This image might not have much to do with music, but if you’re too lazy to pour the beer in your mouth yourself let alone have your kid to do it, then you’re probably the type of person who’s ready to fire off excuses when it comes to making music. Really awkward considering that I can’t tell if the kid is wearing any underwear…
These are, in my opinion, some of the most widely used excuses for being an underachiever in music. I’ve heard them as excuses for not practicing, playing out with others, writing, and learning. Needless to say these individuals weren’t very inspiring to me.
1. Natural Talent
First of all let me make it very clear that I’m not writing to argue the existence of natural talent. What I am supposing is that attaching natural talent to success will eventually grow into a justification for laziness, procrastination, underachievement, and eventually giving up entirely.
Let me repeat again, I am not arguing the existence or the role that natural talent plays in someone’s growing musical ability. I have no doubt seen some people who appear to be more talented and others who appear to have a harder time than others. In the end, when it comes to being a musician and making your own music, natural talent is an irrelevant concept.
You Need Hard Work
Regardless of whatever talent you were born with, you are never going to get anywhere without hard work. Life isn’t going to hand you a music career because you’re a natural. This is especially true in today’s industry where talent only gets you so far. If you’re not interested in the industry, then the result is the same.
You want to create your own music? Will musical talent alone give you the ability to conquer fear and laziness? No.
Natural Talent Does Not Equal Success
What ends up happening is aspiring musicians start equating success to natural talent.
The follow dialogue goes something like this. “Well I’m not as naturally talented as so-and-so, so that explains why no one likes my music, I can’t play guitar as well as I’d like, and no one appreciates me.” Sometimes these people turn into buttheads and other times they find something else to do with their life. Either way they shot themselves in the foot.
There is Proof
I went to college for an art degree and I saw a few kids that seemed to have natural talent. They never wanted to come to class, were lazy, and complained mostly about the heat. Needless to say, they didn’t make any art, which is precisely what they are supposed to be doing. On the other hand I saw kids that were not so good get better overtime and then end up with something much better than the whiny kids. Allow me to paste some Van Gogh:
The art trade brings with it certain prejudices … particularly ideas that painting is a gift -— well yes, a gift, but not as they make it appear; one must reach out and take it (and that taking is a difficult thing), not wait until it manifests itself of its own accord. … one learns by doing. One becomes a painter by painting. If one wants to become a painter, if one has passion, if one feels what you feel, then one can do it, but this can go hand in hand with difficulty, worries, disappointments, times of melancholy, of powerlessness and all that.
Letter by Van Gogh to his brother Theo, 16 October 1883.
When it comes down to it, talent or not, are you going to try or not?
“It’s too late for me sonny, I’m (insert age) years old!”
Ok, this is an excuse most often used by those who feel they missed their chance, chickened out, or didn’t have a fair shake. “But so-and-so had an album by the time he was 25!” Ok, that’s comparison. Comparison is not a good thing. That other person has got nothing to do with you. You are your own person with your own unique situation to deal with.
The bottom line still remains that if you truly want to make music, you have to do it regardless of what age you may be.
Now if you define success in a superficial manner then you probably are never going to make great music. If you relate your success to your age then you will only become less successful as time goes on. Instead of becoming better, you become worse as you find it less and less worthwhile to pick up that instrument.
Music is Timeless
The truth is that the rhythm and structure of music itself is bound by time but the essence of it is timeless. Same goes for the process of creating it. Therefore if music is timeless then your pursuit of it is timeless as well.
There is no putting a timeline on creating music.
No matter how old you get, you always have the decision to pick up that guitar and start moving forward. You may feel at this point that you are alone in this feeling and that younger musicians don’t understand. The fact is that some of them do, because I am one of them.
This is a difficult one to grasp, but can be devastating to your nerves. It’s also one that I struggle with the most. Some people say they don’t have time. Let me tell you something about time.
It doesn’t truly exist.
Why Time Doesn’t Exist
Our concept of the passing of time is only solidified by the repetition of cosmic events like the sun rising and setting, seasons, and eclipses. Our frame of reference for time is also linked to our biology with the fact that we must rest come nightfall. This biology is an adaptation to our environment. If it took longer for the sun to rise and fall then our hours would be longer as well and all forms of life on Earth would be adapted to it.
There are very real and practical uses for measured time. It is essential to all the mechanisms of modern society. People have now become extremely aware of time and live their lives by it.
For all its uses time is a double-edged sword. People are now becoming slaves to time, constantly aware of its passing and wondering whether we are using our time wisely, passing it idly, or completely wasting it.
Music is timeless.
True creativity flows from a place where time is of no concern. When a musician is in the zone, his/her mind isn’t anywhere but in the present moment. Call it being lost in the moment. That is where you play your best. Do yourself a favor when you sit down to practice, play, or when you perform on stage. Forget about time.
While it’s arguably true that few musicians enjoy financial freedom, I will say that it doesn’t have to be true in all cases. Regardless, sacrifices have to be made and you’ll have to eventually ask yourself what you think you will have to sacrifice.
However, remember that nothing is worth your health. Sacrificing is one of the biggest reasons why it’s tough to be a successful musician.
I work full-time in reality television. It’s not something I love at all, but in my current situation I make enough to get by. I don’t have kids to support or debt from school, but there are still sacrifices I make. I barely ever eat out. I bike 7 miles a day to work to save on gas. I don’t run the AC at my apartment. I don’t spend a lot of money on beer or movies. I have my own sacrifices to make.
I’m not saying I have it bad or that others don’t have it worse. What I can say from experience is that focusing too much on your money problems is only going to hurt your music making. All you can ask of yourself is to do your best to keep your mind off money, at least when you are playing.
It doesn’t make you a bad person, but if you ever find yourself using these excuses, take the time to step back and recognize that you are justifying underachievement.
Which excuse have you used?
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