Discomfort is an important part of the learning process. Feelings of frustration and confusion accompany any meaningful period of growth.
When you learn something new, are you trying to learn it through a lens you already understand? Or are you trying to see something in a new way?
We all want to know more, but we also avoid reminding ourselves that there are things we don’t know.
As it turns out the discomfort of not knowing can be a powerful trail-marker on the path to discovery and learning.
I recently was hired to join a band that is relatively successful within its genre. I know for a fact that I was hired because of these qualities:
-I learn all the music and am prepared to add new songs at the last minute
-I act professionally
-I dress professionally
-Friendly relationship with bandleader
-I’m a good musician
Being a good musician is necessary, but being a great musician is not. There are a lot of other people that are much, much better musicians that weren’t hired for this job. They either don’t do the work, aren’t fun to travel with, or haven’t developed a relationship with the people in the band.
You need to work on your musicianship. But it is so incredibly common that one will receive opportunities based on other factors, factors which you can control. The way you conduct yourself, the things your prioritize, the way you show how serious you are about something speaks volumes about your potential as a long term employee, especially in a creative field.
If you exercise because you’re “supposed to” then you’ll likely cut some corners here or there. You’ll run a little less, do fewer push-ups, maybe you’ll skip the last exercise or two. “That’s okay, at least I showed up at all,” you’ll say.
But if you actually like exercising, or if you want certain benefits that come with exercise, then you’ll go out of your way to do more of it. You’ll find new ways to challenge your body in order to see the results you want. You’ll read articles, watch Youtube videos, anything to improve your exercise habits.
Practicing is like that too.
And interestingly, faking it for a while can really work. Go watch some Youtube videos, or read an interview with your favorite musician. Try to emulate some of the things they do, or add a new exercise to your practice routine.
Do it before you really want to. Pretend that you’re insatiable and you absolutely must know more about music. You might find that the results of this kind of behavior set in motion a very real curiosity and hunger for learning and progress.
I’m aware that almost no one reads this blog, except for a few accounts trying to gain exposure by liking every post I make.
This blog is not for people to read, it’s for me to write.
By the time people are paying attention I’ll have done a lot of practicing, and I won’t have to start doing it for real. This is for real.
When you practice, as a musician, are you practicing the thing you’re going to do on stage? Are you playing entire songs without stopping? Are you playing into an imaginary microphone? Are you smiling at an imaginary crowd? You don’t have to do these things all the time, but when you do get on stage, you’re going to want to have had some practice.
One reason to consistently do the work is that when opportunity knocks, you will be ready.
I wouldn’t be concerned with the idea that you might not be ready when opportunities come. I would instead consider that opportunity is scarce for those who aren’t doing the work.
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.
Improvisation, in music, rarely means “making it up.” Yes, we decide which notes go where, and are likely creating something never heard before.
But we’re not making up new notes. We’re not playing them in a new order. If you play “the blues” then they usually go in a certain order. If you play “jazz” then they go in a different order. If the notes don’t go in any particular order, then that’s a kind of order too.
But improvisation is spontaneous and risky all the same. If we’re not “really” making it up, then what are we doing?
Improvisation is the music of right now. It’s not the music you practiced, it’s what you’re playing in the moment, composing on the spot. Making it up is a nice idea, but what can you do to connect to right now with your improvisation?