What happens when you effortlessly learn a new piece of music? The song was well within your range to play; or did you learn the chords, the structure, maybe the lyrics, and leave it at that?
What an audience sees on stage is a feather on the ground by a bird, somewhere far away in its nest. Great musicians, in their nests, spend hours, days, and even months learning and rehearsing music. The tune becomes an obsession — what tempo should I play it at; am I really hitting the right rhythm? The questions, the obsessions over how to perform a song perfectly, never end. Which is one of the top indicators distinguishing that of an alright musician and a master. So what really happens when you learn a new song, effortlessly? Did you pick up the feather and call it a day, or did you spend time searching for the bird the feather fell from? Even the simplest of songs can be deceptively tricky, if you scrutinize the music.
Have your hobbies improved your musical ability? If so, in what ways? And if not, I highly recommend finding the correlations, however small, between your hobbies and craft. Music is a passion that drives many people down a road towards satisfaction, and finding hobbies to support your journey will keep you healthy, relaxed and better equipped.
Music is a powerful sentience. It has the power to persuade; it has the power to subvert. My expertise in music comes from a background of playing (drumming in many contexts) and sinking hours of listening to the greatest groups around the world. Over the years my ears have honed in on some of the world's most provocative styles of music: I chase music that illuminates and stimulates. Music that aims to push forward. Music must stand up to the test: “Can I listen to the full album without getting bored?”
When it comes to music, the most frequent question I hear is this: "Does this music make me feel?" Every style; every era of music; every instrument; every musician brings about an emotional response, touches listeners with impact and intent.
Take a deep breath. Now take two more. Slowly. Ok. Feel yourself slipping into your chair. You are now breathing manually, rhythmically. For the next five minutes let the weight off your shoulders, your neck. Feel your toes and your fingers relax. Breathe deep into your diaphragm. Listen.
Most days I have one hour to practice. My favorite days, twice as long. This includes a warm-up before I take the throne (usually jump rope and active stretching), warm-up exercises—both creative and non-creative—learning something new like systems or fills, then rewarding myself with playing a song or two. If you're like me, it is difficult to focus on a task like this for so long, even if its something you enjoy. You've had this happen before: You're practicing triplets on the feet while grooving sixteenths with your hands, and all of a sudden your favorite drummer pops into your head. You think "Ah, I saw this killer video one time of Dennis Chambers drinking a bottle of water while shredding pretty much this exact groove." But you, you left your water bottle on the kitchen counter, so, you kill the groove, and go to the kitchen. Its still a mess from breakfast. You begin cleaning. Degreasing the stove. Scrubbing dishes, halfway through the egg-caked skillet, you remember you were actually in the middle of drum practice. Take a deep breath, and listen.
For a year now, I meditate into my drum practices. Everyday, before rudiments, prior to any exercise, I sit down behind the kit, close my eyes, and breathe. It focuses me and relaxes me. Meditation helps ease me into the musician that I am. Five minutes of silence. Breath.
A five minute meditation before practicing—and this goes for any discipline, not strictly drumming—improves my practice immensely. It boosts confidence immediatly, and its as simple to add to any musician's routine as a pickup measure before a song properly begins. And it starts with the simple act of taking a deep breath.