The improvement of musicians

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Little poll type thread here, I was wondering, in all your observations, what percentage of musicians you see (includes everyone) who improve a little on a regular basis, and how

many seem to be stuck where they are for life?

In my travels, there are some people who never budge from where they are, and some who move ahead, it seems more of the former than the latter.
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
Hi there "little poll",

I'd like to think most muso's improve a little each time they play, even if it's just getting tighter with their band mates. I know what you mean though. I guess many muso's reach a level of technical comfort that enables them to do whatever they want to do. Moving forward from that position seems pointless if you're completely satisfied with the tools you have.

I don't see many muso's my age improving dramatically in terms of pure technical ability but I sure see plenty of these guys progressing in terms of feel, dynamic, etc. You know, all the wholesome aspects of growing into a rounded player.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
The bass player in one of my bands is forever stuck it seems. It's frustrating. I've been with him for 6 years now and he still makes the same mistakes, still can't play reliable shuffle time on his own...the list goes on...It's not THAT bad, but it could be SO much better
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
The bass player in one of my bands is forever stuck it seems. It's frustrating. I've been with him for 6 years now and he still makes the same mistakes, still can't play reliable shuffle time on his own...the list goes on...It's not THAT bad, but it could be SO much better
Alas, I know the beast well. He's lost the hunger Larry. He's along for the ride, but that's cool, you may just have to lower your expectations of him. You're at the same table as him Larry. You're hungry, he's not. It's up to you whether you continue eating small portions or go feast with others who are as ravenous as you!
 

yesdog

Silver Member
Some people HAVE IT and some people don't. One of guitar players in the band I play in practices 3 to 4 hours a day and takes lessons from one of Chicagos best teachers ( I don't know his name) I have been in this band for a year and he has not gotten any better. He has no sense of time and relies on memorizing the song. So if you play something thats out side of the box ( so to speak ) it will throw him off. He is a decent rythm player and good at the harmonica . I almost feel bad for him but admire his determination. He just never improves. But most importantly he still has a good time and never gets discouraged. I find that pretty cool. Then theres the musicians out there that are great players, but say they suck I am gonna quit blah blah blah just so they can get there ego stroked. I hate that.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I don't feel like I've improved much over the years (but it could just be unnoticed incrementalism). It's not like I devote any time working on a smoother paradiddle or flat-out speed or anything.

I still really enjoy playing and do so a lot. Usually I can't wait for band practice to be over so I can just sit and bang on my drums without any interference, or I'll put on my mp3 player and play along to whatever seems interesting. Sometimes after a show and we're loading back in to our space, I like to set up my drums so I don't have to compete with everyone else for limited floor space next rehearsal. This invariably leads to a drum solo that can go until the wee hours after eveyone's gone.

I gotta think that this helps me improve somehow - how could it not? But I'm never trying to get a read on it. I could just be maintaining, or getting slightly better, I just don't know.

I do know that most of the people I play with never play (or practice) outside of our regularly scheduled rehearsals. I just can't imagine only playing with a band - I've got to have quality one-on-one time with the kit. I just don't think of it as "practice" and my goal isn't necessarily to improve.
 
I know that personally I've been on both sides. For some years I was band-less, didn't do lessons and wasn't really improving. Drumming was just a pastime because I had no real requirement for it. Ever since joining Ludavico, my playing had started to improve a little, but it wasn't until I took the time and effort to:

  • Get lessons from Grant Collins to fix technique
  • Consciously start using rimshots
  • Switch to heel up
  • Play strong and make a performance out of my playing

That I really started to improve. My technicality has improved, yes, but personally I can say that I'm a much stronger and more solid stage performer than I was when I joined the band and I'm enjoying playing live immensely these days as we're getting tighter and tighter the further we go.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Little poll type thread here, I was wondering, in all your observations, what percentage of musicians you see (includes everyone) who improve a little on a regular basis, and how many seem to be stuck where they are for life?

In my travels, there are some people who never budge from where they are, and some who move ahead, it seems more of the former than the latter.
It depends what you mean by improve - interpretation, dynamics, speed, coordination, groove, versatility?

It's not easy to judge over short timeframes because, as a leading saxophonist once told me, improvement tends to be a plateau-by-plateau process. You hit roadblocks and it can take time to make breakthroughs.

I've seen people retain mindsets that preclude improvement, where they refuse to simplify and learn to at least do something spot on. Instead they increase the range of things they can play sloppily. That's a kind of improvement if they just want to have fun and avoid listening to playbacks of themselves with big ears (a hazardous pasttime). Many musicians avoid their musical demons at least to some extent because if we listen too critically to ourselves we can never enjoy what we play.

Based on interviews I've read, it seems that many top players exist in this state of constant self-criticism ... like anorexics in front of the mirror, they cannot bear to hear their playbacks and are never even close to satisfied.
 

Steamer

Platinum Member
Always moving forward and challenging myself {and the other players} to reach higher ground. Never live in the past and rest on previous acomplishments..........ears are always open to hear and try other things to add to the mix.

The next gig or project is always a opportunity to take it to the next level through focus and commitment and being willing take risk and be flexable to continue to learn and grow.

Never ends.........
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Yes, the constant niggle, the tension between our natural urge to grow and our natural urge for comfort. But when stasis itself is a form of discomfort for a musician then the push to grow is endless - to always express more truly. Guess that dynamic is behind many accomplished artists.

It depends on how strong the urge to express is and how much comfort we're willing to forgo. I was just listening to the title track of Chich Corea's first Return to Forever album and salivating over Airto's drumming. I played along on the pads in my primitive way for a while and then just had to stop and listen.

I'd love to play like that but will never, ever be able to - not even close. Theoretically I could if I got lessons, spent many hours rebuilding my stroke, then shedding rudiments at many tempos, doing the coordination and dynamics exercises, hiring a studio regularly to practice controlling sound production of drums and cymbals, listening to and studying jazz and Latin music for hours on end, picking up every available jazz jam and gig etc.

But that would interfere with my work, social life and relaxation time. So I put it in the box called "Stuff to listen to" and plod along playing my simple stuff, which I still enjoy. I admire people whose talent and Zenlike absorption leads them to being able to express themselves fluently on an instrument but I'm not one of them. I'm part of the audience. Hopefully at least one of the audience who "gets it".

I can express myself pretty well with words so it's not painful that I can't express fluently on an instrument. I've known people who can only really express themselves on their instrument ... when they play they suddenly light up and become so much more than you'd imagine from talking with them. They were great players too - their talent coming more from need than desire. The real deal.

Me? I'll never be great so I try to improve in my little ways and have fun with it, along with the occasional mild frustration, like a tennis player who plays at local comp level. The local tennis player will sometimes fluke the odd unplayable shot or near-impossible retrieval, and sometimes have hot runs of form when they surprise themselves. But they'll also hit plenty of balls in the net along the way.

It all depends on how much you want (or need) it and are prepared to sacrifice for it. The guy Larry referred to in the OP no longer has the drive to grow in that area of his life and is satisfied with where he's at. So it goes.

Sorry about another long post but you all know I'm a mouth. Blame MFB, I've been reading one of his essays and it got my brain working :)
 
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caddywumpus

Platinum Member
I know somebody who practices for an average of 6 hours a day. I've played with him for 3 years now, and he hasn't gotten better in those 3 years. :O

It mostly matters what you practice and how much you push yourself. If you don't push yourself in SOME area, you're going to play the same stuff you already know over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.......

You can practice to learn new stuff, or you can practice to re-hash the old stuff. The more you learn new stuff, the wider your workable vocabulary becomes, and the easier it becomes to simply play ANYTHING that pops into your head. The more you practice the old stuff, the more comfortable you get with it. The problem I see with a lot of drummers is that they work on the new stuff just long enough to "get it", then they drop it and don't practice it like old stuff, so they never get comfortable with it. When they have to pull it out, their groove tangles up in a knot because it's not familiar and easy to them.

Lots of angles to take on this. I'll leave some for the rest of you...
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Many musicians avoid their musical demons at least to some extent because if we listen too critically to ourselves we can never enjoy what we play.

Based on interviews I've read, it seems that many top players exist in this state of constant self-criticism ... like anorexics in front of the mirror, they cannot bear to hear their playbacks and are never even close to satisfied.
OMG! That's me (except the top player part)! There are only a handful of recordings that I'm on that I can listen back to and think, "hey, that was pretty good." There are few that make me cringe, but most are kind of in the middle. Somewhere in my garage I have a stash of recordings of me, but I'm not sure where any of them are, or if they might have accidentally found their way to the landfill after that last dump run...
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
OMG! That's me (except the top player part)! There are only a handful of recordings that I'm on that I can listen back to and think, "hey, that was pretty good." There are few that make me cringe, but most are kind of in the middle. Somewhere in my garage I have a stash of recordings of me, but I'm not sure where any of them are, or if they might have accidentally found their way to the landfill after that last dump run...
The playbacks always sounds better if you don't listen too closely and just vibe along like it's a song on the radio. Is it possible to squint with your ears? :)
 

Steamer

Platinum Member
I know somebody who practices for an average of 6 hours a day. I've played with him for 3 years now, and he hasn't gotten better in those 3 years. :O

It mostly matters what you practice and how much you push yourself. If you don't push yourself in SOME area, you're going to play the same stuff you already know over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.......

You can practice to learn new stuff, or you can practice to re-hash the old stuff. The more you learn new stuff, the wider your workable vocabulary becomes, and the easier it becomes to simply play ANYTHING that pops into your head. The more you practice the old stuff, the more comfortable you get with it. The problem I see with a lot of drummers is that they work on the new stuff just long enough to "get it", then they drop it and don't practice it like old stuff, so they never get comfortable with it. When they have to pull it out, their groove tangles up in a knot because it's not familiar and easy to them.

Lots of angles to take on this. I'll leave some for the rest of you...

Really good points........

I think of it as goal oriented practice, very focused practice on things you are weak at you want to add strength to your overall playing with when put in a group situation....building a strong foundation in the process. Stick with your ever growing list of building blocks long enough till you nail it {them} and feel them in your bones so they be come part of your greater vocabulary. As time goes by you add more and more elements to the "foundation".

In theory as you mature and get older you get a better handle on what you need to focus on {face the demons} with concentrated practice and apply your energy on dealing with those weak areas in your playing/concept becoming a better player/musician.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
And hey I'm not talking major improvements here....just little ones, basic stuff. For instance the guy who inspired this thread, some songs we've been playing for 6 years

now, and like I said earlier, same mistakes, same feel for time (inconsistant) same everything. It sounds the same as when he first played it 6 years ago. Perhaps it's due to

the fact that I am a religious recorder of gigs and he is not. I feel my playing has definitely improved over the years, and have been told so. No paradigm shifts or anything, just a

constant slow eventual coming together of time tempo feel and a sense of what not to play mainly, nothing earth shatttering. I really think it is the recording and listening back

factor. I don't burn everything I record to disk, I just mainly listen to it and erase it when I run out of space. I have given CD's of shows to my bandmates...You can lead a horse to

water but.....
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
And hey I'm not talking major improvements here....just little ones, basic stuff. For instance the guy who inspired this thread, some songs we've been playing for 6 years now, and like I said earlier, same mistakes, same feel for time (inconsistant) same everything. It sounds the same as when he first played it 6 years ago.
Larry, does he practice at all? It sounds like he just turns up and goes for it.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I don't think he practices at all. He's a nice guy and we get along great, but he's in his own world playing. He has good musical knowledge, but his playing is...timid and shy is

the best way to describe it. No confidence whatsoever, takes no chances, has poor execution, can't think that fast is the issue I hate to say. I probably shouldn't be saying

that, if he reads this I'd just die.
 

nocTurnal

Senior Member
One of our guitar players in the band I play in practices 3 to 4 hours a day and takes lessons from one of Chicagos best teachers ( I don't know his name). I have been in this band for a year and he has not gotten any better. He has no sense of time and relies on memorizing the song. He just never improves.
There's got to be more to this story. He's practicing 3 to 4 hours a day and taking lessons from one of Chicago's best guitar teachers yet not improving at all? Have any of the band members politely told him the specific issues you have with him? Has he told his teacher that he'd like to work on these problems? There has to be more to this than you say.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I don't think he practices at all. He's a nice guy and we get along great, but he's in his own world playing. He has good musical knowledge, but his playing is...timid and shy is the best way to describe it. No confidence whatsoever, takes no chances, has poor execution, can't think that fast is the issue I hate to say. I probably shouldn't be saying that, if he reads this I'd just die.
I think the first sentence is the full story. The more things we hardwire through practice the less speed of thought is needed. No wonder his playing is timid and he takes no chances.

Trouble is, if you're struggling for adequacy through rustiness then you forget to make your lines sound cool rather than just there. If you're going to have one timid weak link player, probably better that it's bass than other instruments :)
 
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