Wednesday, May 19, 2010

To Be At The Top Of Your Game...

To be at "the top of your game" as a professional singer or musician takes more time than most people would ever guess. You do hit some plateaus along the way. They can feel like stagnation, like you are stuck. Like everything else, how you look at things is vital. When you hit a plateau, it is very likely than you will never get worse than you are on that day. You have reached a level that can be maintained without nearly as much effort as the effort it took to get to that level.

Spending a total of 3 hours a day is common, yet you have to build up to that, if you are not at that level of practicing. Between 3 and 6 hours a day is not uncommon among people who are professional or are heading in that direction. If that sounds outrageous, you can learn to bake a cake in an hour or so and make an edible cake. However, learning to bake a cake is not like learning to be a great singer or musician, because "knowing" and "doing" are not the same thing. You can know how to do something but you have to work on it for many many hours over a period of months and years to achieve greatness in the arts. It is true that in the culinary arts that hours are involved and many great chefs have spent more time in the kitchen than you would in several lifetimes. Practice (or the "doing" of it) is usually done alone and the audience doesn't ever see it, nor would they find it as interesting as the performance.

I have heard that some of the great singers spent 20 hours in the studio on just one song. Multiply that by 12 or 14 for a CD. How much time was spent in individual practice outside of the studio? How much was spent prior to ever arriving at that stage? Most professionals focus on the results of their practice rather than thinking how awful it was to use up all that time. Hell, they could have been watching TV instead, right?

The pleasure derived from being a professional singer is almost infinitely more rewarding than watching even the best that television has to offer, but no one knows this better than a professional singer. The same goes for writing and arranging music; it is hard to put into words the amount of fulfillment and gratification one gets from making music. Is the price paid worth the effort made? Ask anyone who has "made it".

Do you want the reward without paying the dues, so to speak? If so, don't expect anymore back than what you have given. That's the reality of it.

But wait, there's more. Great performers have also spent time in dance class, acting class, and/or working with a mentor or mentors, who can help with these things. To see what happens with those people who did not pay their dues, go out and see your local band who looks like one or all of them is a mannequin, or worse yet, spastic moving things trying to create charisma or stage presence but in actuality are hiding from the audience, disconnected, as if the crowd does not deserve any better. If you insult your audience, don't expect anything better than what you are giving them.

If this sounds harsh, there is nothing more harsh than the sting of failure. Plenty of "has-beens" or "never-weres" can attest to this as they blame everything and everyone, other than the fact of never having put in the time to learn and practice like the real professionals do.

The Pursuit Of Excellence

Whatever happened to the pursuit of excellence? Is excellence someone else's "job"? Many of us have become excellent fans of sports, music, art, dance, but what happened to our own goals?

What if you found out that to be a great singer or a great dancer, that it took as many hours in the day as a great olympic gymnast or skater puts in? Where would all the TV and YouTube time come from? Can you imagine working on every facet of your art and spending six to eight hours a day? Can you imagine 3 hours and 40 minutes on exercise alone, just to be the best as a dancer? Imagine it. It happens.

You get out of things what you put into them. If you want mediocrity as your result, then be mediocre with your practice. Sacrifice a big 15 to 20 minutes a day and, if you're lucky, you can maintain a healthy level of mediocrity. When you practice every other day, which is an "inconsistent approach", you will get inconsistent results. Sometimes things will work and sometimes they will not work.

It is fantasy and self-deception to expect greatness if you do less work than those who have achieved the results you love watching on TV, in concert, in sports, and other areas of life. Make a choice, if you have a passion, and decide to learn the fine art of practice and preparation. The sacrifice will be great but so will the reward.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


What happens when you find an excuse as big as your goal?