Articles Do The Tighten Up - Tighten Up Yourself

Do The Tighten Up - Tighten Up Yourself

posted: 03/09/09 @ 06:05:pm

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Tighten Up Yourself


While band rehearsals are typically a collective effort, too often individual members skimp on their personal responsibility to the music. What do you do in between practices to improve your performance? If you think simply being in a band is enough, think again. You need to practice your instrument, improve your skills, and work on the music so you can show up to rehearsal ready to go.

Lots of great musicians are self-taught—maybe you’re one of them—maybe not. But it’s never too late (or too early) to learn something new about your instrument, or music. Case in point: in the early 90s, one of my students was Tom Hamilton, bassist for Aerosmith. Even after 20 years with the band, and having achieved a level of success most of us can only dream about, he felt it was time to learn some new skills, get a fresh perspective on things. We worked on techniques that directly related to his playing, and some things that were seemingly inapplicable, like jazz. He could have easily coasted at that point in his career, but his desire to improve himself as a musician was strong. My point? If you think you’re beyond taking lessons—you’re wrong. It’s just a matter of getting past your ego trip/insecurities and finding the right teacher. Get a recommendation from someone you know, or search out your local music guru. Just keep in mind that not every teacher is truly qualified. Stay away from TAB pushers or lick meisters—you can do that by yourself. Find someone that has a real musical education and teaching experience. If there’s no one smarter than you in your town, there are plenty of books and videos out there, or consider some online education from a reputable source.

While it’s helpful to focus on skills and information that relate directly to your preferred style of playing, it is equally important to broaden your musical horizons. Having a wide range of influences makes your music more interesting, and learning how to play different styles (or even other instruments) makes you a better musician. For example: I’m a bass player, but learning to play drums (I suck) has made my bass playing more grounded and in the groove. If you’re a hard-core rocker, consider learning jazz. If you’re a stone bebopper, learn how to play country. You’ll be amazed how much seemingly disparate styles of music intersect with each other.

Enriching your musical life is an important pursuit, but you also have to practice your band material. Record your practices and listen to how you really sound—don’t hide in Fantasyland, face the truth. If there are rough spots, isolate them, and practice them slowly. You can invent exercises that work problem areas specific to your parts. In addition to your own parts, you should know everyone’s parts—not just to understand how it all fits together, but because one day you might need to cover them if the other guitarist’s amp blows up on a gig, or someone doesn’t show up.

The big message is: Learn something about music. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking all you need to do is feel it. Sure, you need to feel it, but you have to understand what you feel to make the most of it.