I recall as a kid, the diligence and discipline it took to consistently practice the piano. There were many distractions: Kids in the neighborhood wanting to play ball; television (albeit only five channels to choose from!), etc. But there would be NO greater distraction than the piercing eyes, the austere facial reaction and deep breath sighs of my father when it was proof that I didn't practice prior to the lesson later that week with Mr. Freche. Yes, my father accompanied every lesson and sat there to make sure I was doing my work. And even though God had bestowed me with this natural gift, it still needed refining. I had to work at it. And work at it I did, ever since I turned ten years of age.
I hear of young musicians who lack patience or couldn't care less about inspired instruction. Technology has been amazing, but it's a facade of training or teaching too, if there's no fundamentals. Wow! Who wouldn't want that?? Gee - Press one key - and you've got an entire orchestra!
Here's my truth: I never liked practicing either. I never looked forward to practice. But since I enjoyed putting my feet under my mother's table eating her food and also fearing for my life with my dad, I practiced. And I practiced some more. Old school stuff.
"Just how many Lari Goss or Roger Williams albums (33 and 1/3... vinyl) did you wear out, Jeff, back in the day, when you were trying to copy and mimic their chord progressions and piano moves?"
That's like the question no one has ever asked me. But, let's just say, I ruined quite a few til they were practically playing both sides at once. Before cell phones, computers and cable TV - this was my life. Practice the piano; play the piano; practice; play the record player; pick up the needle, place it back at the beginning; listen again, and again... You get the picture. Later would come an even greater distraction, but I married her. She happened to sing, so that was convenient. :)
Discipline does pay off. I've made a living for more than forty years because of this irritating word: Practice. I sound like Allen Iverson. But here's a few points that never change regardless of your musical aptitude:
- Find a teacher who not only knows the stuff, but can also play it too
- Surround yourself with other musicians who are better than you
- Take an inventory every once in a while, to see if you're progressing
- Listen to music OUTSIDE of your current interest and venue
- Take positive criticism; learn from it
- Expand your musical horizons, which really means, "Get off your butt and get creative"..
John Maxwell's book, "Talent Is Never Enough" grips the heart of every gifted person. No matter what, there are other factors that can be combined with talent to achieve your goals: passion, initiative, focus, preparation, practice, perseverance, courage, teachability, character, relationships, responsibility and teamwork. You need this book.
So what did I give up? I gave up listening to all the nay-sayers in my life that said I couldn't make a living at it. I gave up trying to compare myself with other keyboardists too. But I really gave up arguing with my wife - when all she really wants me to do is just....sit....down....and....play. And since I enjoy her cooking and like to eat, I think I'll do just that: Practice playing. The piano.