the jazz authority; random dubiously zappy rants about 'the musicians music'.: Why We Woodshed

Friday, May 20, 2005

Why We Woodshed


Can anyone tell me why we do this to ourselves?!? I've sat in my basement for hours upon hours with my bluenote records lifting solos of the greats and acquainting myself with every little nuance of their style. I've practiced the same riff for two hours straight day after day. I've done a lot of things in the name of great music that most people would say was either crazy or just a plain old waste of time. But I don't regret it of course. I continue to dig deeper into this world of music and am constantly satisfied yet never satisfied. The drive to better my skills is insatiable. Some of us can relate; for the others, I need to ask you... why are you doing this to yourselves?

We play because we enjoy it. If you're not enjoying making music, what the heck are you doing playing? I can only really speak for myself, and I know that I just plain love to play music. It doesn't matter if there's a crowd or not. Some cats really dig the performing, often crashing after a big show. Studies have shown that some people experience a vivid endorphin high from performing, and they also show that after this endorphin rush some of those people come crashing down into depression right after. Recognize this? I have a friend who lives to play shows and is in his glory on stage, but when the show ends, he always goes home mopey, and the next day he's always depressed.

When I was about 10 years old I had a crush on a girl in my class. I found out that she was joining band one day, so I raced home to ask my father if I could play trumpet in the band (I thought it was the coolest instrument – now I know it's a distant third, after the bass and of course the sax, he he). Fortunately for me he had a sax in the basement that he used to play, and I was set. I practiced that sax every chance I got, and after two years I was the best in my school. There was this other kid who always just fooled around in class – a real joker – and years later he ended up dating this girl I liked. The funny thing is that by then I had forgotten all about her and had become immersed in the world of music. I no longer played to be recognized – I played because I liked the challenge, I liked the creative control, and I liked the ability to make a lot of noise.

Today is no different – I'm still a noisy bum. And I still play for myself. I used to busk (perform on the street for money) and at times I enjoyed it, but mostly it really sucked. I had to play things like the Pink Panther theme over and over again, and sometimes all I'd get was a few cents. I got soured on music for a while. I was bitter about playing for tourists, but then I realized that music is what I make of it. If I go busking now I'll go for myself – not for the money. Sometimes I'll make a lot of dough, sometimes I won't, but I'll always enjoy it, and that's what counts.

Let me know if anyone out there can relate. If you have anything to say on this just click on the 'comments' link and post away.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, I read your article and, at first, I thought, "Wow, this guy's CRAZY! You HAVE to strive to be better!" But, in the end, I understood. To strive to be better in playing is no problem. In fact, its the best thing you can do. It makes you get better (no-brainer, right). The one thing that must NOT happen, though, is to have your strive to be better overcome the enjoyment you get from playing. What I do is sit down one day and think, "I'm going to dedicate this time to getting better." The next day, I'll play just for fun. Its VERY important to have a balance of the two. One time, find an etude (a song that uses tough finger combinations to better your playing) and play it. Get better at it. The next time you practice, find a jazz improv. book that gives you a section and backround to improv. with or just a fun jazz piece, and play it. Like I said, you have to have a balance of "practice" and "fun". And, yes, I did go through that predicament. It is very tough to deal with.