Sometimes the best lessons that we learn are the simplest! “Just Play” was the first and probably most important real-world application that I ever received regarding the instrument. This is the first of an ongoing series of lessons on playing the steelpan, utilizing not exclusively exercises, but many other concepts on ultimately making you a better MUSICIAN!
Someone in the drumming community that I look up to is Steve Smith. I had the opportunity to meet Steve a few years back with my good friend Johnny Rabb. Steve was showing Johnny some Indian rhythms that he wanted him to play. I remember being mesmerized by Steve’s impeccable technique – some of the best technique that I’ve ever seen. In addition, he was talking about how much practicing he had recently been doing. Now here I was, thinking to myself; “wow – take some notes here!” Not take notes necessarily on what he was playing (which was pretty darn cool); rather take notes on the most valuable stuff that Steve is actually NOT saying. He’s living it – he’s inspiring me by his work ethic and his constant desire to be better and learn more. Here’s a guy that had major success as a recording and touring artist with ‘Journey.’ Since then he’s played with and recorded with a “who’s-who” list of artists and musicians that we’d all be chomping at the bit to play with. So why not put it into retirement mode, Steve? Why keep working? Why continue to improve?
The real question is: Why not?!?
Now for the younger readers, I’ll give a warning. I know you don’t think that it’s going to happen, but inevitably, life is going to “get in the way.” Now sometimes that’s a good thing. At the end of the day, there’s a whole lot of stuff that’s more important than drumming. However, when you’re doing it as a career, it has to be a priority. Yet, things will make it harder to find that elusive practice time. Your pursuit of “things” will make it harder to find practice time. You must be disciplined. It’s not about being a machine and not enjoying life, rather you need to find a way to continue to enjoy music! And continue to enjoy the process in learning more about it!
Knowledge is power. Be a sponge not only when you’re a kid but when you’re 90 years old. Strive to be the best but be humble enough to realize that it’s unattainable. Read, watch, listen, teach and be taught.
Even when you think that you don’t have time, there are ways to discover new music, new techniques, or new ideas. With music so available to us these days, it’s easy to jump on Spotify and check out all sorts of music. Want to get inspired by some great performances? Youtube; enough said. How about this: instead of that 30 minute sitcom that you’ve seen 100 times, how about a 30 minute practice session on the practice pad?
I know, I know – sometimes easier said than done. Believe me, I’m really writing this blog as a personal note to myself – I’m just going to publish it so you can read along too. One thing that keeps me going and my mind engaged is creating. Writing these blogs helps me. Writing my music really helps me and opens up a whole new world. It makes me think about who I am as a musician and inevitably molds my voice.
What are you doing to be/stay inspired?