In yesterday’s blog, My Destruction and Re-Construction, I gave mention in the introduction about the “momentum” of my music. While I dove into my personal destruction and re-construction, I feel that I didn’t get into the issue of momentum all that much.
WHAT IS THIS “MOMENTUM” PROBLEM?
As I noted in the previous blog, linked above, I had a momentum where I was always playing music. Over the decades, my confidence built up to the point that it was not an issue.
Shortly before the labrum tear and other issues that interrupted this momentum, I had no fear, no concern, and no questions. If I wanted to show up to an open jam to play drums, bass, guitar, or whatever I wanted, then I would just do it. If I found an opening for a band looking for a musician, then I would answer the ad.
FAILURE IN THE PAST
This is not to say that things always worked out. I did step into an audition for the position of drummer with a band called “Absolute Zen.” I just stepped in and said that I would love to audition, based on hearing just one of their songs.
But when I listened to the entire album, it became clear that their drummer, singer, and leader, Tony Medeiros, was a rather unique performer behind the kit, doing things that I’d not ever worked out, because I felt that I would not encounter a general need for these skills.
For example, he could play a really fast double-stroke roll on the bass drum near the ending of their song “Wonder Drug.” It was insane, to say the least. Cleary, Mr. Medeiros had talents that I could not touch without months of wood shedding. Considering the fact that the audition was only a few days away from my acceptance, this was clearly not an option.
Needless to say, I failed miserably at the audition. On their side of it, the band ended up splitting because they could not find anyone to replace Mr. Medeiros, which speaks volumes to his rather unique approach and abilities to the drums.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER PAST FAILURES?
After I failed the audition with Absolute Zen, I assessed the situation. Firstly, I acknowledged that I may have jumped in too quickly. Then, I acknowledged that I should consider the demands of the position before taking it on. Finally, I noted that the band also failed in finding a replacement.
With this assessment, I had no hard feelings about any of it. I carried on, with great confidence, and continued to learn and build my talents in an effort to open more doors.
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE MOMENTUM WAS INTERRUPTED?
When I think about my musical momentum being interrupted, I think about how I used to be an avid skateboard rider. I was really good at it, not in a Rodney Mullen or Tony Alva kind of way, but still good.
I could send the board rolling down the road, run up to it, and jump on it while it was moving. I could handle dropping into a half-pipe, roll on two wheels, do some kick flips, and more. I would fall on occasion, such as when one of my wheels would meet a tiny pebble on the road. But I’d get back up and get back on, completely unafraid of falling.
After taking a few years off from skateboarding, I bought myself a new skateboard. Just trying to stand on it was a scary thing. I had no confidence in my abilities to ride, but also had a level of fear regarding falling down.
I went from being someone who could do anything he wanted with a skateboard, including trying new things, to someone who couldn’t even get on a skateboard, let alone actually ride it.
This is probably the best analogy to use in describing the interruption of my musical momentum. I felt that I could no longer compete. I felt afraid to audition, or to play an instrument in front of others.
HOW TO RE-GAIN THIS MOMENTUM
This was difficult and more than a little tricky, as well as time consuming. However, I was able to get my momentum back to a workable place, where I could play music with others and feel good about it.
Visiting the past. The past is something that is easy to dismiss. With the skateboard, I just acknowledged that “the past is the past,” [a thought-terminating cliche], and moved on. The truth was that riding a skateboard again just wasn’t as important to me.
But with music, it was a different story.
I wanted to get back to music and start playing again. I had to dig deep and look at my accomplishments from the past. I had to look at my wins. I had to look at my losses. I would recall stories about my early competitions as a snare drum soloist and my marching band successes.
I would look at my successes with bands like The Beertonez, where we had great music and were well-received. I would recall my success as a songwriter with Ruby Cassidy. I would also re-visit my past with bands like Noodle Muffin.
THE PURPOSE OF THIS EXERCISE
This had nothing to do with re-building my ego, so much as it was about reminding myself: You’ve been here before. You did all of this in the past, and you can do it again.
It is easy to forget the past, mostly because the past doesn’t matter, so much as what you can do now. Could I still play? Could I still be a contender?
It’s one thing to declare that you can do it again, and it is the first essential step. But it is another thing to prove that you can do it.
THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING
Renting space, setting up drums, and wood shedding was the next step. I had to re-build my ability to play rudiments, which I had always taken for granted because they were things that had never gone away before.
Finally, I was standing on that skateboard. But it would take many, many hours of work.
Those hours of work involved rudiments, playing beats, re-learning old songs, playing new songs, and so on. If I wasn’t playing along with a song, then I was playing along with a click. I was re-building that ability as well.
The work continued for months. I will admit that it was difficult and a bit scary at first. But the more I did it, the more I could fall back into my old seat.
TAKING THAT BIG STEP
It’s one thing to ride a skateboard up and down your own driveway. It’s a completely different thing to ride at the skate park in front of others.
I found some open jams and signed up. This went well, and I met some cool musicians along the way. This opened more doors to other people and other situations.
WHERE I AM AT NOW
Today, I am still active with Noodle Muffin, as I have been for 15 years. When I’m not traveling to Los Angeles to work with them, I’m working with other musicians in my area, playing music because I love to do it.
Maybe I’ll get some paying gigs down the road with a cover band, but that’s not what drives me. If money were my primary motivator, then I would just get a job, and that would be enough. I wouldn’t have to put the effort into re-building my abilities, my confidence, and my overall momentum.
I could have given up, although I think that I would have regretted doing such a thing. Music has always been a major part of my life, so it’s hard to imagine carrying on without it.
It feels good to be back on that skateboard.