- Jeremy Shaskus new article series Jeremy Shaskus – How To Survive Being A Musician In The New Millennium
- Part 1: Studying/Learning your craft (Acquiring Basic Technique, A Means to Imaginative Infinity)
- Part 2: GETTING A GIG (BEING A LEADER VS. A SIDE MAN)
By Jeremy Shaskus
“You’ve got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.” – Charles “Yardbird” Parker, Jr.
Through out my growing career I have been put into many different situations. My favorites were the last minute calls to fill in for a friend where I did not know the music at all. More than half the time they were unrecorded original compositions. The only way I survived was that I had “chops”. To most people this feat would be genius however the reality is one of experience and study. I constantly tell my students “It’s never going to be perfect the first time, or at all…maybe.” But by having a good philosophical understanding of perfection and originality you’ll avoid most frustrations. After all, when has the sun allowed for anything new?
NEVER!!! and that’s ok. The focus should not be on glory. It’s none of your business how other people react to your performance. Your focus is to create music that resonates with you OR how to be efficient support (Leader vs Sideman)
“How do you do that?” – Students
You practice… over… and over… and over… and over…
“But what do I need to practice?” – Good Students
The path of creating perfection. But seriously, it’s study. You commit music theory (scales, chords etc.) to memory and apply it to your instrument (technique) to speed up the learning of performance repertoire and compositions.
“How long should they practice and everyday?” – Parents of Students
I hate that question… You practice however long you need to complete your intention…well… strike that. It depends on where you are in your development as a musician and yes, ideally every day.
If your focus is making “good” sounds on your instrument and patterns of notes then you’re at:
Level 1 Muscle Memory (There’s no escape): If you have only been playing for a short while then I suggest going until you feel fatigue, typically 10-15 minutes at a time.
If you can play your scales, arpeggios, understand basic harmony and developed a good sense of rhythm but want to specify CONGRATS. You’ve reached:
Level 2 Building a Foundation: This is the point when you’ve developed good mechanical habits and want to focus. The minimum amount results to around 3-4 hours/day. Most people at this level are in a conservatory or collegiate music programs.
If you’re picking up some gigs, you’re running your own band and/or you’ve learned every ______ solo there is imaginable. What’s next?
Level 3 Personalize: You’ve arrived. It’s time to deviate from what you know to what you don’t or edit your technique depending on your gigs. Your practice is based on asking yourself “What’s my next gig and can I nail it?” or “What does it sound like if.…”
“Assimilate, Imitate, Innovate” – Phil Woods
Right and wrong only works for novices; as ever growing musicians and humans we try to transcend the binary way of thinking. HOWEVER! How can we propel forward if we don’t know what’s behind us? Last time I checked the wheel’s already been invented and you can’t buy the patent…can you?
Stay tuned for Pt. 2: Getting a Gig (Being a Leader vs. Side Man)
*Coming in January*
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