I've earned my living from playing music on stages large and small. Sometimes for festival audiences of thousands, sometimes to the sound of one fan clapping in a small club. Along the way, I learned a few lessons that inspire and inform other life endeavors. Here are my top 10 lessons learned from the stage that apply to living "the good life."
I'm just back from a week-long gig as a guest instructor at Martin Taylor's Guitar Retreat in the Catskill Mountains of New York. In addition to the many memorable musical moments, the week was spent in great company, dining on exquisite meals, and taking in great weather and scenery.
Although I enjoyed sharing some of my musical knowledge and expertise, I also savored many benefits myself during the experience. What follows are a few highlights.
The Importance of "Getting It Away From It All"
"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind." - Seneca
There was NO cell signal at the Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, New York. I spent the entire week unplugged and away from my phone!
If you're like me, you love the work you do. You're enrolled and invested in it. You engage with it daily with discipline and determination. It's easy to become so thoroughly absorbed that it's difficult to see the forest for the trees. You may find yourself caught up in...
All American music springs from or is informed by the blues. The form is simple and employs fundamental changes easily mastered and memorized. It encourages self-expression and cultivating a player's unique voice while dealing with profound issues.
The blues is simple, but it ain't easy! The blues form, changes, and rhythm give aspiring guitarists instant access to 100s of songs in the blues, country, rock and jazz traditions and all styles that spring from them. Diving deeper into blues changes, melodic articulations and improvisation provides a lifetime of learning material that improves a guitarist's playing in any genre and more important, encourages and cultivates players to find their unique and authentic style.
Are You an Advancing Guitarist?
A true musician (or artist of any type), must be a lifelong student. Whatever level of mastery we think we’ve achieved, there’s always more to learn (not to mention lessons worth revisiting). Learning moments come from mentors, bandmates, fellow travelers, critics, rivals, fans and hecklers. Are we open to them? Can we put your ego aside to listen, learn and improve? We better! As Ryan Holiday points out in Ego Is the Enemy, “If we’re not still learning, we’re already dying.”
The more accomplished we become at our craft, the more likely we are to allow ourselves to feel accomplished. We avoid challenges to or reconsideration of what we know, or think we know. We are quite happy to sit in our comfort zone where we never feel inept or stupid and where we are never called out or upon.
I frequently catch myself enjoying this false sense of achievement. Happily ensconced in the warmth of familiarity, complacency and...
Music is a language and language is used to connect and communicate, to express and convey and to tell and be told stories. Language is a powerful tool. It is can be both constructive and dangerous. Through language we can elevate or degrade, soothe or make suffer, sanctify or defile, gather or divide, testify or discredit. How do you use language? Remember music is a language.
Remember William Strunk Jr.’s guide The Elements of Style? For my generation (and my parents’ and grandparents’ as well), it was the Bible for how to use language correctly and well. It instructed us to omit needless and fancy words, to not overwrite or overstate and to avoid affecting a breezy manner. It also directed us to place ourselves in the background and prefer the standard to the offbeat.
What do Rules of Usage, Principles of Composition and An Approach to Style have to do with music?...
The Power of Acknowledgement
It’s so simple, really, isn’t it? Someone holds the door for you and you say “Thanks.” Someone posts a milestone event or achievement on social media and you "Like" it. You call your folks on a special day. You do this daily, right?
I try to. But with a new intentionality and level of depth. Not just saying “thank you” or "Liking" or calling, but connecting and communicating appreciation for a specific gift, lesson or benefit that someone provided to myself or another. Connection, acknowledgement, gratitude. If you want to feel it, you must do it.
The Power of Silence
Ever listened to Miles Davis’ album Kind of Blue? If not, do so, now (you’ll thank me later).
Kind of Blue is the best selling jazz record (ask your parents), of all time. It's generally considered the greatest recorded achievement of the iconic artist’s career and...
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