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