The pressure to conformity chases us every day. Conformity can overwhelm our own voice.
On the other hand learning the "language of a music" requires a long period of apprenticeship on both the instrument and within a style before one can craft a voice of one's own. In short conformity to the standard practices of your instrument and the restrictive boundaries and culture of a genre.
Finding your voice in Country Music assumes and requires that you can play Country Music. Otherwise you will just make an ass of yourself. For shameless examples attend any open mic night and watch what happens when art is hobbled by lack of skill.
Step one to finding a voice is learning your craft.
Step two getting out there and honing your craft.
Step three being comfortable being uncomfortable as you develop and grow.
Step four? Don't be boring.
Seeking a "voice" Part 3
Victor Wooten in Developing your musicianship video has some interesting thoughts. He echoes the idea from the previous Berklee video about intention. He even discusses some of the same artists.
He downplays skill in the beginning of discovering your voice. Hmmm, I'm not so sure about that. Sophisticated music needs sophisticated skills.
He quotes Chick Corea, a truly expert improvisor with a unique voice, that only 30% of his improvisations are truly improvised, the rest is vocabulary and things previously worked out or prepared. In short, he prepares much of the music ahead of time in the practice studio and then in the moment sees what happens.
Victor thinks musicians practice too much and don't play enough. Wise words, making music with others really brings it all home in real time.
Time to develop my own drum phrases and have them in reserve, I guess.
I’ve been drumming for 12 years and a professional musician for 45 years. I’ve been around. With the drums I can now play with confidence in the situations I find myself: Jazz, Rock, Country, Studio, New Music, and rudimental concert band work. Every week I share my knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm with my drum students. It is a blast!
Am I ready for a world tour? No. Have I reached my musical goals? No.
The quest to develop a musical voice.
A short aside. Many musicians desperately want to sound like someone else. They are anxiously chasing a sound. Someone else’s sound. But as my early mentor pianist Bill King would say, “haven’t we already made that record?” Life is too short to retell someone else’s story I say. But before you can work on this voice, a few things need to happen.
Deliberately developing one’s voice will be the focus of this blog over the fall and winter of 2021-2022.
Twenty three days and counting. How long can the chain continue? Good question.
Lessons from a Master teacher
Effective Practicing For Musicians By Benny Greb Book Review
It arrived, I've read it, I'm about to try it out for 90 days and see what happens to my drumming.
Benny outlines the rationale of organized practice is a humorous and unique way. The preamble until you get to his EPM systems chapters is good sense and common knowledge among professional musicians. But it gets interesting with his practice system.
Let's start at the beginning.
Organizing your practice space. He recommends imagining the setup of your perfect space, then assess your situation and arrange you space as close as you can to this ideal. I can now say my space looks different. I'm up and running now with 3 flicks of switches, boot my DAW, load the preset and Bingo, I'm ready to go. Books are in place, pencil and journal are ready. Up next a kitchen timer, I'm going to use an old iPhone for this purpose. Benny Greb has some true insights into learning.
1. Quickly name your favorite musicians of your instrument.
2. Now note what you admire about each of them.
3. Now consider your top 3 choices.
4. Now rate yourself 1 to 10 on your skill with the qualities you admire in their playing. Do not give yourself a 5.
5. Now when you practice, practice those to improve those qualities.
6. Buy his book.
Stayed tuned for the results of his 90-day practice regime.
Artist or Musician?
At the risk of an oversimplification: Artists create and lead, musicians execute and follow.
Art is about nourishing a unique vision, developing a creative imagination, the courage to persevere in the face of apathy, and craft. All the while keeping the Zeitgeist front and centre. And hustle, lots and lots of hustle.
Being a musician is about skill, teamwork, employability, gear, more skill, and the willingness to serve.
The training does share some similarities, but the outlook is completely different. Artists are often mavericks, employable musicians are always team players.
Learning to practice healthily
This week I had the pleasure of advising a student on how to prepare for post-secondary studies in music.
He asked me about practicing at the Olympic level, so to speak. I practiced, age 43 for 4 years and logged about 5000 hours. I completed my Grade 10 and ARCT, the highest levels of classical piano, at the time, offered by the Royal Conservatory of Music. I currently spend one to two hours a day on the drums. The big ambition of my aging years. So, I know something about practicing.
We start with warnings: Injury from over practice and neglecting physical fitness. If you are an aging professional musician, you’ve likely had some firsthand experience with pain or worse.
The real reason musicians are dropping out of music schools | CBC Music
Still Battling an Illness, Jarrett Ends His Silence - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Steps before practice:
Steps on the bench
Away from the bench
End of 1st lecture. To be continued next week.
It's starts with imagination. It's fueled by initiative. It perseveres through leadership, courage and singlemindedness.
Another fine place which discusses adults is here: Harvard's Project Zero.
My two cents?
Stay inspired, learn something new
When you are young study with the old. When you are old study with the young.
The young need to discover a path. The old have been down more than one. The young need encouragement, the kind that comes from being surrounded by experienced successful people.
The old need a new point of view, renewal. Let’s face it without renewal our stories get older and staler each year.
“I used to be great”
“I coulda' been a contender”
"I coulda' been a contender" Marlon Brando as "Terry Malloy"
David Story: Professional pianist, drummer, composer, and educator. Well into his 5th enthusiastic musical decade, David works with adults pursuing musical dreams in the autumn of life, while he maintains an active presence in the Toronto arts scene.