varied range of genres/styles etc. I have a talent for listening to the same song for hours, days or even weeks without getting bored because of how I listen (a few posts down I addressed this) and I love “sound/music” so the engineering part is perfect too. I love the science of sound so that would really fascinate me.
Finally I still want to play and NOT in a public context and if my drumming, bass playing and guitar playing is up to par (not the best but GOOD and solid) then I’ll be my own session musician. There is the risk of being “Jack of all trades” but that’s why I’m taking it all sooooooooooooo seriously, I’m aware of that and I want to avoid it but if you think about it all this fits together. I’m always cross learning and I keep pushing all this more and more in that direction. I say 2-3 years (plus the year of study of course) but that’s not a fixed date, it’s a target. I’ll have to judge as I go.
My thoughts are that I could be a very viable option for small/medium independent artists because I can offer the full package and it would be much more affordable. My passion for so many genres means I can accommodate more choices (but first I MUST study them of course), I love electronic music and old school, modern music and traditional, I’m influenced by a lot of producers, musicians etc so I’ll understand a wider range of needs from my clients. I’m building up connections on Insta and where I fall short of being able to provide an element I’ll have those who can plus when I need other parts I don’t play again I’ll have access to those who could. I noticed a couple of years ago many of the people paying attention to my journey were other artists who’d are successful, teachers, producers etc. People who don’t need MY attention and that makes me curious as to why they watch. Maybe they see what my guitar teacher does … that I’m relentless! It doesn’t matter what they see really, the fact they are watching and they are the people I need watching is all that matters. I don’t need to find a way to catch their eye, I already have and when I’m ready I’ll know.
So this is the idea but the reality is that in order to even have a chance I’ll need to work my arse off. Can it be done? Honestly I don’t know but I think so, if I’m focused, if I don’t waste my precious time but spend it efficiently and in the right way then maybe, just maybe.
This always has been the idea.. kind of… but I wasn’t sure exactly how I’d execute it or where my main focus would be but as I’ve gone on it’s become clearer and clearer and now I’m 85% sure. There’s still too many things to work out to be more sure than that. But there’s also a side thought, and that’s what about my music. What am I going to do with it? Answer is nothing! At least not intentionally. I write for me, I’ve said that a thousand times (I still think no one really believes that but I don’t mind!) and I don’t want or need approval from others (it’s nice to get it from people I respect but I don’t NEED it).
I intend to carry on writing music for me as often as I feel like it. I intend to continue releasing it as and when I want and I intend to keep on doing nothing to promote it. However I suspect that one twist of the plan above is that par the course of what I’ll be doing IF I am good at what it then I’m sure it will be noticed and IF it’s something that’s liked it may well do “something”. But honestly I’m so uninterested that at this point I don’t even want to hazard a guess at what that might be and I certainly will not compromise. I write for ME which means I don’t care if it’s successful but I won’t prevent it being so if it happens, it happens, if not who cares. Never say never but I can’t see me not wanting to keep my music purely for me because that’s why I’m doing this whole crazy thing to start with, it’s my primary motivator …
… it’s my fundamental WHY!!!!
I’ve talked recently about how I’m starting to believe in myself and why. Let’s talk about the other side. Let’s raise a couple of the ugly problems I still have to work around or solve. There are two giant, elephant sized issues I’ll start with.
I’m alone, I don’t mean that as a whinge but it’s a fact that is not going to make any of this easier. Read any of these success stories and you’ll quickly realise the one thing, NONE of those people were alone, they had a lot of support, it’s plays an important role. Hubby obviously supports me emotionally but he has little interest in what I do. My kids are the same. My teachers as you know are supportive and go above and beyond but there’s only so far they can go to help. I have support on Insta but it’s very limited in its benefit. That’s it.
No one to bounce off, spar with, encourage me or drive me. I’m trying to fill as many of those roles as I can myself (coach etc) but ... that’s a poor alternative. You try being your own one person fan club and see how far that gets you!!. But being serious one major problem is that I do not have the opportunity to develop the skill set I need to break out of this isolation and feeding me to the wolves so I can learn to live among them is NOT the answer especially with my health problems. It’s a BIG problem but I think over time there are options.
Problem number two is my confidence and I am working on this. Issue number one isn’t helping in this regard but nor is this helping with issue one (pardon my French but it’s a perfect sh** storm) because this is a far more serious problem. I’m terrified of being confident because a) EVERYONE who ever built me up eventually knocked me down twice as hard, to say I have trust issues is an understatement b) being confident has never resulted in anything good happening to me but it has resulted in a great deal of bad c) my entire back story is awful to hear, it was even worse to live and it’s left it’s mark, a deep one. There’s a good reason I have no confidence but I always have hope, I do believe I can work it out. I am actually a very positive person but I’m a realist too and being blunt, the whole just by “thinking positive” it will all work out thing is total BS in my opinion. Positive thinking plays a key role in success of course it does but when you’ve been through what I have you do not, under ANY circumstances rely on it without merit.
There are many other obstacles that lie before me either long term or short and I’ll work on those too but these two are by far the biggest trials that lie in my immediate future. I just have to take it step by step, problem by problem and where I can’t change something, compensate for it.
I’m reading a book that was lent to me by one of my teachers (I value them SO much) and I came to a chapter that made me think it would be good to write about my current methods and ideology around practicing. As with everything I write in this blog it is my current thoughts and may well turn out to be something I think is idiotic in the future, just mildly flawed or I might firmly stand by it. I don’t recommend anyone take my word on anything after all I’m not claiming to be an expert on anything except being incredibly stubborn! What I suggest is that you simply consider my arguments and then come to your own conclusions. Always reason with an open mind but decide with conviction of heart.
So my methods. I practice a LOT and it’s very important to make that practice matter, to make it efficient and to make it smart. That’s really not easy to do and I have wasted farrrrrrrrrr more time over the last six years than I’ve spent wisely BUT I’ve also learnt from those mistakes and from my success. I pay attention and constantly evolve my strategies and I get better at practicing all the time.
These are some of the “rules” I currently find work well.
These aren’t exclusive but they are what I think are my most important guidelines for effective, enjoyable and purposeful SUSTAINABLE practice. At least to date but I am learning about that daily.
A few (quite a few!!) thoughts today on why I try to keep myself under so much pressure, why it’s a different positive kind of pressure and how by thinking ahead I’m living more in the present. Plus why I’m finally starting to genuinely believe I “might” have what it takes to be what I want to be.
When my guitar teacher first told me he believed in me more than anyone he’d ever taught or been to college with I didn’t understand why. In fact I didn’t for years. Yes I worked hard but I sucked, my progress was slow and it never seemed to be increasing enough that it would ever be enough. I struggled to learn the concepts, I just didn’t see how being passionate would ever make up for all that. He knew I’d never concede but I personally didn’t know if that would ever be enough, I didn’t have his faith in it but I’m finally starting to believe it will. I’m definitely learning faster, solving problems quicker & just beginning to not completely suck (but still in beginner territory really). But what I’m starting to believe in specifically and what he saw all along is that there’s no off switch, there’s no slow setting, no pause, there is no difficulty that will slow or derail my determination. I don’t choose to do this I simply do it because there’s no other option, I want it and I’m going to drive relentlessly ahead until whatever end awaits me. I will never concede yes but it’s also what I do, how I fight, how I keep working the problem and learning each and every time that I am starting to trust. These are the same traits I’m starting to see as a common theme in all these books I’m reading. It’s only one part of the equation but it’s the one we cannot work around - most of the time it manifests via self belief/confidence but in me I think it came as a result of having one hell of a tough life.
I think REAL learning (of this nature anyway) on a long term basis is not for the feint hearted, it requires so much determination, and patience and an ability to live very contently with frustration. It requires a talent for taking constant knocks, picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, taking stock, finding new energy and going again.. and again... and again... and again... and again... and....! Every day, the same thing and being able to really embrace that, find pleasure in it. Not just the results, that’s not enough, we have to relish the fight, the growth, the challenge, the excitement of climbing a fresh new ladder each time, the effort itself. We have to be quite mad really!!
Real learning is hard, so hard that few people can do it because there are a million reasons why not to and the “obstacles” can never be overcome only accepted and enjoyed. The end goal is very often just not worth it. But to me it most certainly is and every day it becomes more so. There’s no easy way to achieve 20 years experience without spending anywhere near 20 years doing it but with the right mindset and opportunities (a whole other post!) it most certainly can be done.
That is why my path is one that requires me to live with constant pressure but perhaps counter intuitively I actually thrive under that pressure. With my health issues you’d think that would be bad for me but it’s not actually that pressure that sets off these ‘episodes’ it’s excessive stimulation. It’s the world, it’s other people and my interaction with them that does it. It’s not pressure I need to avoid it’s stress, and this particular pressure doesn’t cause me that kind of stress, I thrive on it. Even when I do feel overwhelmed by a task my “bounce back” time is getting shorter and shorter.
Knocks that would put me out of commission for a week started taking days to recover from, the days and now it’s hours, sometimes it’s almost instant. I get right back on the horse so to speak but with even more determination and less doubt. It’s feeding itself. I’ve described myself as a cross between a weeble & the Energiser bunny in the past and I think that’s about right. I said in a previous post that I consider myself both strong and weak and this is why. I have incredible strength caused by my lifetime of taking knock after knock and picking myself back up to carry on the fight, I’ve been fighting so long I don’t know how to stop any more no matter how hard I’ve been hit I keep on coming back for more and life has taught me that I will eventually win. It’s also taught me to pick my battles carefully because those wins are so often not even close to being worth it. The flip side is I’m also so bruised and cracked and damaged beyond repair for the very same reason. I have an unimaginable amount of fight in me and yet I’m also so brittle I can’t face the world itself any more. Quite the contradiction but if you think about it that’s why this particular life suits me so well!!
Im going to need all that fight for what lies ahead but while yes I am always planning for the future I only do it because it makes the present so much sweeter. I use what I learned in the past to set up my future and give my present perspective so that as I live it I can enjoy it more. I NEVER make the future the goal or the past the focus I only use them so that the present is always better. I’m setting up my future by specifically enjoying my present and I’m doing it even more effectively by learning from my past. In this way they are all connected and I really love this journey, the fight, the challenge, the struggle and of course all the magic that it’s opening up along the way.
Literally and figuratively! I’m getting closer to getting enough tracks together for my next album but it’s going to be a very eclectic one! The genre mix is quite extreme however there is a common thread that ties it all together and that’s the blend of electronic music and real acoustic instruments that together are starting to form my “sound”.
It’s far too early for me to know what my sound will be because I haven’t had a chance to explore much yet but I think this particular fusion will become one of my trademarks. I like the depth it creates and the contrast in texture and timber within the music plus the scope for creating different pallets with it is huge. It’s interesting and fun to listen to and wonderful to work with.
I have a few tracks to finish up first which is taking longer to do as the parts I’m needing to replace are more complex these days. My writing is still way ahead of my technical ability but I am progressing. It’s a good indication I’m challenging myself enough.
Im definitely doing so much better health wise. It’s always so strange when I come through an ‘episode’ because I don’t realise just how ill I was until I suddenly realise how good I feel. The relief is something I can’t quite describe, it’s only once I’m through it I realise how much I worried hubby, I do risk a great deal by refusing medication but I still believe it’s the right thing for me. It will happen again of course but I won’t think about that and I’ll make sure I enjoy every day as much as I can until then. Funny isn’t it how we can’t really appreciate joy in quite the same way without experiencing pain. We need the context.
I have a drum project now and I am looking so forward to it. It’s funny how small changes in direction or even perception of a task can change how we feel about it. Simply by changing the parameters surrounding learning a song I’ve changed my approach to it and altered the emotional response positively. Only time will tell how well this works and it will vary from teacher to teacher and from song to song as I’m not holding all the cards (that too could be good for me). . But if my initial feelings are any indication I think a great deal of good will come from this. Part of working out how I learn most efficiently and effectively is recognising how my emotions can be harnessed and put to good use and how I can avoid the getting in the way.
Sounds so much easier than it is but because I want this so much I’m working hard to do that. Definitely learnt more about this in the last few months and it is working. I guess a really harsh truth can be just what we need sometimes but I hope I don’t have to suffer too many more of them, it’s really difficult!!
I’m behind on my monthly song targets because of the ‘rough patch’ and don’t want to be so I’ll need to catch up. I will do my utmost to get there, it’s important this year to achieve as many of my goals as possible and to build up my confidence. Resolve is a great asset to have but without confidence it’s only 50% as effective as it could be because I’m always holding back. I don’t want the kind of confidence that’s about ego though, ego can’t be trusted i much prefer facts. I want the kind of confidence that comes from not just thinking I can do good but knowing I can.
The projects, the performance side, the exam (and doing well in it for once), getting through the genres, hitting my targets. These are all ways I can prove to myself I’ve got what it takes and that I can and should trust in that. Only one way to get there, hard work, sacrifice and faith. In myself, in the process and in my teachers.
I’ve hurt my back and it’s far more painful not being able to play than the pain itself which is quite significant. All I can do is let it heal and be patient.
But alas the show must go on so I’ll focus my attention into my orchestration and film scoring courses, my theory studies, my writing and other less strenuous areas but today Im resting fully.
So what’s my waffle about today? It’s about being competitive or rather not but at the same time being extremely competitive. Typical Tash, I don’t see things as simply black or white, either or. It just doesn’t work like that. I am happy AND sad, I am smart AND dumb, I am strong AND weak, I am successful AND a failure. Too much emphasis is put on measuring but it’s limiting to do so without a purpose.
Let’s take my playing. I want to play better than my teachers are now one day, I do, I don’t think I’m being rude saying so or being presumptuous or even putting them down. I think I’d be selling myself short if I didn’t want to be, I think every student they have would be if they want to be a serious musician. And yet I don’t ever want to be a better player than them. Make sense? No? That’s because you’re thinking in terms of competition and not in terms of personal goals. No drummer, bassist or guitarist is competition to me - not a single one because what I can do compared to them is ONLY relevant in terms of letting me know what I’ve achieve or more to the point what I still need to achieve. I’m learning from them, I’m not “chasing” them. That’s distracting and ultimately what would it serve? It has no effect on my goals, my dreams or my career choice.
So in my ideal world I’ll be better than my teachers are now, they’ll keep getting better so I can keep aiming higher with people I care about and respect. I don’t want to outgrow anyone except myself!!!
The flip side of that coin is the reality that I will be one of thousands amd thousands and thousands of musicians, composers, producers and writers around the world all competing for a very small number of spots. My real competition is so much bigger than a group of guitarists I’ve seen online who are “better” than me. My problem is FAR bigger and worrying about any specific person is daft in the scheme of things.
So the question is how do you get better than tens of thousands of people who are younger, more experienced, have better connections, are better trained, more skilled... etc??? Answer is .. you don’t, you can’t. Probably!! A tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of a percent will get that good and of those a few will be good enough to join the ranks of the elite. But the likes of me... never!
Then what? We don’t need to be better technically, we need to be better creatively. We need to have something original to offer, we need to be efficient, fresh, innovative, creative, able to deliver and have an angle that cuts through the crowd. Is that any easier than being technically better? Yes & No! There’s still the same number of people to get through but FAR fewer are trying it via this angle, If there’s a way through it’s to shine light a light so we can be seen without having to “get to the top of the pile”. The better I can play the more control I have but that’s only one part, there are many other areas to cultivate.
No guarantees but if I have any chance at finding a rare spot in the music industry this will play a key role and if my Insta success is any indication my assumptions are certainly proving to have merit. And so it makes sense to stop focusing on others except where it inspires or drives me to do so (I believe being competitive for the negative reasons is always destructive) and focus on me as my competition. Do I stand out, am I offering something fresh, am I different, does my music have personality amd will it be enjoyed.
Today? Nope, not yet. I’m working on it.
And so I’m in competition with no one person, I want my teachers to endlessly improve so I can never outgrow them (I’m not being presumptuous I’m being very hopeful!) and I’m always aware of how big the real competition is and how I’m going to find my way through enough to maybe have a chance.
Can’t do more than that! And that’s why I don’t have a day off, why I need to believe I can be more than I probably should and why I don’t care how good anyone else is only how good I am because if I don’t have it.. I can’t use it.
So much to focus on
It’s been rough but it feels like I’m finally coming through this episode. I’m so relieved. I just want to get back on track now and it feels like I am as I regain my focus. My rhythm guitar is slowly continuing to improve which does feel good, I’m making progress with my Can’t Stop bass project and as expected the added pressure it making me really focused. I make sure it moves forwards every day, I pay more attention to what that progress is and I’m procrastinating far less. I even managed just to “get on” and write the solo my teacher asked me to without overthinking ... that in itself is huge progress. He gave me very specific parameters to work with though so that definitely made a difference. We’re working now on every project with my yearly goals in mind and that’s really inspiring. I like the organisation, structure and direction.
I’ve been working hard on drums as always trying to keep things moving in the right direction. A mixture of older exercises, new ones & some new concepts trying to make it all move up together. I’m trying to keep learning songs & work through the Drumeo method. I just finished level four and apart from a few weak areas I need to tidy up it was just a case of dotting the i’s & crossing the t’s. On to level five but no rush, I only use that as a way to organise everything I’m doing with my teacher. Mostly I use the site as a way to expand on things we’re covering together in lessons and it’s great for that. I’m working from Stick Control doing slow free stokes to build control & also as a heal down foot exercise to build coordination, endurance and strength. Both are helping, boring but helping!
My poor teacher has had a hard start to the year with me so far & while it’s not something I could avoid, if I could have, I would have. Hopefully soon I’ll start to justify these methods with results and I’m very, very confident I will because I can see a big difference from them already. That plus with my anxiety subsiding I will be able to control myself better and hopefully make things much more enjoyable for him in lessons. It’s horrible being such a difficult person when I actually care so much.
One area I’d like to work on with my drum teacher is a longer term “project” like I am with my other teachers. They add a lot of value and inspire me but It will have to wait though as I think it’s best to let the dust settle. Hopefully that will be an option at some point, I really liked the idea of doing Take Five when he suggested it but I’ll be patient at least on this area, I’ve got plenty to keep me working hard.
I’ve finally begun work on “the” anniversary song and I’m a lot more confident than I was as I now have a structured plan. There will be bumps in the road but at least I’m moving forwards.
Finally I’m making progress on my performance issues, it will take time but again at least I’m working on it positively. I always listen, I always consider and I always take action if I can, it’s just a case of figuring out what the right action is!! I always say it but I would be so grateful for help sometimes... this is HARD!
A side note & food for thought because it’s something I’ve noticed a lot recently. I always think it’s a shame that people put so much value on those who obtain success easily. It’s admirable because it’s unusual and, yes, they are special people, I’m not trying to detract from that but you can’t learn anything from it. I believe by studying and appreciating those who fight, those who adapt, those who succeed in doing things against the odds, despite their inability, there’s such an important lesson there. But people rarely see it, I think that’s a shame for everyone.
Ps my memory is improving!!! I noticed recently I’m able to remember more notes and learn parts quicker but also I can remember things like discount codes & passwords for more than a few seconds. It’s really noticeable. How about that, let’s hope it continues!
What is mental illness? It’s having to come to a blog that no one reads to talk because I have nowhere else to turn. I’m not doing so good, which is an understatement (something I rarely make). In the video from a few posts ago she talks about how sometimes she wishes she could just hit the pause button and make her life go away temporarily. That’s exactly how I feel right now. I’m not quite at critical levels but I’m at dangerous ones and all I want to do is just get on with my life.
I’m frustrated with myself and I’m tired of everything being ten times harder than it needs to be. I’m tired of upsetting people because I can’t communicate properly. I’m tired of crying, I’ve cried for hours today and I’m crying now. I’m tried of not knowing the answers no matter how hard I look for them. I’m tired of everyone working half as hard and being 5 times as good even though they want it 1% as much. I’m tired of feeling so alone and confused. I’m really tired!
It’s hard because there’s always a part of me that even when I’m a soggy mess drenched in tears, frustrated at the world and lonely as all hell just wants to get back on with it all. I’m grateful for that part of me because I wouldn’t be here without it. I’m writing this because this is a big part of my life and my strength isn’t just from being stubborn or determined it’s in overcoming mental illness. I’m writing today’s blog post to tell my illness it will not win, it will not keep me from what I want. If I have to work 100 times harder I will, if I have to search the whole bloody galaxy for answers I will.
Today I reverted in my lesson to 6 years ago when I first started with Zak. I thought I’d overcome that and was making progress and I have but it seems it can just come back even so. I didn’t think it could and it shocked and filled me with a real fear. If I can’t get passed that then is it even possible no matter what I do to get over my tension and performance problems? I still like to think it is, I did do my exam, I have performed better overall recently and the signs are good in other areas but it’s also clear that I do not control this and when I’m afraid it will control me.
So Autism, anxiety and general mental illness I stick two fingers up at you. I will get back behind the drumkit, behind the bass and behind the guitar and I will fight. I will do it through tears if I need to, I will scream out my frustration and I will battle alone if I need to but I will find the answers, I will earn my way to where I want to be with dedication, hard work and problem solving and I will get what I want. This is my promise to you mental illness, I will win.
I’m reading a book recommended by a very inspiring drummer I’m following lessons by on Drumeo. The book is called Bounce by Matthew Syed and what’s fascinating about it is not what it’s teaching me but what it’s putting into perspective for me.
The book is about how natural talent is NOT the reason people are successful artists, sportsmen and women, musicians, scientists, memory experts etc. The reason is good old fashioned hard work but not just any hard work – focused, precise, intentional and organised hard work. It’s as much about opportunity as it is about putting in the effort and therein lies both the good news …. and unfortunately the bad.
So the bad news. If you don’t have the best teachers in the world you are highly unlikely to become the best at what it is you want to do. I said unlikely as there are other ways to be taught. Copying our inspirations and doing so constantly challenged or competing with others of like mind is another route to success. We can even do it alone but that depends on what the skill is and how good we are at both self-motivation and learning. There’s no short cut and time not spent well counts for far less or even nothing in the long term. It takes 10 years of dedicated learning (the 10,000 hr concept) and there’s no short cut, you can’t cram, you can’t skip bits, you can’t fake it because it’s experience you’re actually getting and it’s that experience you’ll use.
The good news! You don’t have to be born with super skills to achieve super skills. This is open to us all and if we’re willing and able to put in the work we too can obtain greatness. No one’s promising you’ll be number one but you'll achieve enough for it to be pretty damn cool.
Why am I excited about this book? Because it makes sense of everything I’ve been blogging about for the last few years. My concepts on how I learn, how I push myself, how I prefer constant failure because it means constant progress etc they ALL make sense now. What he’s teaching I already do. It also occurred to me there are two areas in particular I have done my 10,000 hours in without even knowing how important they would be to my particular journey.
The first is how I listen to music. My lifelong obsession means I’ve clocked FAR more music listening than other people but is that enough to be an expert? No, absolutely not. It has to be purposeful study or it doesn’t count remember. But there’s a twist in my story. I know for a fact I don’t listen to music like other people, I know this because when I discuss music they don’t recognise what I’m talking about until I specifically show them. So what’s different about how I listen and why do I do it? I “think” I know why but it’s just a theory. What’s different is that I don’t listen to music in a linear fashion, start to finish, the same every time. I listen to it not as a road to go down but as a river to swim in. Every time I listen I swim through the sounds, rhythms and combinations there of and it’s a different experience I consciously take it and there it is… I consciously listen to all the elements creating my own journey each time.
The reason I think I learned to do this was because I used music as a form as escapism. I would listen to music and create worlds in my mind within the music so like a movie if you put the same music over different scenes it will have a different effect on you. I created different scenes with the same music and so each time I explored it as a different experience, I explored the music and conciously focused on them always in a slightly different way. That’s my theory and it certainly explains why I create musical journeys and “stories”. But on a practical note I have listened to a huge number of genres throughout my life and I listen to a ridiculous number of different artists. Even now I’m always discovering new music, new sounds and I’m obsessed with the ideas within them.
My point? I don’t just listen to music, I STUDY it and I have been doing this for 40 years. So why am I so good at coming up with melodies? I’m TRAINED to be. Why do I write so much? I’ve trained to. Why can I listen to music endlessly and not get bored? I’m trained to always hear it as fresh and interesting.
I was trained to write music decades before I even played my first note. What I’m doing now is picking up the skills that allow me to apply that knowledge and that is where my second skill comes in. I have struggled my whole life, I struggled at home, I struggled at school, I struggled with mental illness, I’ve found learning difficult because I don’t learn like other people, I spent 10 years fighting fire with my business. And what was I doing the whole time? Learning how to learn. I didn’t study like other people just memorising and repeating it back, I had to figure out how to learn and relearn FAST. I couldn’t just make friends and form relationships I had to learn how to interact with each person I met separately. I couldn’t just do easy tasks because my illness would make life impossible so I created games to help me do things, I learned how to get myself to do things I found incredibly difficult that normal people could just do.
What did I do in my business? I learnt how to be efficient, how to get over my perfectionism, how to create websites, how to write, how to design, how to stocktake, how to run a shop. I had no experience of any of that, I had no one to teach me, I had no idea what I was doing and I HAD to learn. I had to learn fast, I had to learn a lot and I had to do it in so many different ways, every single day. So I did and the more I did the more efficient I had to become in order to do it all myself. I learned very consciously and purposefully and it took a long, long time to do that and my failures actually served me very well it seems!
And what do I do now? I learn how to learn, I pick up on the successful and less successful approaches I try from my teachers and I build on them. I use online resources to push this further and I refine, refine, refine. I spent most of my life learning how to learn – consciously and purposefully and now I’m using that experience to help me work out how to balance the incredibly challenging task of learning everything I need to on these instruments.
There is no short cut. I have 10 years work ahead of me per instrument but because of my past, because I’ve already earned my 10 years in two very crucial areas I can juggle multiple instruments and subjects because I already understand how to multitask, how to learn how I learn, how to see the patterns and connections that will allow me to go faster and faster.
There is no way of knowing where I will be in ten years. I could be a fantastically talented musician and writer or I may be distinctly average or worse. The thing this book does is it gives me additional hope that wasn’t there before, it demonstrates that while there’s no guarantees my methods, my ideas and my strategies are all similar to those followed by the most successful people. It reminds me of the elements of success I do not have and forces me to confront that and compensate to the best of my ability. If reinforces the need to be focused, to not dither, to be clear on my goals and to dig in hard. Time will tell and if I do get anywhere near where I hope then that could very well give hope to others but at the same time it will also prove there is no easy route and that it can take decades to achieve what we want. My journey started when I was 5 and 40 years later I still have at least 10-15 years of HARD, HARD, HARD work ahead of me to even know if it’ll be enough.
I'm up for it though... that in itself shows just how much I want to be a musician.
First some good news. It will take time to really know but it feels like I may have got through the enormous wall I’ve been banging my head against for the last 3 years. The signs are good though, the “feeling” of constant tension (pushing on a door that says pull kind of thing) especially when doing something new or when I go past a certain tempo but even in general does appear to be going. Or at the very least it’s reduced by an incredibly significant amount.
I can feel it but it’s more than that, I can sense myself getting more control, I can relax more (still a mountain to climb there) and I’m picking things up not necessarily faster (although that too) but much easier, I fight myself much less. I’m able to do a little more in lessons but… it’s early days and I’ll need to see consistency before I believe that particular battle has, well maybe not been won but has certainly gone from being a war to a skirmish! 3 YEARS... even I can't believe I kept fighting for that long but I WANT THIS SOOOOO MUCH.
We will see!
The bad. My anxiety is so bad I burst into tears while hoovering just because I felt so overwhelmed with all my emotions dialled up to 12 and all flowing over at the same time without any break. I refuse to try medication and so I just have to ride it out, it will pass and until then I need to hang tight and fight (literally for my life). This really is no joke and only one person in my life knows just how serious it is, so it's also very lonely and isolating. Mental illness is very cruel.
I’ve been getting my head down into my drumming exercises which is helping as it focuses me but the second I stop it’s all still there. Well if I have to suffer I may as well turn it to my advantage, right? so Ive been working even harder than normal. I’m still not sure of this years plans as that got all thrown up in the air but I know eventually the dust will settle and I’ll have my goals, direction and focus. I hope it’s soon but until I know what my teachers overall objectives are it’s hard to align them with mine. I have no doubt I will be able to as we do both want exactly the same thing, it’s just I want that AND other things and I believe I can have both.
My current plan regarding the exam has changed a little and now the idea is to not pick the songs easiest or that I like most but pick songs that will serve my ultimate goals (short term & long term) best. I may not do the exam at all though, if my teacher isn’t behind me then I will wait but in all likelihood by the time he does think I’m ready I won’t think it holds enough benefit. However if that happens it really doesn’t matter I will move forwards one way or another as well as continuing to strengthen my foundations, fill the gaps and get myself out of this beginner phase once and for all!
But back to the current plan, I’ll “assume” I’m going to do it and evaluate (with my teacher) the elements, skills etc that I’ll need to focus on, work on, develop and learn in order to reach the point where I have enough ability I can apply them to the exam songs. Only THEN will I start learning the songs themselves, that will inspire me to kick my own behind to get there. One more step in the plan but one designed to drive me even more and it's something I learned from doing Grade 7 so I'm simply applying it again. My thought process currently is to do this with exercises & songs suited to my current level within each technique/skill etc and then keep pushing that up as FAST as possible. I hope to work on that with my teacher because he'll have ideas too and experience that matter very much to me. I can't learn without listening! Learn-grow-go ... so work first and then when the time is right I'll go for it but the goal is to make that time ASAP.
Again we will see!!
Finally I’ve asked my bass teacher if we can take one song and really push it, slowly but surely which is totally the opposite approach to what I just described for drums but there’s a reason for that. It’s a song with both slap and finger style, not too hard but still a challenge to get solid. In this instance I see sitting on this song as a way to work on the technical side of my slap and fingerstyle and my confidence. I believe by focusing on this it will open up both styles of playing to much faster development afterwards. I’m never against going slow – as long as ultimately it will make me go faster, it’s just a question of evaluating if long term I’ll get to my destination faster one way or the other and being careful to select the right project for the method. In that regard all I can do is know ME best, use my experience and judge when I think I will get more from one or the other. We will only be doing this half the lesson so there will still be plenty of progress in other areas too and he's already working with me on my bass targets for the year. It's actually a little scary as I feel even more accountable now but that's good right!?
I trust my teachers, they are amazing at helping me learn but I trust my methods too. I've spent 30+ years teaching just one single student... ME and I've learnt a lot in that time. You should see me clean the house (on the rare occasions I do!) none of my kids or my hubby can understand how I do it but I can do it 10 times faster and yet still 10 times better than they can combined. My method is exactly the same I’m applying here, exactly the same as I applied in my business (I could always do my staffs jobs 20 times faster, it was so frustrating) and the same as I did in my old accountancy job (my boss got cross at me for doing his job and mine more efficiently while he was on holiday because his boss picked him up on it, I SWEAR I would never have done that on purpose, it’s just who I am). I organise better, shop faster, I can solve just about anyones problems (except mine, haha no I do solve mine it's just a little more complicated) and I'm superbly efficient when I want to be.
It just takes time to work out what the most efficient methods are to apply to my current situation as it's far more complex because I’m learning a LOT that all needs to be connected. However I'm learning more about that every day by paying good attention to what my teachers tell me and evaluating which elements work and which don't and WHY and applying that knowledge to my personal teaching method.
One final thing. I had a teacher I hated at school who taught Social Science, he hated me right back and I couldn't learn from him. Of course that was all my fault (only teacher who I didn't get on with like a house on fire was him) and his prediction for my final grade was an F. I moved school and they didn't do Social Science so I took it upon myself to do the exam independently. I taught myself and did the projects I had to, completed the assignments and took the final exam and got a C. I did this while battling problably my most severe episode of depression & anxiety ever. My point is I've always struggled to learn like my peers and yet I have 10 GCSE's grade C or above, A GNVQ Advanced in Art & Design and an A in A-Level Accountancy. I can learn it's just I have to figure out HOW to make it work for me. Good teachers (my accountancy teacher was amazing!) make my life easier (my current teachers ALL fit into this category) bad ones make my life so much harder but I get there either way.
The thing I find hardest about being who I am is my inability to communicate. I'm literate, reasonably so, I can express myself and I can explain things in detail (too much often) but I still can't get the thoughts in my head to make sense to other people.
They nod and agree and express words of acknowledgement and then reaffirm what I'm thinking back to me but it's NOT what I'm thinking. I use the same words as them and yet the meaning and context is different, what they're saying is not even close to what I was saying. To make matters worse things have so many meanings to me depending on the context of my feelings or thoughts at a given time. This makes me very specific in my meaning when most people are very general in theirs. It's actually left me afraid to try because more often that not they'll misunderstand and I have no way of correcting or explaining.
How does this affect my musical journey? Unfortunately quite badly. I can't explain what I need, I can't explain why I struggle, I can't explain what people can do to help me and sadly in most cases people don't want to help me. WAIT... no I'm not being a victim. They are NOT ogres who are selfish and mean, on the contrary they're good people who care a great deal but they've got life to worry about and my complex layers of problems are just too much extra baggage.
People in general like me a lot but I'm also a burden and aren't we all taught if it's not making your life better cut it out? Well they usually do and I don't blame them, sincerely I do not, I am overwhelming but that doesn't mean I don't feel hurt, I don't feel lonely, I don't feel rejected and I don't feel like... I'm wrong. I'm broken. I'm complicated. I'm difficult. I'm the odd one out. I'm not worth it. I'm nice but I'm not good enough to deserve your understanding and compromise.
It's hard for me to accept the only thing I am is Autistic. I'm kind, I'm loyal, I'm funny, I'm determined, I'm passionate, I'm sensitive, I'm curious, I'm smart, I'm thoughtful. I am worth it it's just few people understand me well enough to know that or if they do I just demand too much effort to justify it in their lives. How can I not understand that even if I don't deserve it. I came across this video and the weight it lifted from me was so big, it really resonated and I realised I can't help my fear. It's part of who I am, of what I am. I have to stop feeling like I'm being irrational.
Some things I learned from this because I'm always learning!
a) My fear is ok, it's not good, it's not wanted but it's not irrational. As she says I need to fix it top down and I can't do it alone.
b) I must find a way to adjust the structure of my lessons if I want to be more productive. Being pushed is great, it's working and I'm doing so well I do not want to change that but there's no balance so the fear is never evened out and I need more structure to support my mental state.
c) I understand now a lot more why the fear is there and I can begin the work on it and with it. It serves me very well but I need to find a way to keep some fear pushing me without it shutting me down at other times.
d) My fears have nothing to do with ego, in fact my ego is so damaged by my fears that it's something I need to work on. If I didn't always feel like a failure and expect to be one maybe I could look for, achieve and embrace success as well as the progress I already hold on to and enjoy so dearly. Part of my action plan needs to include me succeeding not just embracing the failure for the progress it represents. There's a big difference.
My overthinking is also natural and is connected to this problem but that part I already suspected to be true. That's a trait I will not dampen as it's one of my greatest assets which I use constantly to problem solve and create but I need to learn how to gain more control, to wield it and stop it controlling me emotionally.
Finally, my mind has worked like hers many a time (you'll have to watcht the video to understand this part!). I've seen my own "penguins" and I understand what she says, it can be a curse, it does cause us problems and it's very hard to understand it but the otherthinking part of our brain can be such a blessing too! Being Autistic can be such a blessing we just need people to care and help us fit in with the rest of the world and sadly I have no one to help me. I've become very self sufficient for that reason and I'm actually very brave for someone with ASD and I do a lot of very rash and unusual things but that doesn't mean any of them are ever easy or that they come without consequence.
I'll probably blog a lot more this year as I work through this problem as I think maybe some day this might help others if I can succeed. It will help me to have somewhere mostly private to share my thoughts as I fight what's going to be a long, difficult and very deflating battle. It's never easy facing our fears. I'm very brave and I push through my fear all the time but being afraid of someone not because of who they are but because of who I am is really hard. It reinforces the "I'm the problem" mentality and thus fear. I consider my teacher to be one of the most special, caring, generous and nice people and kindest friends I've ever had so if anyone will help me do this it's him, and of course hubby.
Ultimately my fear is my teacher will reject me or be angry at me and that I couldn't bare because I care so much about him. I'm in a Hobsons Choice situation but I have to do find a way because I know he want's to help and I know I need to get through this. The question is how do I help him do that without making the whole thing yet another overblown complicated drama and losing someone who's been one of the most amazine people in my life.
I often ask myself what do I want, not in a throwaway fashion but in a 6 year old’s curious fashion. Why… but why… but why until I dig down to the fundamental reasons and that allows me to make choices. Sometimes harsh choices, it allows me to plan, to understand the context and price of those choices. I want to play instruments, I want to write music I’m proud of, why? Because I love music more than I love anything in this world, I NEED to play. Because understanding it, being a part of it, exploring it, experiencing it is my passion and who I am. I believe in choices, not excuses which means I do it or don't but I own the decision without regret and with purpose and reason. That's far harder than it sounds though.
I suffer from terrible mental illness and it’s my belief that my ASD affects me physically as well as mentally. They will limit my dreams by a long way if I cannot find a way to get around them, I can't choose not to have them but I do still have a choice. I can choose to acknowledge their limitations and do the best I can or I can find a way around them no matter how much it hurts me. The question I had to ask myself is what's more important and WHY and the answer is playing because it's who I am. So I will do what needs to be done even though I do not know how.
Today I had one of the most painful lessons I've ever had. I knew it was coming, I knew what I'd set myself up for and I knew why. It hurt me unimaginable amounts, not because my ego took a hit (if it was about ego I wouldn't have set myself up for this in the first place) but beause it left me confused, scared, lonely, lost and directionless. It pulled the very small (but faulty) security rug from under me and left me with the truth I needed to hear but had dreaded and forced my hand. I had no regrets because it did what I needed it to do for what I want - choices not excuses. “Either I will find a way, or I will make one” has become my motto and it's serving me well but without action they're empty words. Normally I at least havea an idea of what to try and I'm willing to take action but I have absolutely no idea what to do this time. I really don't known how to fix this and it seems no one else does either. So I can choose, accept or figure it the hell out. I choose to figure it out because I know what I want. Being that sure is so powerful but it's also a curse because it makes life so much more complicated and hard!
This is what my heart wants with all the passion in the world so I will do what I need to (even to myself) to get it. I just wish I didn’t always have to do it alone, I wish it didn't always have to be so hard and I wish I was stronger because it hurts like hell.
But then I also wished to be a musician and I've been given the chance to do that.... IF I can keep on fighting and find a way through. Moral - be careful what you wish for!!!
Learning Time Log
How long I've been learning as at at the end of Mar 2021.
What's This About?
One fateful day I decided to get guitar lessons. 6 years later I'm learning four instruments and trying to become a musician and songwriter. I set a five year goal (Aug 2021) to create a very special song for my 25th wedding anniversary and this is a record of my crazy journey, weird thoughts, strange doodles and unapologetic music obsession! Enjoy!