In a world where everybody and their dog seems to have a blog, I’d like to offer my contribution to the totality of publicly expressed thoughts and opinions. Running against the risk of feeling like I’m talking into the wind, this blog will only cover material that (I hope) will offer something useful to the reader, especially if the reader is a musician and/or creative human.
“The only shortcut to success is hard work.” – Harold Mabern
Inspiration is a complex topic when it comes to putting time into a creative pursuit. It is unrestricted motivation. Unfortunately, for many of us, it seems to arise unpredictably- never quite there when we need it, and leaves all too soon when we have it. Equally inconvenient is the realization that no amount of time spent waiting for inspiration is enough to allow us to become great at what we do. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, we look ourselves in the face and ask, “now what?”
We can take 1 of 2 roads.
Road 1: Accept that we aren’t feeling up to it, and wait to feel inspired.
Road 2: Put in the work.
I remember it like a splash of cold water to the face. It was the first time I got a taste of how much work needed to be done in my own pursuit. During a masterclass with Andy Milne’s Dapp Theory at McGill University in 2017, the group’s drummer, Kenny Grohowski (check him out), answered a question about practising complex music. He gave an intense, direct, no bullshit response about dealing with the task-at-hand thoroughly and to eradicate complacency when practising. He hit the nail on the head, and I am thankful for it.
I recall reflecting back on all of the time I felt I had misspent. When was the last time I was serious about practising? I have always believed in hard work, but (I’ll admit) had never felt a burning desire to really push myself ahead and finally take the responsibility of my improvement into my own hands. I felt blessed with a newfound sense of urgency, as though a switch in my brain had been flicked into the on-position.
It’s no secret that the opportunity to learn and grow today is endless. One of the best things about being on the internet is having the opportunity to learn something new, every time I open my computer. There is a lifetime of useful information available at our fingertips, for free, at all times.
Having the ability to learn from my musical heroes is an invaluable gift. Masterclasses, recordings, concert videos, interviews, blogs, are all available. This is an opportunity to learn from the best, at any time. If my name was Charlie, this would be my golden ticket to the Chocolate Factory. My name isn’t Charlie, but this is still a golden opportunity for all of us.
A phrase from the great Ron Carter has been burning through my mind since the first time I heard it. When asked to discuss the topic of practice in a masterclass, Ron Carter said, “Practice is about the discipline of getting it right.” The discipline of getting it right. It means dealing with the task-at-hand thoroughly. It means not being complacent in the practice room. It means taking the responsibility of your improvement into your own hands. Practice is about the discipline of getting it right.
These words and experiences have served as a renewable source of inspiration to me.
What inspires you?