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Listen

Listening to music is very important:

  • listen to records
  • go to concerts, gigs, jam sessions etc.

Play

Playing music has to be learned by doing:

  • get a good teacher/ mentor
  • play and practice a lot ( Somebody has estimated that to really master a craft like playing an instrument one has to put about 15.000 hours into it. That means playing/ practicing three hours a day for 15 years. So, what are you waiting for?)
  • play with other musicians as much as possible

Transcribe

It's very important to get into transcribing heads and solos from records. Check out Transcribe!. Transcribe! is a program that allows you to load an audio file and to select a passage for repetition, to slow down the music without changing the pitch and so on... Great stuff, Transcribe! really makes the slow process of transcription much easier and faster! Transcribe! is available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux, it is distributed as Shareware with a 30 day free trial period and can be downloaded from Seventh String Software!

Write

It's also very important to get into writing music. The best way to find your own voice is to write and try to get in touch with what you're hearing in your head:

  • arrange
  • compose/ write songs as much as possible
I have written a lot of lessons on writing music. Check out On Writing Music and My Series of Lessons on Composition/ Songwriting/ Arranging.

Dare to Be Yourself!

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide, that he must take himself for better, for worse as his portion. That, though the wise universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him, but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power, which resides in him, is new in nature and no one but he knows what that is which he can do. Nor does he know until he has tried.
- Waldo Emerson

Enjoy What You're Doing

Wes Montgomery always had a smile on his face while playing. And take a look at Pat Metheny - teeth everywhere! If you're not enjoying what you're doing, you're not going to get anywhere. And even if you don't "get anywhere", if you're enjoying what you're doing, you're "there" already... :-)

Learn the Language of Jazz

Learning to play jazz is a lot like learning to speak a language. A language is learned first by listening and imitating, later on by starting to speak yourself and ultimately it's about saying something uniquely your own - getting a point across or telling a story.

  • Listen
  • Imitate - quote licks and phrases
  • Start constructing larger statements of your own
  • Start communicating and telling stories ( your own stories!)

The Journey/ the Way

It is going to be a life-long journey. The journey itself is the goal and purpose. It takes a lot of time, the rest of your life actually and there's no way to make it happen faster. The Japanese/ Zen word shugyo stands for "training and mastering deeds". Shugyo or skills/ craftsmanship/ mastery/ knowledge/ enlightenment/ wisdom unfolds at its own, slow pace - just let it happen in its own time and it will.

What It's All About

Keep in mind that music is not sports. It's not really about competition at all. It's not about who is the fastest or the baddest. It's about finding your own voice and expressing yourself. It's the originals that are remembered, not the imitators. When the dust clears, those left standing will be those who stand for something.

Make music - learn and play songs. Listen and communicate/ interact with other players and with listeners. Express yourself: tell stories - your own stories. Dream big and never let go of your dreams. Allow the force of music to flow through you. Be 100% present in the moment and try to make the most of every single musical situation. Reach out and touch people with your music - make them laugh, make them cry - that's what it's all about.

Last but Not Least: Take It Easy

Don't be too dead serious. Relax, have a life. Try to feel good about yourself and your playing. And don't think that you have to play or practice every single day. It will probably do more for your playing to go fishing on a day off than to spend it practicing until you fall asleep. And you can probably forget trying to be the best musician in the world, just try to be the best you can be...

My summer cottage has always been one of the corner-stones of my life. That's where I can find peace of mind and where I can relax and do what I love the most. There I can be close to nature and the sea, fish, smoke fish, drive my motorboat, play and write music, read, take long walks and spend time with my cat.

My point is that you should work on your own jigsaw puzzle of the meaning of life. Find out what's important to you, concentrate on those things and don't bother with the rest. Life is short. It's the small things, the smallest moments of happiness and truth that count. I'd like to end with a quote:
There is only one success - to be able to spend your life in your own way. - Christopher Morley