We can’t jeopardize our ability and willingness to come back every day to practice and do the work. But sometimes we need to push our limits to make sure we’re doing what we’re really capable of.

Sometimes that means:

-Practicing longer

-Getting up earlier

-Going to bed later

-Focusing harder

-Listening more




A Cmaj9 chord is the same as an Eminor7 with C in the bass. G9 is the same as Bminor7b5 with G in the bass.

What are some complex concepts that could be better understood if you broke them down into pieces that make more sense to you?



When you perform, look for the people that are really listening.

You’ve put in the work and are showing up to perform, and they’re showing up ready to listen. These are the people that are going to be giving you real feedback, and it’s usually positive. People who aren’t listening aren’t giving you much to work with so they’re blank expressions shouldn’t mean much to you.

Of course we want to captivate the entire audience, but it’s no small feat to overcome any one person’s apathy.

The people that are listening are who your music is for, and if you serve them well enough they’ll tell their friends that they should be listening too.



When we make a mistake we go back and practice it. When we have a bad gig we prepare more for the next one. But what if we make a lot of mistakes? And what if most of our gigs don’t go well?

Does anything change? Or do we keep returning to do it again? We can try different things, but in the end the only way through it is through it. 

Try looking for other paths through it, or new ways to move through it. But if your solution involves going around the thing you love then it becomes giving up. You will never have to give up music. But the reality of music and practice is that you can’t have it all right now.




Don’t spend too much time trying to find the perfect thing to practice. You just need one thing to practice. One thing that you can spend a little bit of time on and make a little bit of progress. Then, after a while, pick something else.

One thing at a time, a little bit of progress at a time. That’s the only way we can do it.



Learning by ear is a simple task. You listen to something and write down or memorize what you hear. Simple, but sometimes difficult. Sometimes frustrating. Sometimes impossible.

Go one note at a time. Listen to the first note. Listen to it as many times as you need to to figure out what it is. Listen to the note, play a note, listen to the note, play a note. Repeat until you find the correct note. There are a limited number of options, so eventually you will find the correct note. Then move on to the next note.

At first this may be a painfully difficult process. It may take you what you perceive to be an unreasonably long period of time to figure out just one note. It’s not. It’s exactly the amount of time it takes. And it’s going to take less time next time.

You can’t skip any part of this process. Your ear will gradually develop whether you like it or not. If you focus and work hard it will develop a little faster, but you’re not going to skip to the front of the line.



You’re not always going to see the results of your work. You’re going to get results, but it might not look like what you thought it might.

Trust that your work is meaningful. If you are sincere and do the work then it is having an impact. If you need clear evidence of your efforts every single time you do something then you’ll burn out quickly.

Is your work something you can do without constant positive reinforcement?

The work benefits you, the results benefit the people you serve.



One of the most productive things you can do while practicing is to record yourself. Giving your full attention to listening to yourself will instantly show you areas that you’re going to want to work on.

But there’s a risk when you record yourself. There’s a risk that you’ll record yourself, and then listen back to find out if it was good or bad. Or to find out if you are, in the larger picture, a good or bad musician. This is not going to help you. Your job is not to decide if you sound good or bad. Your job is to play when it’s time to play, and practice when it’s time to practice. That job doesn’t change if you started playing today or if you’ve been playing your entire life.

So record yourself, and then find something to work on. Maybe your timing could use some attention. Maybe you aren’t getting the tone you’d like. There’s always something that you can devote some time to, but if you aren’t going to do the work to fix it then don’t bother identifying it.

Walk away from the practice room saying “I was honest about my weaknesses and put in some work on them.”



I, and many other people, have a habit of not meeting my own expectations when I’m playing at a gig or at a jam session.

I feel like I practice well, I learn the language and the material. In many ways I’m adequately prepared to do my job as a banjo or guitar player in a band.

And then I get on stage and I clam up. I forget parts of the music, I can’t remember all the chords or maybe I forget to come in for “the big solo.” Sometimes it feels like this music stuff just isn’t for me.

Except that’s not how it always goes. Sometimes it’s easy. I remember all the tunes, I feel comfortable, I might even use the excitement of the audience or the band to elevate my playing beyond what’s possible in my living room at home.

So what gives? It turns out everything matters. The location, the band, the amount you’ve practiced, what you ate that day, how focused you are, how much you’re getting paid, who’s in the audience, how many times you’ve played with these people.

If you have a bad gig I would bet that you can trace it back to a lot of variables that were out of your control. But there are a lot of variables that you can almost always control, and which will give you a shot at a comfortable experience every time.

Before you play a gig, do you eat food that gives you energy? Do you wear something that makes you feel confident? Do you really learn the material? Do you show up early enough to get set up and take in the atmosphere of the venue?

You don’t have to do anything to prepare if you don’t want to. But you’re going to eat that day, you’re going to wear clothes, you’re going to show up to the gig. So why not do all of those things in a way that’s going to put you in a position to succeed? And not only that, but imagine the psychological benefit of doing all of those things because you value your own success. You have to believe that your success is worth prioritizing, which in turn will enable you to confidently perform for the audience that you have an opportunity to serve.

You are going to have bad gigs. Don’t let them be bad because you decided not to really show up.