When I was a teenager, I subscribed to several guitar-oriented magazines, each with pages of ads in the back of every issue, selling everything from picks, to amps, to guitar instruction. I was always trying to play faster and more complicated pieces, so when I saw an ad for a "finger exerciser," I had to have it.
A couple of weeks later, a package arrived in the mail. I'm not sure how to accurately describe what it contained other than that it was a combination of Velcro rings you attached to your fingers and rubber bands, which provided resistance to work against.
At the time, I was taking weekly guitar lessons. I remember telling my teacher about my new purchase and how it was going to help me become a better player.
I'll never forget his response.
"If you want to get better at playing guitar, play more guitar."
Forget the theory. The most valuable classroom is the real world and the only true learning happens when you actually do something.
Went to see Cirque Du Soleil's Michael Jackson show last night. I'm a fan of both Cirque Du Soleil and Michael Jackson, so it was a good combination for me.
As I was sitting there watching, with hundreds of stage lights, dozens of video screens, and more than a few smoke machines going off almost constantly throughout the two-hour performance, I had these thoughts...
Michael Jackson didn't need any of this.
Cirque Du Soleil doesn't need any of this.
Don't get me wrong. The show is very good and the pyrotechnics and special effects add a lot, but these things are not what makes the show such a great experience though.
Any of the performers in this show could get on stage without any effects, explosions, or even a single spotlight and put a hush over the audience. When you're as good as they are, the extras are optional.
Michael Jackson was the same way.
Can you say the same thing about yourself? If not, how are you going to compensate?
Perhaps the songs... A great song that really connects with people will cut a mediocre performer a lot of slack.
But know that there are artists you're competing against who have both great songs and undeniable talent. You'll better your odds of success if you have the same.
How does this level of performance and quality of material happen? It's very simple, but it's not easy...
Do the work.
You don't get to the top of your professional, performing in a world-class production such as something by Cirque Du Soleil, with just a few minutes per day, or even a few years of study. The people at this level have dedicated their lives to what they do.
Can you say the same thing about yourself?
Ready to get better? Follow these two steps...
1. Play with people better than you are.
The only way to get better is to play with people who stretch you to a greater level. This means playing with people who are better than you are.
Make a goal to be the "dumbest guy in the room."
2. Be persistent.
You'll almost never get it right the first time. Don't let that stop you from tweaking things and trying it again.
For example... Billie Jean, from Michael Jackson's Thriller album, was mixed 91 times.