Limitation: Overcome or Overpass

I'd like to consider myself a very positive realist about myself and my life. I am well aware of my weaknesses, limits and habits, good or bad, but rather than think negatively about these things, I immediately try to find solutions to them. Jojo Mayer said, at PASIC 2016, that "the idea of limitation was extremely helpful, because limitation always brings challenges....and that's when we really become creative." It's important in these instances where you are confronted with a limitation, that you look at it objectively and not assign a negative connotation to them. This takes practice and patience, but there are books and even classes that can help guide you to that result of objective perception and removing negative self talk, and I will link to some resources at the end of the blog. 

When I'm confronted with a limitation, I first acknowledge it, assess it, and then I ask these things before either abandoning or moving forward with the task I'm trying to accomplish:

  1. Do I need this?
  2. Has this been done before? 
  3. How many different ways can it be done?
  4. What is hindering the execution?
  5. How can I work on this?
  6. Is there something else I can do to emulate the result I want?
  7. Is there someone who has a similar issue as me? How do they do it?
  8. Are there similarities to other things I do now?
  9. If it hasn't been done before, is it physically possible? In what way?

You can add or subtract from this list, but this really informs the actions that I take. Drum set for example, I cannot play double bass drum pedal rhythms to save my life. I am aware of how to practice to gain those skills, but I don't necessarily need them in my immediate career. Or how about the excerpt "New England Triptych: Chester." I have to play fast and soft, but it's difficult to play the way I want, which is to play it with single strokes. An option around that is to use double or even triple strokes to execute the excerpt. Recalling tempos can also be a challenge. Starting out, I had a difficult time remembering 120bpms for "Lieutenant Kije." However, it was fairly easy for me to remember the 3rd movement of "Scheherazade." So, for a while I'd use my tempo of "Scheherazade" for "Kije." My last example is speed, aka "fast fingers." Has it been done? Most certainly. What's hindering my execution? My fingers naturally are not that fast. I'm aware that my physique is not conducive to me being able to play at 250bpms using just fingers. So, I accepted it, and have moved on with that particular technique. However, there are plenty of other ways to play at that tempo, and I have both explored and figured out which strategies work for me.

When presented with any limitation or challenge, explore and exhaust all options that you know or come up with, research and inquire for solutions, and only after every option has been sought out, then move on. The key is to continue to be diligent in the inquiry, and to keep a level head during every aspect of the process. Again, this may take practice and patience to do, especially if this is something you habitually don't do. I encourage you to give this way of thinking and exploring options a try and see how it effects your practice, either positively or negatively. Below are some books and articles that I found helpful in this regard, and I hope they help you as well.

The Art of Practicing

Effortless Mastery

The Creative Habit

What to Say When You Talk to Yourself

Performance Success

Fight Your Fear and Win

Bulletproof Musician: Underestimating your Ability?

Bulletproof Musician: The Mental Adjustment

Bulletproof Musician: Feeling Stuck?

Bulletproof Musician: Not-To-Do List

Bulletproof Musician: After a Disappointing Set-Back

Bulletproof Musician: Don't vs. Do Instructions

20 "Craziest" Audition Acts

I've done some......interesting things either taking, preparing for, traveling to and during auditions. In my classes and discussions, many of these come up and I think it's helpful to see someone else's experiences, vulnerability and humanity in this business. Thought I'd share a few of my special moments with you all.

  1. Used a shoelace as a triangle clip (left the actual clip in the warm-up room)
  2. Used a small vibe pedal carpet as a bass drum muffle for "Rite of Spring" (also left the muffler in the warm-up room)
  3. Traveled by bus overnight to an audition the next morning
  4. Learned an excerpt in the warm-up room 
  5. Practiced pad outside during winter to simulate not being able to feel the sticks due to nerves
  6. Watched horror films to stimulate nerves, then played a mock
  7. Played Tchaikovsky 4 on bass drum, with the brakes off (it moved the entire time, the proctor and I laughed afterwards)
  8. Consciously played an excerpt differently than I had practiced, on a whim
  9. Stayed at an Air BnB and took public transit for an hour to arrive at the audition
  10. Took a twelve hour train ride to an audition, took a 3 hour lesson after the audition, and then took another train home afterwards
  11. Took 10 auditions between November 2016 and June 2017
  12. Deprived myself of sleep to "be too tired" for nerves (it actually worked, kinda)
  13. Ate a lot to trigger a food coma to "be too tired for nerves" (didn't work as well as #12)
  14. Never recorded myself to see how I sounded (still haven't as far as audition prep goes) 
  15. Never brought more than one drum to a professional audition
  16. Did not practice an instrument before the audition (that was for Calgary, I did not practice bass drum) 
  17. Completely changed my technique on an instrument (also for Calgary, I changed my cymbal technique two weeks before the audition)
  18. Practiced 18 hours a day for 4 weeks leading up to an audition (please don't do that)
  19. Practiced in my sleep (it's hard to do, only managed it 4 or 5 times so far)
  20. Played motivational tapes, or my audition excerpt playlist while I slept