Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting over the "hump"

This post is for all those musicians out there who see how tall and hard the musical mountain is to climb and they just feel like turning around. Indeed, the mountain is hard to climb and for every summit you reach there are thousands more all around you. (Sorry, I'm a rock climber I can't stop these cliche mountain metaphors. Just stick with me.)

If you're a beginner know this, playing a musical instrument is DIFFICULT. I'm sorry but you can't escape that. How bad do you want to play? How much do you need to get those sounds out of your head and get it through your instrument of choice? How much patience do you have? Our society is constantly trying to sell stuff (cars, clothes, beer, pizza, vacations, shoes, whatever) that makes you think you deserve whatever it is you want right now with no delay. Its rare that I hear about the value of learning things that take lots of time and need to be developed with patience and a longer term vision. The TV or internet isn't going to sell those kinds of things to be sure. Things like playing an instrument.
I think most folks know this too but our country is a busy one for better or worse and its difficult to find time to devote to something like the guitar. I've had many students that came to music once their careers slowed down. If this sounds like you maybe ask what's important.
You may be way busier than I can imagine with responsibilities that would make me turn and run. Fair enough. But consider all the diversions society throws our way. Television, movies, and internet to name a few obvious ones. What if you cut some of that out of your day?
One of the first really amazing musicians I ever met could play Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo, Piano, and was a killer singer too. Those were his secondary instruments. The fiddle/violin was his first instrument and he was just unreal on that. How did this guy get so good at all these tough instruments? It turns out his family wouldn't allow television in the house when he was growing up. Wow. That knocked me out. I watched so much TV as a kid. Way to much. What if I had put some time into music? Too late to wonder, I'll never get that time back.
This brings me to my point. Getting over the "hump." If you feel like you can't make progress with music try this...

  • Make time
That should be obvious I guess but try to look at it this way. You need to play ALL THE TIME. Let me outline a few habits that'll get you nowhere with an instrument.
  1. practicing once a week
  2. expecting it to be easier than it is
  3. not taking a few lesson from a pro to put you on the right path
  4. not getting a playable instrument
  5. not listening to the type of music you want to play (all the time)

If any of those things sound like you, you're gonna have a tough time.
Instead do this.

  1. Try to practice at least 4 days a week for 15 minutes at a time.
  2. Realize its hard and it takes as long as it takes.
  3. Take a few lessons from a great teacher. Shop around, make sure they're what you want in a teacher.
  4. Save your money and get a good instrument.
  5. Listen to the music you want to play, all the time!

The mountain of music is a tough climb but like anything else the more you put into the more you'll get out of it. There are some songs that I still struggle to play and have to keep on top of all the time to get them where I want them. But when I finally hear those notes flow out like I want them to I realize all the hard work is worth it. As a beginner the "hump" may seem impossible but a mountain is climbed one step at a time (excuse the metaphor). Keep taking the steps and eventually you'll get there.

I hope it helps.

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