Learn What Poor Musicianship is All About

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“Dude, that guy sucks!”

I turned my head to the left and gave Peter a stern look when he mentioned that.

“Well, the guys not Herbie Hancock but he’s pretty good, besides he’s an awesome guy to work with. I’d work with him anytime.” I mentioned.

“Maybe, I would.” Peter retorted.

“Whatever man!” I blurted.

After the church service finished Peter mentioned, ” Hey, we should jam or do some gigs together.”

“Yeah, sure… Whatever!” I said.

I forgot to mention we were at church. And… Yes there are conceded musicians in church. Can you believe it?

I’ve played with Peter many times before, but his ego just got inflated.

It’s sad to say that even though we are Christians doesn’t really mean we’re all humble creatures.

There are 3 factors of poor musicianship.

1. Poor Attitude

My homie Greg was going to MC the next Sunday service, but who’s going to play the keys? Greg is the main keyboardist.

“I’ve invited Gabby.” Greg replied.

“Oh really?” I said. “He’s great on the keys.”

Come Sunday morning call time was an hour before service to rehearse the songs. Everybody got there on time. 30 minute passed and Gabby the keyboardist hasn’t arrived.

15 minutes before service time Gabby still hasn’t arrived. Finally 5 minutes right before service Gabby rushed in with his keyboard, started plugging everything in and settled in.

Service started 10 minutes late because of him. To make a long story short it was a musical blunder.

I asked Gabby after service, “Hey, did you listen the songs?”

He said, “Of course, on the way over to the church.”

I think what I should have mentioned was, “Did you practice the songs?”

I told Greg, “Please find another keyboardist next time someone that’s more prepared.”

He agreed to be more cautious next time and not to choose musicians based on skills alone.

Look for musicians that adopt these attitudes.

  1. Joyful attitude
  2. Connecting attitude
  3. Creative attitude
  4. Learning attitude
  5. Prepared attitude
  6. I may have left out other attitudes. Feel free add some suggestions.

2. Poor Skills

Most people will assume that musicianship are just musical skills alone. But… People tend to forget that we’re human beings not musical machines programmed to perform a task.

During my reign as music director in Lynwood, Ca. Service was about to begin around 1pm Sunday afternoon.

We initiated the service with an upbeat tune. Before I was director, the previous director use to start the service with slow songs of worship. Which in turn would get the congregation in a sleepy mode. I changed that of course.

After the first song transitioned into the next one, the tune tended to speed up. I glanced over to the drummer and lo and behold it was a different drummer on the kit.

The drummers older brother snuck over to the side of the drum kit and snatched the sticks and nudged his younger brother off the kit.

“What the heck!”

He was speeding up the song and throwing the beat off. In his heyday he was truly a good drummer, but not anymore he stopped drumming for many years and wanted to get back into it.

He was just going about it the wrong way.

I asked the guy to attend rehearsals, but he said, “The songs are easy, plus I don’t have time to come to practice.”

“Lord have mercy, what a poor attitude.” I thought.

Think of your musical skills as muscles.

If you don’t keep training those musical muscles they will atrophy.

If your not sure what musical skills I’ve written 9 skills of musical awesomeness in a post awhile back. Click here and learn what they are.

Let’s pretend you’re a training to be a bodybuilder. After many years you have achieved muscle God status.

You have this massive back, six pack abs, 18″ biceps, and a huge muscular chest.

Then suddenly you think, “I reached my goal and now I don’t have to train anymore.”

Guess what’ll happen?

If you think you’ll stay that way forever, you’re 1,000% incorrect!

 

You’ll lose muscle and strength over time and believe me you’ll start looking like skinny Minnie.

After all the hard work and achieving your goals, you don’t have to work as hard as before unless you’re shooting for another level of achievement than it’s back to work.

Once you’ve achieved success it’s all about maintenance to keep that level of skill and achievement healthy.

I personally have already achieved a level of skill on my instrument and I’m just maintaining those skills by performing and practicing enough to keep and maintain that level. Now I’m trying to reach another level of technique and improvisation on my instrument and now it’s back to the drawing board.

Adopt an attitude of learning it will keep your motor well lubricated and lasting forever.

3. Poor Knowledge

This just happened recently a few days before I wrote this post.

Every Tuesday at my church Oasis. We have rehearsals and keep in mind that we currently have over 30 musicians in our team.

So, when musicians aren’t serving that week we usually meet together in the youth practice room and we have a masterclass.

We chose a couple of songs and volunteer a few musicians to participate and then we switch off.

Then we give feedback to each other and hopefully we use this as a tool for improvement. And sometimes we have pros from the industry come in and give us pointers.

My buddy Cliff just returned from a two year hiatus. He was a great guitar player and very influenced in traditional music.

According to him he learned guitar by just listening and just snagging tips and tricks from others. He was a seasoned gentleman in his mid forties but was stuck in his old ways.

We sat together in the masterclass and whispered to me, “Hey bro, what’s the point of having this class?

I looked at him awkwardly. “Uh, for improvement to serve Jesus with our best.”

“Ya, but we should get together and write songs.” He said.

“I totally agree bro, but isn’t growing our knowledge just as important?.” I exclaimed.

“Hmmm, I dunno.” Cliff responded. “We already know how to play.”

There’s another one stuck in their own old dogmatic ways. Don’t let anybody tell you that all you need to know is this much work and then you don’t have to study or maintain your skills.

If this person is teaching you, run away fast!

If your goal is to learn and achieve a certain level. Maintenance is all you need to sustain the level you have attained.

Whenever a new team member joins make sure you A.S.K.

A.S.K

This is an acronym for what musicianship really is.

“A” is for attitude.

Grammy winning producer Quincy Jones states when ever he’s working with musicians and they enter his studio he has a sign at the top of his studio door that says: “Check your attitude at the door.”

I have this awesome video called “The Business of Bass” featuring bass phenom Nathan East.

Quincy Jones was interviewed and mentioned in this video:

“I would rather work with a B player with a great attitude than an A player with a poor attitude any day.”

I totally agree. I will not work with a skillful musician if their attitude is poor.
I’m looking for someone I can connect with. Don’t assume loud and obnoxious attitudes is what I’m referring to. Shy, reserved musicians are also the case.

If someone can’t open up and share than I can’t connect with them.

It goes both ways.

“S” is for skills

When I ask you to play a minor seventh flat five in a reggae pattern can you do it?

Can your fingers handle steady sixteenth note passages through the entire tune without fail?

When I ask you to lay back on the metronome do you understand what I’m saying?

Skills come with constantly practicing, learning and experiencing. Failure is a key to success we don’t if we don’t fail.

I know we’re all afraid of failure and that could be a huge reason why you don’t progress in your musical skills. Failure is a law that God has placed in this world that we can’t skip over. It will happen so embrace it and love it. Here’s a good verse.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4 NLT)

Adopt and learning attitude and embrace failure because it’s awesome.

“K” is for knowledge

Do you know what the arpeggios are of a Db major9?

How about if I plop a lead sheet in front of you could you play it?

Let’s start with the pickup note on bar 39 and let’s do it in cut time. Huh?

Now let’s begin on the 4 chord in the key of Ab. Say that again?

If you understood my instructions than you’re good to go. If not pick up a music theory book and start reading and studying. The more you know the better you can communicate and create in ten different levels.

With this blog plus gigging, I still spend a bit of time reading and studying my music theory book and composition to keep my brain functioning and growing like a weed.

Become a musical weed and embrace musical knowledge.

Conclusion

I hope this lesson has gotten your brain juices bubbling and please share or leave a comment below.

One question…

Tell me about an experience you had with a diva musician?

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