I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by music. I’ve been playing and writing music for the majority of my years. I’ve toured with a band, played on my own, made connections with local musicians and through it all there is one underlying idea that has permeated my career: practice.
What do you picture when you picture some of the guitar greats? Do you picture them signing autographs for adoring fans? Drinking a beer on a tour bus as they drive through some part of the country you’ve never even heard of? Standing on stage letting their fingers fly through a great solo? As kids, we think about the “star” part of the life. We think about being a rock & roll “star.” Very few people think about the hours upon hours that you spend mastering the tiniest of pieces. Most people don’t think about the idea that learning a new piece, even for someone with a lot of experience, still takes time.
I love to practice. Whether I’m practicing a particular technique or a new song or working out the details of a cover, I love to practice. You may have seen Allen Iverson talk about “practice” before and thought, “yeah, he’s right. Practice isn’t such a big deal.” I disagree…for a few reasons.
When people buy my album, they’re expecting that I’ve worked hard to create that experience for them. And I have. Practicing is about making sure that I couldn’t have made anything better. Most artists will assure you that they could have done better, and so will I, but not for lack of trying. I believe that I owe the people who listen to my music the best that I could possibly offer them.
There’s a great piece of writing called Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin. It’s the story of a jazz musician and his struggles in life. The story is not very long and most of it is a little slow, but contained within it is two pages written about Sonny’s brother watching him perform for one of the last times. It’s not only beautifully written but it’s an incredible insight into that Zen moment that a musician can sometimes find. It’s not an easy moment to maintain or repeat. Practice makes the possibility of that moment greater.
Finally, I love music more than I love most things, bordering on all things. Music has defined my life in so many ways and I feel like I owe music a lot and practice is how I pay some of that back. If you don’t love what you do, I would recommend that you find something else to do. Too many people spend too much of their time doing too many things that they don’t want to. I practice because I love what I do.
How do get the most out of what you do? Does practice make perfect? Do you fly by the seat of your pants? I’ve love to hear how you fulfill your passion. Maybe I’ll find a new way of doing things.