Originally Posted by MikeM
I think his keynote address at SXSW was more of what he's talking about here. Toward the end of that speech, after demonstrating that all you need to get started making your own songs is a a couple super cheap cassette recorders, a guitar and an IDEA, he explained that in the end, it's all about the inspired idea, developing it, recording it, and using it; and it's about "finding your own voice". He went on to rhetorically ask if he was the best drummer in the world ("not even close") or the best song-writer ("not even in this room"), and despite that he's not anywhere near the best at anything, he said that what worked for him was finding his voice in music; an identity of his own that was a reflection of his tastes and everything he held sacred about music.
I think he's pointing out that if you're getting wrapped around the 'Idol' axle, you're in a competition of chops in any number of bland and cliche forms that has absolutely nothing to do with chasing your muse and finding your own unique voice. It isn't even art.
That's a point I wholeheartedly agree with. I've known far too many players in my years of playing that were so consumed with getting "good" (in the technical sense) that they never took the time to develop their own tastes or follow their own musical instincts. Most of them don't even play anymore.
I'm a sucker for awesome technique and can stomach some pretty bad music for the sake of the good players playing it (I admit it: I love listening to Dave Weckl, but mostly just the stuff that sounds like one big Weather Report rip-off! The elevator stuff, not so much). Speaking only for myself, I've found this middle area where I still get wrapped around technique axles, but only insofar as I can use it in the music I'm playing. I don't learn technique for its own sake in the hopes that someday it'll come in handy (like at a drum competition, for example! ;-)
That is a fair point. Liking your own voice and expressing yourself fully is an important part of playing any instrument, maybe the most important. But that takes confidence, hard work, and getting a lot of honest feedback from peers, friends, teachers, bandmates, and so on. I think a lot of the problem is some of the Idol kids who get torn apart were people who couldn't sing but were brought there because of mom and dad, or being just lied to by friends. Wasn't there that famous story of Bird being shamed off the stage by the crash cymbal being tossed, and becoming a legend because of the work he put in after that?