When you see a band perform and they blow you away, you go home thinking they have it. When you see a band perform 3, 4, or 5 times and they still do that and keep getting better, you go home knowing they have it. This is the real test and everyone knows it. Have you ever known of a rookie who steps up from the minor leagues has a good start, but struggles after that first season? Well, if you haven't then you don't live in a country where sports are a big deal. If you have seen this you know they get criticized for it. People like to say things like, "lucky start" or "beginners luck". I don't think there is much luck involved if they are on a professional sports team. Very few are chosen for the task. It is hard work. So, if I'm saying these struggling sophomores made it by hard work, perseverance, and developed talent, then why aren't they doing so hot? There are a lot of reasons for this. Before you read further, imagine how this will apply to your musical goals. Do you want to play super fast, write amazing songs or guitar solos, or go on tour and get a record deal? Your goals are your choice, but reaching them will require perseverance no matter what you are striving for.
Does practice make perfect? Not entirely. Practice and a whole lot of other things. Perseverance is near or at the top of the list. If you don't have it you might practice and then stop. That's not going to get you "perfect" results.
Moving into the big leagues isn't easy. You're going up against the best of the best. And you're supposed to all of a sudden be one of them. Some of these new opponents have been in the game a long time fighting for glory, pride, and honer. They aren't going to go easy on a rookie. So, how did the rookie hold up at first? My guess is the adrenaline of being hand picked to be in the pros. The excitement of finally reaching your life long goal has been achieved. It's a dream come true, as they say. But, overtime one begins to adjust to the circumstances. The reality is that the big leagues are just big leagues. Yes, they are the best of the best. No doubt, but it's still real people in real life with real everyday problems. Look at how much professional athletes get into trouble. It's a small number of them, but it happens regularly. I don't pay attention to sports and I hear about it all the time. No one is exempt from temptation. The man who has the most home-runs in professional baseball history (at this time) was using steroids and disgraced the game. Ouch. That sucks. That's reality. The ones who play with honer can go home feeling good about what they did. In the end that's what you got. The game is over. The crowd is gone. What matters is what is left and you better be feeling good about what you did because you can't go back in time to change it. It's about giving it your best. That's about as cliche as it gets, but if you don't do that then you're letting yourself become comfortable with mediocrity. You start to believe that you weren't meant to play with the pros.
I don't have all the answers and even if I did I'd forget a good number of them. It does take a lot to play in the pros(sports or music) and staying there isn't easy either. So, lets get back to that.
Hold Your Ground
My favorite part of movies is usually right before the end. When all the suspense has built up and you are literally at the edge of your seat. I love it when I actually see people on the edge of their seats. It's not because I think it's funny. I do it too sometimes. It's because I know they're really experiencing the film. All the work done by all the actors, directors, screenwriters, and a host of others is proven to be good. The element that makes it so suspenseful is conflict. There can be no climax to the story without the uphill battle. The feeling of relief is greatest when the struggle is the hardest. The reward is most cherished when the effort to get there is like going through a great storm when defeat seems imminent. This is why people gravitate towards the underdog. It's also why the lowliest of creatures was chosen to go on an impossible journey to destroy a ring and save the world. If it was some indestructible giant it wouldn't make a very interesting story. If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, you should probably ask someone.
The higher up you go, the competition is few, but it is strong. The higher up you go, the steeper the mountain gets and the harder the wind blows. It's like a video game. Usually they're fun to start, but beating the game can be almost painful when you cannot get past that last part. It's been years since I was an avid video gamer. I played when games were really hard to beat, but I still remember the badge of pride you'd wear after being the first person to beat a game. It was childish and prideful, but if you can let go of that sort of attitude and just be glad you did what you set out to do then your battle will be less stressful and more fulfilling in the end. The reward is greater since it is a real life victory.
Play all the games you want, but think about how much further you would be towards your goal if you invested that time into practicing your instrument or whatever you're trying to do.
Here are a couple practice steps that I find helpful.
So, practice, refine, plan, practice, practice, refine, plan, practice, etc. Every step in the process will require perseverance. If you do this than you will be one of the few who can look back and know you did your best. And that feels pretty great.
About The Author: Ryan Duke is a musician, songwriter, and guitar teacher in Seattle, WA. He plays avant-progressive metal in Fortis Amor. Delivering a positive message to encourage fellow musicians and students. For more help to improve your guitar playing download a free e-book "5 Steps To Take Your Guitar Playing To The Next Level" and more.