I am beginning to catch a glimpse of the difference between a professional musician and an amateur enthusiast musician.
Recently, I challenged myself to see how long it would take for me to work through, memorize and polish a piece to be ready for performance. Not a small piece, but a bigger stage worthy piece. That piece in choice was Classical Gas. I was set on this, the thinking was that a professional musician will need to be able to pick up and perform a given piece in a set amount of time for some special occasion, usually, either a wedding or a guitar competition.
Through this experiment, I also learned that the laws of physics also apply to music. The harder I pushed at music, the harder life pushes back, and Classical Gas still sits on my music stand untouched.
As an enthusiast of music, there are countless demands on ones time that will distract you from your music job, family, and regular household chores, and for me the constant pursuit of sleep. Music although an interest for most amateur players, does not factor high in the daily grind. The demands of music are usually limited to the weekly class, an effort is made to review the previous lesson, practice some and get some work in on the current pieces or studies one has been assigned. Each week a bit of progress is made on the given pieces, some clarifications and the student is sent back home to review the work again for the next week.
Generally then for the amateur, there is no pressure for their guitar work. For myself, I felt this strongly for my learning experiment. My studies previously have been heavily focused on several aspects of my playing. Usually a couple pieces at a time, scales and technical exercises. This is a very comfortable and acceptable routine for me given my past experience in music. Probably a heavier musical workload than most enthusiasts, but nothing compared to a professional studying music full time in an academic institution. This is something that I realized, and of late I’ve been working on time management and goal setting for myself, hence another reason for the Classical Gas experiment. Still, the pressure wasn’t there.
I have now committed to a guitar project with Rob Reid who is working on his master’s degree. I have been assigned a guitar duet piece which will be recorded and collaborated on over the internet. Not a particularly long piece, but one that has its subtleties, but worse still, a deadline of a month. Now there is some pressure. Given private guitar lessons, one may take 3 weeks or so just working on a piece like this, along with a couple more pieces at the same time. For this, I have that much time to learn the piece, polish it up and record it for video to a level that would be presentable and acceptable, leaving enough time for collaboration and changes that may be needed to facilitate the project. With this time limit, combined with the demands of work and normal life, there is definitely some pressure now.
Now time management comes into play more urgently. Likewise, all those memorization techniques that I’ve learned but never really implemented to their fullest step in. One method is visualization of the piece when away from the guitar. With the scale work I’ve been doing, I can now visualize the fret board clearly in my head, shifting my mental picture from neck position to neck position, hearing the notes as I walk through. With this, and rhythm work, half of the battle is solved before I even sit down to my guitar. I can now imagine what a full time professional student must face. Trading in the house work for class time and homework, and perhaps an odd part time job to make ends meet. Lack of sleep, I think may be something a full time student would face as well. Add all this up, and then throw on several more guitar projects, and I can certainly appreciate the work that a full time student would need to accomplish, and I gain a new understanding of the importance of all the time management work we do. Visualization, break downs, chaining, isolation of trouble areas, and to single out voicing’s one at a time. I can still only imagine the opportunity a professional musician has of purely focusing on guitar work and to be able to delve into the depths of music and musicianship.