There's an old quote by Benjamin Franklin that says 'by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail'. I love it, and although 'ol Ben' existed more than two centuries before my time, I think that we probably would've been great friends, unless I too had gotten wiped out by smallpox or some other deadly plague due to the lack of medical advances back then.
The above quote can obviously, easily be applied to most aspects of one's life, but for the purpose of this blog, I'm going to attempt to make it particularly true for musicians, whether they're hoping to be viewed as sidemen in other people's projects or as musical artists themselves. (Talking of musical sidemen, if you're a fan of music documentaries and haven't seen it already, then go check this out - Hired Gun).
Practice is a subject that I'm extremely passionate about - because simply put, I enjoy the art of practice and the idea of trying to improve myself each day makes me feel good. The reality though, is that while some people do spend time on trying to make themselves (or their crafts) better, there are many musicians who unfortunately find the process boring and mundane.
This is perfectly ok (and I believe that the world needs to adopt an ‘each to their own type attitude’ at the end of the day), yet I can’t help but wonder how prepared these types of musicians might be if they were to suddenly have the opportunity to play in situations away from their usual musical comfort zones. Hypothetically (and purely for example purposes) lets' say that you are a hard rock drummer. Your band just finished a national tour and while the singer is sunbathing on a beach in Greece somewhere, you personally seem to be going through a bit of a quiet period. Money is running a little low and you're super close to taking that part time job before the next leg of the tour finally begins again. Suddenly you get a call to tour as the drummer for a new emerging reggae type act, would you be ready?
If the answer is 'yes, I’d smash it'. Then you, my friend, have done your homework. You've put in your ten thousand hours and should feel confident that you can take on some work outside of your comfort zone. Close this article and instead go read this book, it's life changing, The Richest Man In Babylon, it's genius. Also, if you're not familiar with the 1ok hour rule, check out Malcolm Gladwell's book, 'Outliers', pretty insightful stuff. If the answer is no however, then you should head back to that practice room because you have unfortunately, not yet done enough preparation this time and will end up 'winging' the gig and making yourself and the musicians who hired you all look extremely amateur should you actually accept the opportunity. This isn’t even the worst part though, the worst part is once the previously mentioned opportunity (gig, or tour, or whatever they were hoping you could do) is over, they will NEVER EVER call you again because you were simply not prepared for the situation. You'll probably beat yourself up mentally about it, feel terrible about yourself and more than likely go take that part time job you were dreading having to take anyway, because emotionally you might convince yourself that music simply isn't meant for you. What a cruel vicious web you have weaved for yourself, and to think - this may all have been avoided - had you simply put in a little preparation. Poor Benjy would be so disappointed. @MusiciansMentorPics