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Whatever You Do - Don't Stop Playing

One thing that really bugs me about myself is my ability to get drawn into a new task and become so completely immersed in whatever it is, that I do nothing but that for weeks at a time.

Being able to focus on a project sounds like a good quality to have, the problem is when I do it, it’s normally at the expense of everything else. Even if I’ve spent months building up to something, it all seems to go straight out the window when a new challenge arises.

Shaolin Monk

Not quite that bad !

There’s normally a pretty good reason for me to do this and in the end it all contributes to my life’s final master plan, but I can’t help thinking if I’d just stop getting into all these other projects and concentrate on one main goal, then I’d probably have got there by now and achieved much more success in one particular area than constantly trying to achieve success in lots of different ones.

We all try and fit too much into our lives and when we get it right we can achieve great things, but sometimes the pressure and work loads we place upon ourselves stifle other areas of our lives that we should really be concentrating on. With work commitments, family and the normal strains and stresses of everyday life, there are only a certain amount of hours in the day we can put aside to achieve these new goals.

One thing you’ve got to watch out for, especially if you are trying to achieve and keep a certain standard as a musician, is not to let these new workloads infringe on your practice. Time management is vital if you are to keep your head above the fret board.

Street Musician 2

For the last few weeks I’ve been concentrating on building my new artisan business and also getting an online presence with an e commerce shop/blog. The whole thing ties in nicely with Street Musician and as I mentioned before, selling instruments is something I’ve always wanted to do. But I’ve been so immersed in what I’ve been doing that my guitar practice and vocal routines have gone completely down the pan.

It happens every time I get into a new project and even though I promised myself I would keep my practice up this time, I’ve let it slip as I knew I would.

I didn’t mind too much until a few days ago, the whole thing blew up due to numerous issues with the commerce script I’ve been using. I’ve spent days messing about with this thing only to find that I’m having to wipe the whole site out and start again.

So not only has it been a waste of time and I’m now back to square one, but I’ve also thrown my practice out of the window for the last few weeks, rendering me temporarily useless on the guitar and croaking like an x factor wannabe when trying to sing.

It’s been so long since I put in some decent practice, all those songs that were so easy and pleasurable to play not so long ago, now sound terrible. My voice is weak with no presence and after a couple of hours on the guitar my fingers hurt like hell and I feel like a beginner again.

Once your fingers go soft and your throat becomes used to the easy life, your brain still thinks you are capable of pulling off loads of wicked songs but your body just can’t handle it.

If I hadn’t got so involved and obsessed with what I’m doing and spent practically every moment of my waking hours thrashing out this new business and just kept my eye in for an hour or two a day, then when every thing comes crashing down around my head as it usually does and I find I am back where I started, then at least I could say that I’m still pretty good on the guitar and when all else fails I could go out and do a few gigs or a bit of busking to relieve the stress.

There is nothing better than to be able to perform any song in your itinerary without screwing up and nothing worse than knowing you should be playing well when you sound bloody awful.

Street Musician 2

I go through these phases a few times a year. I play like hell for anything up to 8 hours a day and get myself up to a standard where I can kick out a three hour nightmare set with my eyes shut, and then I get involved in something completely different and throw it all out the window for weeks at a time.

Letting Your Practice Slip

The simple formula about playing the guitar is the more you play, the better you get. Then the easier it becomes and the more you get the urge to play. It becomes an addiction, a really good addiction. Picking up your guitar and knowing you are playing well because you’ve been putting in the time gives you a real buzz and when you practice like hell for weeks on end, your playing gets to levels that blow your own mind. You find you can’t wait to pick the guitar up and wonder what new levels you will achieve each day. Just the thought of how fast you’ll shred as you break down your own barriers is enough to keep you coming back for more.

Once you you let it slip for more than a week or two, the thought of practicing becomes much less appealing and getting back to the standard you were achieving becomes a lot more of a hassle and a real up hill struggle.

Miss two or three weeks and you then have to go back through the pain of re-hardening your fingertips, strengthening your muscles and stretching your fingers, just like you did as a beginner. Everything you achieved when you were putting in the time is more or less wasted.

Missing Opportunities

The summer is almost over and I reckon because I took my eye off the guitar, I’ve missed out on a good few gigs and a lot of busking. With a little effort I could have easily maintained what was already in place. I wouldn’t have had to practice much, just enough to keep it together.

If a record producer came up to me now and said, ‘Play us a few songs and let’s see what you can do’, I’d probably blow it and put in a useless performance, simply because I haven’t put in the practice. Nobody is interested in the excuses and reasons why you sound bad.

I know it won’t take long to get my skills back, probably about two or three weeks, but by then it would be way too late to grab any chance thrown at me. Opportunities don’t hang around for long and you have to grab them while you can. That means you need to be able to play at your best at any time and have the skills to put on a good show whenever and wherever the chance arises.

This guy’s got it covered !

Street Musician 2

The moral of this story is the decline in my guitar and vocal skills could have easily been avoided if I had just put in an hour or two every day to keep up what I’ve been working towards for years.

I’ve taken many long term brakes from the guitar in my life and every time I stop playing I feel like something is missing. But when I achieve a standard I’m happy with, I seem to take it for granted and am all to easily distracted.

I’m all my years of playing, if I’d never stopped, I’d probably be touring the world by now and be pretty loaded. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about being a success, I could just enjoy all the cash I’d have earned.

You often hear of musicians ruining their jobs, family lives and everything in favour of their music as they put it in front of anything and everything else in their lives. I think that’s taking it too far and I never would as my family is the most important thing to me. But I’m going to make sure that in future, I put my playing in front of all the other less important things in life so I don’t keep throwing away all the hard work and practice I’ve done every time I try and achieve something new.

I think from now on, I’m going to make a promise to myself to never, ever let it slip again – whatever the reason.

We’ll see how it goes.

Posted 27.08.09

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2 comments to Whatever You Do – Don’t Stop Playing

  • Wow… Does your post ever ring true! I completely sympathize with you. I get into the same ruts and playing a little guitar is like taking vitamins and getting a little exercise each day. I ran into the same scenario with building my online e-commerce, same thing with creating an auto-responder, and on and on it goes! Now I’m into blogging and the whole social networking thing. Like you, I really have to be careful to balance my guitar, family, social networking, gigging. I totally agree. It’s tough!!

    Keep playing that guitar and hang in there. I just came across your blog and I love the work you are doing here. I know this is an older post, I hope you’re still playing each day if only for a few minutes.

    All the best, John Gilliat

    John Gilliat – http://www.johngilliat.com
    Ottmar with a Twist, Passionate & Fiery Rumba Flamenco Guitar.

  • Cheers John, great site you’ve got there. Love your ‘Nachos’ video.

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