The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
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!
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!