How do we go from good to great?
Firstly, we go from bad to good. Beginner to Mastery is too far. The process moves: novice to professional to mastery. So, we begin where we are: we suck. But maybe we wish to improve our game. So, we begin with an aim. My aim at eleven was to be the best guitarist in the world. At eleven you don’t have to be too realistic, and it was an aim.
Secondly, we need someone who’s been there before. That is, we need someone who knows more than we do. Conventionally, we find an instructor, a teacher or a mentor. It is necessary that we find a person on the rung of the ladder above us. It’s not necessary, and is unlikely, that we will find someone two or three rungs of the ladder above us who is prepared to give us personal instruction. It is possible that, from time to time, we get to meet someone of a higher station.
Thirdly, we get out of bed. This sounds silly but if you’ve known as many young musicians as I have, to get out of bed is already a challenge. And getting out of bed is a qualitatively different experience at the other stations.
Fourthly, practice. We practice the instrument, the vocabulary, the repertoire, listening and – play! At the higher levels of play, this moves from playing to extemporization to improvisation to spontaneous composition. But remember always to play. And let’s not forget to listen.
Fifthly, work with people who are better than us. If we’re working in a group of people and we’re really, really bad, if we want to get our average up to just a bit tolerable, we’ve got to work with people that are very, very good at the top to bring their average down and our average up. So, as a young musician, I aimed to be able to play anything that someone might ask me to play. Then, one day, the phone would ring and a better musician would ask, can you do this gig? Someone falls sick, or needs a dep, and one day we will have an opportunity to work with better players – if we are prepared.
Sixthly, work a lot. Work a lot, as much as we can. If we happen to be really, really bad, work will not be coming to us. If we’re even halfway bad, or even tolerable, the world has never heard of us and work will not be coming to us. So, the principle is: we go to the work. In Wimborne, Dorset, in 1967 this meant going to London.
Seventhly, when we’re unemployed or between engagements, we keep practising: we continue practising. When I moved to London and was living at 93a, Brondesbury Road off the Kilburn High Road, life was hard. So, when I was unemployed, I practised two to four to six to eight to ten to twelve hours a day. When we’re working, when we’re in employment, we can’t practise twelve hours a day.
We have an aim.
We have instruction from someone who knows more than we do.
We get out of bed.
We work with better people.
We go to the work.
While we’re between engagements, we continue practising.
If we have acquired a sufficient competence, proficiency, perhaps we are even a novice-with-expertise, someone might acknowledge, recognize or verify the quality of our work. At which point we’re about to make a transition from novice to beginning-professional. At this point, good to be listening when the telephone rings.
A practice requires reliability, repeatability, and response-ability.
A discipline confers effectuality in time.
A discipline is a body of practices that, taken together, forms the structure of our interior architecture.
The musician has three disciplines: of the hands, head and heart. Taken together these form one balanced and harmonious discipline.
In a Guitar Craft practice or discipline, we pay attention to the beginning of the day, pay attention to the end of the day, and then pay attention to what is in between.
Recapitulation is an easily forgotten element of a practice. Our experiencing of the day escapes us.
The key word is attention. The quality of our attention determines the quality of our practice and discipline. The quality of attention determines the quality of our lives. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that all we have in life is the quality of our attention.
Wednesday 7th. July, 2010;
Camp Caravan, Royalston, Massachusetts.