Do You Want to Play?

You might say you wish you were good at playing an instrument. You might believe that musical talent, and perhaps all talents (sciences, languages, drama, etc) are something you are born with. Over the years I’ve come to think this belief is completely wrong.

There are studies (which I alluded to in the Bruce Lee post) that demonstrate that people gain expertise through an investment of time and energy – through practice. Anyone can play! Waiting for a divine gift of talent will probably only be an exercise in frustration… If you don’t put in your own energy, the most likely outcome will be nothing!

To play for pleasure, which most musicians do, you need a smaller time investment than you would need to become an expert. Pros play for 4 – 8 hours a day! As a hobbyist, half an hour to an hour a few days a week would probably be perfect.

So ask yourself, “do I really want to play?” If the answer is yes, the next question is “what?” What kind of music do you like? What instrumental sound in the mix seems to always catch your ear?

The next step is to get yourself an instrument! I suggest an inexpensive one – just in case. It’s been argued that when a serious investment is made then you will be more motivated to practice… I’ve seen that this doesn’t always work.

Now, do a little research. Look for a little info about your instrument, who the best players are, maybe where there is a good teacher nearby, and by all means, make noise! Experiment with your instrument, see what kinds of sounds you can make. At first, it’s most common that everything you do will probably sound terrible!!!

The penultimate step is to find time in your busy schedule to play. This is usually the most difficult. Especially since we’ve been programmed to think it’s frivolous and selfish to play. The studies show that the benefits of playing an instrument go beyond just making music. It has positive effects on you intellectually, socially, and emotionally. It just happens to also be fun! Let yourself have fun.

Which brings us to the last step – enjoy.

Bruce Lee was the Jimi Hendrix of Kicking Ass – Why People Become Exceptional

There are people in this world who are exceptional. People who seem to have god given talent. Bruce Lee, in my opinion, is in the same category as Jimi Hendrix. His ability was mindblowing! They both had that kind of talent.

How does someone reach this level of skill? Is it something you’re born with?

Studies show that expertise comes from a lot of practice. Not just sitting and playing, but conscious, focussed practice! I’ve been there, sitting with my guitar, and I zone out… When I come back to consciousness, I know I’ve been playing but I wasn’t there for it… That kind of practice doesn’t count! According to the studies, you need to put in at the very least, 3 hours a day for 10 years… Seems like a lot, but in interviews, virtuosos tell that they have done this very thing – usually more.

People like Bruce Lee and Jimi Hendrix, as well as a host of others like Michael Jordan, Andres Segovia, John Coltrane, Vaslov Nijinsky (and hundreds of others I could name right now) go beyond our understanding of expertise. Theoretically, anyone who puts in focussed and deliberate practice or study, can become an expert. To achieve the levels that masters like Bruce Lee and Jimi Hendrix have, you need to live your passion. For these people I argue that their art was not just something they did, but something inside the depth of their souls. It wasn’t just there while they were practicing or performing, it was there in everything they ever did. It wasn’t something they chose, but something that chose them.