Blog # 42: Being Humbled, Daily
Last night my roommate(who recently started learning guitar) finished practicing, came into the living room and exclaimed,
"Guitar is so frustrating, I suck!"
without hesitation I responded:
"That's what music is: getting used to frustration".
For me, I have never found something in life so humbling as practicing an instrument and creating music. I'm sure there are still people out there that have a romanticized view of what it is to be a musician and think that whenever we touch the instrument its an out of body experience, where we forget where we are. And while there are times during performance when I can reach this type of freedom and am completely caught up in the music, there is much more time in the practice room that I am face to face with all of my short comings. To me, that is the purpose of practice. I find things that I can't do yet on the trumpet, and I work on them until I can play them. After playing trumpet for so long, I STILL have days where I think I suck, or get frustrated working on trying to play something technical, but that's okay. This process includes a lot of frustration, but I think because we deal with this thing everyday, you build up a tolerance. In short, I try to steer straight into the storm during the practice session and then (ideally) when I'm finished practicing I leave the room and turn my mind on to the next thing.
One of my former teachers, Dave Pietro once told me that musical success was living in that grey zone between what you know and what you don't. This is the idea of challenging oneself and no one did this better than Miles Davis. Miles surrounded himself with musicians who were always pushing the boundaries of jazz and improvisation. He brought in musicians to play with his groups that played new and different styles than what he was used to. When you put yourself in a position where you don't know what will happen, that can be uncomfortable and frustrating. Dave Pietro once said to me; 'Miles found that space and LIVED there.'
I think being a perfectionist, music will always be like this for me and the strange thing is, I'm not just okay with that, I actually like that about it. Whether that makes me masochistic or what, I'm not sure. I do know that after I've dealt with that frustration, at the end of that practice session, when I can now execute whatever technical passage I couldn't when I started, I feel good. That's what I try to focus on and that's what its all about for me; being better than I was the day before.