I would like to think of myself as something of a musician. I have actually been up on stage at a few venues (including The Hard Rock Café) and performed in various bands and even got paid for doing it. I guess that minimally qualifies me as a professional musician.
Every now and then however I have had the pleasure of associating with “real” musicians. These are the people who have “the” talent. They can play. I understand music theory and application. I enjoy practicing, learning new works and with time can master most techniques, but I recognize that in some instances I really don’t have “the” talent that will elevate me to the exalted levels of a “real” musician.
I have also learned that I don’t care.
You need to enjoy making music. It is something I want to do. I have found that I would rather be the weakest player in a very good jazz combo than the best player in a garage rock band. I have been both. Being the weaker player in the better group doesn’t embarrass me. It motivates me. I find I work harder, to get better, to not let down my band-mates, and that the final product that we produce is always better.
You also learn that being a musician requires a certain amount of interpersonal skills. I have been in a few bands that were pretty good, but could not survive more than a gig (performance – I have to use band “speak” lest people think I am really not a musician) or two simply because they could not get along. The band needs to understand the personal arrangement in much the same way as they have to understand the musical arrangement. Not everyone can be “the” leader, and not everyone can solo at the same time.
It is said that the band “Cream” (Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce) were three virtuosos soloing all the time. They were great, and in some cases spectacular, but they couldn’t hold it together either, and quickly broke up. They have reunited some forty years later for a few concerts, but think of all the spectacular music that didn’t get made.
I found that bands I was in, where the members brought down their personal desires to solo and lead made better music. The final product (at least for me, and I think them too) was ultimately much better, and much better received by the audience. There is a time and a place to step forward, but not everybody can do it at once.
You want to be in with musicians that smiled. Making music is fun. You are getting to do something that not everybody gets to do. It should be a pleasure. It is something to enjoy. If you are not having fun, if you can’t find the enjoyment, even in the practice and the mundane aspects of making music, than you shouldn’t be doing it.
I do have fun. I hope my kids see that I do and that they do too, some day. I was well out of college before I learned to enjoy it, but I did.
I play the bass. As I said I would like to call myself a bass player, but that might insult some of the bass players out there who can really, really play. I know my role. The bass is a transition instrument which helps connect the melody (guitars / keyboards – chords) to the rhythm (Drums – beat). I try to be the best bass player I can within the group, whether I am playing a simple repetitive riff, or improvising a walk through changing keys and chords. I enjoy them both.
There is a musician joke that holds very true for me. Who is the guy standing around with all the musicians?…..The Bass player.
I also practice the bass. I try to learn new songs, new styles, and new techniques. The Jazz group I am currently in is playing several old standards, but in varying new and different styles. Old standards that were written to be played as a “swing” sound new and are interesting to play as a “Tango” or “Bossanova”. It seems that with music you can continue to take the old and make it new again. It helps keep you, the music and the band refreshed.
I would like to thank the other members of the band I am in. Gene (keyboards), Jay (Guitar), and Billy (Drums) – Thanks. I am having a ball. I hope you guys will continue to let me play in the band.
I guess a lot of the same ideas associated with making music would also apply to business, wouldn’t they.