Tonight while I was taking a guitar course, I heard a very good piece of advice: “Trust yourself.” It had never occurred to me how often we get caught up in playing within the lines, following the rules to default.

But we do. Whether we are consciously making an effort to do things perfectly and exactly, or if it’s a subconscious habit, how many of us never push the boundaries of our creativity? How many of us never try for that little extra because of fear or conditioning or self-doubt?

I remember the moments after I finished writing my first ‘real’ song — “Monster” — I sat back, completely stunned at the doors I could feel opening. There was a whole, entire WORLD of new music out there! The sense was exhilarating. For a huge portion of my musical education, I had played exactly what my teachers and professors wanted me to play, exactly how they wanted it played. I played music according to all these standards, and in hindsight? It’s probably a good part of what gave me post-college burnout. Like when I grew sick of analyzing literature for my English classes, I grew pinched and bored with all these damned musical rules. I came to the (erroneous, I see now) assumption that music was only this: a predetermined pattern of steps in a dance picked out by someone else. It wasn’t my place to ‘invent’ anything. I was just a lowly little musician.

It’s no wonder I didn’t play a single instrument for almost three years following graduation.

Somehow, in my time ‘away,’ I gained the sense of self I’d been lacking. Somehow, this newfound confidence found its way into my fingers, and somehow, it found its way into that first song.

Trust yourself.

Music isn’t a predetermined set of steps. Those steps are a guideline, just like those words in the dictionary are building blocks. We tend to get caught up in the minutiae, but you don’t second guess yourself when you’re playing with dominoes or Legos or log sets, do you?

Trust yourself. I think that’s the best advice which doesn’t belong to me that I can pass on today. 🙂

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