Wednesday, August 19, 2015

But I Want It To Just Happen

Some very frustrated words from a frustrated music student. We were doing a bit of jamming -- part of our first year Intro to Jazz program -- and this fellow wasn't getting anything going. The bass player and I had more experience and were able to make a pretty good showing. What this poor fellow didn't realize at the time was:

1. 'Just happen' comes later.
2. It takes conscious effort and even some planning to get things happening.
3. The bass player and I, not being especially seasoned players, were essentially faking it. 

So the message is, 'Fake it till you make it'.

Sharpen the saw ... a lot
You can only work with the tools you've got. My poor friend didn't have a lot of technical skill, and no improvising skills. So his goal of extemporaneous improvisation was unrealistic. 

Lighten up
One of the hardest things to do when learning is to ignore people who can already do it. Instead of focusing on what we're doing, we might be thinking about what we can't do. Although this can motivate, it can also be a recipe for frustration. Remember that the people we admire are usually exceptional, and usually they've had a lot more training, opportunities and experience.

Play as much as you can
The only way to get better at doing something is to do it. If you spend all your time practicing, you'll get better at practicing. So get out there and play some music with other people. The more the better. 

Be the worst player (sort of)
Very few people can drive themselves the way a team can. Working with other people will push you to go further. The best situation is to play with good players -- players who are better than you. They will both push you along and pull you up to greater heights. 

10,000 hours
Malcolm Gladwell says you have to spend 10,000 hours at something in order to master it. So let's say you practice 2 hours a day and play another 2 hours, six days a week. At that rate it will take you a little over eight years to get competent. Two points here: First, it will take a lot of work, so better start practicing. Second, it takes a long time. Even doubling the time spent (8 hours a day? Seriously?) You're still looking at 4 years ... 4 long, intense years. So slow down, take it easy, and don't be in a hurry to get there.

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