Well, next month is the one year anniversary of JazzGuitarSociety.com, and I realized that I have spent so much time bringing in new teachers and doing interviews etc., that I haven’t done a blog in a really long time, so here goes…but before I start in, I want to make sure everyone knows that we have two new Masterclasses in post production right now, one from Jamie Glaser (Chick Corea, Jean Luc Ponty) and another from Allen Hinds (Gino Vannelli, Crusaders, Boney James) – more on these when they come out, but they are both great stuff!
So, here’s the thought I what to impart to you today: A number of years ago I was over at one of my guitarist friends Jay Leach’s house – you might not know his name, but if you’ve watched American Idol very often, you’ve heard him from time to time there, he’s a great LA session guy who also has a busy solo career. He asked me what I wanted to do in my career and let me go on about it in depth for a while, and when I was done, he said something to me that I will never forget: “Great – Do it NOW”.
I smiled immediately when I heard that because I knew exactly what he meant: lots of people have hopes and dreams and things that they say they’re going to do in life, but it’s very common for a lot of people to find excuses for why they haven’t started whatever it is yet. I certainly have fallen in that category to various degrees from time to time in my life, and I’ve found that it’s always been one of two underlying reasons that I have done it – see how these resonate with you on challenge areas in your own life and music goals:
The first one is a very basic one – fear. I am far from a fearful person, but when I really looked at why I wasn’t doing certain things that I knew I should to better my music and career, what I saw is that I sometimes avoided doing things because I was afraid that if I really tried and put in the time and then it didn’t work, I might find out that the truth was that I really just was not good enough to pull it off. If I avoid it and come up with excuses why I can’t get around to these things, I can live in a fantasy world where I never have to find out the truth about what I was blaming lack of time, money, or whatever as the reason I didn’t accomplish my goals. But the thing I found with this one was that I ALWAYS improved when I put in even a little time towards those goals, so I learned to recognize that feeling of avoidance and dive in and “just start” on whacking away at the work needed to realize these goals and not worry about the end result.
The second reason I have found that I didn’t get things done sometimes was the illusion that there was always more time to get things done in some mythical place called “tomorrow”, “next week”, or “next year” , that always had a way of coming and going, without the thing I said would be done with it. Recently I was very saddened to hear of the sudden illness and very quick death of a great guy and guitarist that I used to teach with at Musician’s Institute, Ross Bolton. Ross was in really great shape physically, had a great family, and was a killer player who performed with people like Al Jarreau. There was absolutely no reason to believe that this would end any time soon, but all of the sudden he was sick and then just a few weeks later, he was dead. Ross lived his life very well and had a lot of great things to look back on, but it led me to start thinking about all the things that I am trying to do and if I could be doing more to accomplish them or not. I have found myself really upping my game more after this sobering thought and it’s something I don’t ever want to lose sight of. I wrote a tune called “Tragedy of Time” and that was the meaning behind the title – the tragedy of time is that we get a very finite amount that we won’t have any warning when it ends.
So, if any of this sounds like you (and let’s face it, we ALL are guilty of this stuff to some degree), here’s some practical and really not hard things to do to improve:
1) Make Deadlines Your Friend. Decide a “realistic and doable” time when you are going to have something done, and plot some milestone deadlines along the way of when you will have each element done. If you want to record a CD, you might say that you want the CD to be done in 6 months. Given that, you look at what you need to get to that goal. The first thing would probably be to decide what tunes you were going to record, and if they’re going to be original; how many new ones you need to write. If you need 8 new tunes and say that you will write one tune a week, then you schedule times in your calendar to write every week and you will be done in 6 weeks. So that means it will take two months to have the tunes written, and probably another month or so to get them ready to perform. Then you need to decide who you want to play on the record, and start calling players and decide on a budget for that, as well as a budget for the studio you will record in. If you hit the studio in 3 months, track tunes for a month, and have a month for overdubs and mixing, then after another 2-3 weeks after your CD goes off to be pressed, you will have it done within your 6 month deadline. If during writing the first song you are a month into it and you don’t have it done yet, then you know your goal of one song a week was unrealistic and you adjust your deadline to finish it accordingly. There is nothing wrong with doing that, and the deadline still was your friend and got you to start the process in the first place and moved it from a fantasy-land “some day” to something that is scheduled in a calendar. Also, you have talked to people with real dates about it – I have found that not wanting to look lame to my great musician friends is a strong motivator to get up off the couch and into the practice room for me.
2) Take advantage of small increments of time. Many of us are ridiculously busy in our lives and it’s almost impossible to get whole blocks of hours to do hardly anything other than sleep. Since we tend to see whatever we want to do as something that will take a long time – and since it’s normal for tasks to grow in our minds the longer we think about but don’t do them – we tend to think that the short 5 to 15 minute free time periods we have during our days as being inconsequential to accomplishing our goals. The thing is, this is actually completely the BEST way to learn anything, in a lot of short time intervals. The science of learning that Howard Roberts put into practice at Musician’s Institute was to practice everything in very short (2-5 minute) intervals that you repeated throughout the day. What I always found was that when I came back again to whatever I was working on, I had improved from where I was before. That’s because your mind actually keeps working on it while you are doing something else. So if you can find 5 minutes to practice before you leave in the morning, 10 minutes after lunch, and another 15 minutes before bed, all the added subconscious learning time in between those 30 minutes will get you more results than if you sat down for an uninterrupted hour – or more. So don’t blow off those short practice times, they are very important and can accomplish a lot.
So I hope you will think about how any of this might apply to you, and even how it will effect how you approach practicing the material in the JGS videos you work with. The time to do whatever you want to do is the same as it is for all the rest of us – NOW.
Los Angeles, CA