I am now in my third and final term at the Institute, and it is definitely the most challenging so far. The guys in my class and I are playing stuff we never thought we could have attempted six months ago – heck, even three months ago. I’m finding it really valuable to look back over the journey so far and to realise how every week is a challenge.
Having played ‘Master Blaster’ for the umpteenth time so that I won’t embarrass myself in performance class, I’m amazed at how I’ve grown. I thought I’d share this insight with you guys as it’s easy to get paralysed looking at how far you have to go on your musical journey, how we all wish we could play like Chuck Rainey, James Jamerson or Jaco Pastorius, without taking the time out for a good look at where we really are… Check these tips.
Honest evaluation is important: sometimes we can be harder (or in some cases more lenient!) on ourselves than we should be. It’s great to get an honest outside opinion. Ask bandmates that you trust or your tutor (if you have one) about what they see as your strengths and weaknesses, what they like about your playing and what would make it better. This can be a great encouragement and will help you to know what to work on.
Own what you’re good at. If you’re a mad fast player and love it, own that. Don’t neglect where you can improve, but celebrate your strengths and aim to get better.
Get out of your comfort zone! The great thing about the Higher Diploma at the Institute is that we cover a wide range of material, technique and genre. On the genre side, metal playing is a new thing for me. I probably won’t make a career from it (understatement of the century), but I’ve developed a huge appreciation for it and have improved my speed by practising it!
The same is true with techniques. I’ve never been great at slap (read: awful), but I have been forced to get better as one of our performances was the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Aeroplane’. What a great line in the verse! I would never have touched that song on my own given the choice, but I love playing it now. I have been inspired to play a couple of other slap-based songs that I love… Luther Vandross, baby!
I know this is something of an ethereal concept for this month’s column, but it’s actually one of the most important things I’ve learned – and I’ve found that it has started to improve my confidence in performance, which is always a great thing.
Remember: life’s better at the bottom