Trying to change

During my recent time spent studying under Brian Oppel, I had the opportunity to learn some techniques that made drumming more efficient. I would work on my assignments, and could track my progress. It felt great.

And then I’d play a show, and would feel like a complete moron. All these songs that I had previously learned started to feel stiff and awkward. I hated the technique and inflections I was playing. I complained about this, and he suggested that I not worry about it so much. He told me to just let the new techniques slowly integrate themselves into my playing, and just play old songs however I had originally learned–and not stress out so much about it.

Since then, I’ve thought about this some more. One of the things that changes with experience is your perspective. I was perfectly happy with how I was playing old songs, up until I learned a new way to play. I also have to manage my resources: am I really going to go back and relearn every single song I might play live? That’s not realistic. It’s far more productive to focus on being a better musician in the long term and practice the more efficient techniques. Actually, now that I writing this… perhaps use old songs as exercises and kill two birds with one stone. Just make sure you are practicing correctly.

Here’s a pitfall: integrating a new “efficient” way of doing something into your life immediately. You may understand how the new thing is awesome, but you’re not even close to mastering it at the same level as the old “inefficient” way. So you’ll probably mess that up, too. If you’re going to replace a way that you do something, you better be coming out ahead. Give yourself plenty of time to practice the new way in situations where no one is depending on you or where you have low visibility.

So, I think the point is that change can’t happen overnight, and it’s disruptive to try to force it. Instead, better to allow the new techniques to just integrate themselves into your life as you move on. Otherwise, you’ll get stressed out and be unhappy, which will just slow you down even more.

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