Sunday, August 02, 2009

Lessons In the Life of a Musician

Well, this has been an interesting evening. While in the process of cleaning up some files on my primary hard drive this evening I ran across a bunch of old recordings from the past 5 years or so. It's interesting for me to listen to my own growth and development as a musician. Technically, I must say I've come a long ways, on bass and guitar, as well as vocally. I'm happy about that.

I can't say I'm happy about every aspect though. In the past 5 years I've had some definite pauses in creativity. Worse yet, I think what I've written in more recent history is perhaps not as unique as some older creations. I think maybe it's because I've fallen into the rut of doing what is expected of me. In the past I didn't care if my music didn't fit someone else idea of what it should sound like. Perhaps I didn't have the consistent skill capacity to always cop the lick or feel of what was required, so I invented a new way of filling the spot, often with a unique creative edge.

So I've demonstrated a couple of interesting phenomenon here. Necessity was the mother of invention. I either figured out how to make my body manipulate my instrument of choice in such a way to work for the song, often with unique nuances due to my odd technique, or I replaced a given part entirely with one that I wrote. Despite the occasional struggle or learning curve to get there, creativity was the result.

So here's where I find myself today. I've made some changes in my technique on bass, though certainly not entirely conventional. I've developed a sound and style of playing that is my own. Looking back though, I hear a HUGE evolution in my sound. Through various rock bands I hear a heaviness and drive that I've carried until this day, through most of the past 10 years. The more jazz and experimental groups have fostered a sense of harmonic adventure. I stepped out on a limb to try things. A band that never made it beyond my basement in a year's time grew my drive to put out raw, urgent pieces. Then my time with 1000 Days saw a culmination of creativity which employed that rawness and urgency, combined with a new-found freedom for expression through nuance. The urgency often came from the nuance. At that time I ceased using outboard effects. I used only EQ, tube overdrive, and speaker distortion, in their basic forms.

This all sounds good right? So why is there a negative along with the positive. Well, I've spent a lot of time playing in cover type bands in the past couple of years. It has been great for my ability to copy what another has done. I've become a decent chameleon. It's fun to step into a character for one song, then become someone else for the next. The problem is I seem to have neglected the skill set that lets me blow away the boundaries of what role I'm supposed to serve. I suppose I just find myself questioning whether I'm growing as an artist. OK, so I suppose I am. I can play pretty much anything now, but just because I can doesn't mean that I do. I've developed further restraint. I'd like to think I play more tastefully than I did 5 years ago. On top of that I'm a better guitarist and singer than I've probably ever been.

Where does all this leave me? It leaves me with a few lessons learned.
  1. Because you can does not mean you should.
  2. There is a time for weirdo, uber-creativity.
  3. Cover bands often are not the above mentioned time.
  4. Sometimes they are...
  5. Chops are no substitute for creativity.
  6. Creativity is no excuse for lack of chops when you need them.
  7. Being willing to try some new musical adventure is always a good thing.
Hm. Well, I hope you've enjoyed this post. Thoughts? Send me a message. Perhaps we can play something together. You might be surprised what we inspire each other to do.

Alright, it's late for me for a non-gigging night. Time for bed. My hope and prayer is that if you are reading this, you learn that God is truly the only one that creates. We artists merely rearrange the pieces He has made. Let us take joy in working alongside the Creator, and in turn honor Him with our work. Blessings to you.

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