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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
[this is an excerpt from a recent blog post]

Playing All the Time

I just had a great phone conversation with my old high school friend and saxophone mentor. We reminisced about how much playing we did back then: practicing early before school, listening–critically–to music during the 30 minute commute to school, scribbling out licks during history class to test out when we got to jazz band in fourth period, skipping lunch to shed (practice) in the piano room, jamming after school, more listening in the car ride home, practicing for hours at night only to repeat the whole process the next day.

And the weekends?

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Yes! My teacher/mentor says you really need to get obsessed with the music and the more I play the more I realise how true it is.
 

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Like so many other things these days, if you're able to support yourself doing something else, you're not giving 100%.
 

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Bob's observation can be thought of as either motivational in a positive way....or a warning of sorts to those who hope to excell without the investment that goes into the life of a working pro.


Run into folks all the time who are going to be jazz musicians. Not play jazz, but be "jazz musicians", period. But they are seemingly unaware of the investment that goes into such a path. The two hours a day they spend developing a couple of key technical skills they think will set them apart seems to be the extent of their efforts.


It's important in all of this to understand your own nature as well as the nature of the business and the art form.


Most humans are nine-to-fivers in terms of their energy levels and their desire to have plenty of relaxation, family/social time and comfort in their daily lives. This may not make most people likely candidates for a music career built around playing jazz, regardless of any natural ability or ego/determination.





:glasses7:
 

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Most humans are nine-to-fivers in terms of their energy levels and their desire to have plenty of relaxation, family/social time and comfort in their daily lives. This may not make most people likely candidates for a music career built around playing jazz, regardless of any natural ability or ego/determination.
So true, and it doesn't make you a lesser person, but it will probably mean that you will have settle with being a lesser musician. To be a musician at the highest level (or anything else for that matter), takes a singular focus and dedication that is as rare as the intrinsic talent it takes.
 

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That's why it's good to catch the bug when you are young. A lot less pressure and responsibility in your life. All you care about is playing your sax and perhaps getting a girlfriend......

I will say the transition from this obsessive type mindset is rough. I remember having the hardest time giving time to my girlfriend, hanging out with friends who weren't musicians, giving time to my wife later, spending quality time and being in the moment with my kids, etc.........I was always feeling guilty and stressed out because I thought I should be practicing. It wasn't until after I got sick a number of times and could have died that I really realized what was important to me. I loved the sax and playing but I wasn't willing to sacrifice everything for it anymore. That was the point where it became easier to strike a balance for me.
 

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Most people I've known with that kind of singular focus are so unbalanced in their life as to be uninteresting. Also they have neglected things that later in life will be very important to them. Considering how many make it to the top even with the obsession, why recommend that to anyone young? Recommend instead a balanced life and all good things will come, even playing music.
 

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To me the thing that stood out to me was that he spent his time playing with a friend. It almost sounds like the amount of playing was a byproduct of the fun being had. I did a stretch where I tried to practice a lot, but the long hours of solitude killed me. If I had had a friend who was interested tho, I would have jammed 8 hours a day.
 

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"Most people I've known with that kind of singular focus are so unbalanced in their life as to be uninteresting. Also they have neglected things that later in life will be very important to them. Considering how many make it to the top even with the obsession, why recommend that to anyone young? Recommend instead a balanced life and all good things will come, even playing music."

This may be true for those who seek balance in their life, but not so much for those who aspire to do something special. Defining success by making it to the top is also very limited way of thinking. While people following their heart may be not be interesting to you, I would suggest that their lives are of great interest to them. I was once told by one of the more brilliant fine art photographers of the 20th century: "Talent does what if can, genius does what it must" (she did not claim it was original by her)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
To me the thing that stood out was that he spent his time playing with a friend. It almost sounds like the amount of playing was a byproduct of the fun being had. I did a stretch where I tried to practice a lot, but the long hours of solitude killed me. If I had had a friend who was interested tho, I would have jammed 8 hours a day.
Great point, Butters. (Side note: I feel like I'm talking to the South Park character.)

This is very true and I was not able to find the same sort of relationship (with another sax player) once I got to Berklee. That 3 year period of intensive learning within a group of passionate, dedicated musicians was where I experienced my most explosive growth.

I hate practicing, at least until I'm about 20 minutes in. The hard part is starting (much like going to the gym). But it was always easier to practice on my own when I was eager to show my stuff to my friends the next time we jammed together.

Like Steve said, I too have always felt a sense of "I should be practicing" in the background. It's a never-ending voice in my head. But one learns to find balance or one goes insane. Also, I DO NOT think it's healthy to be that guy spending 8 hours a day in a practice room. Most of the time that yields a robot who's proud of himself but does not know how to make music with others.

It's more fun with a friend.

My guess is that if I had grown up in a rural farm town where everyone was into rodeos and drag racing I would not have become a saxophonist. At least not a good one.
 

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