Welcome to the first in a series of articles where I’ll be taking excerpts from my new book, An Artistic Guide to Economic Survival. The focus of this book is about getting you to understand that there is a lot more than just your immediate skills on your instrument that needs to be considered as far as getting ahead these days is concerned.
Over the last few decades, the music industry as has changed quite drastically. The advent of Myspace, Facebook, and Youtube has had a huge impact on how we perceive, produce, and present our art. Add to that a fairly failed economy and questions like “where do I want/need to invest my personal time musically and artistically” start to demand more attention. And that’s exactly the point! It’s about taking a close look at constructing a direction for yourself that’s going to help service your musical, artistic, “and” business needs…a tough goal these days.
The very first step I would recommend considering in this potential dilemma is finding your path…just exactly what are to hoping to accomplish musically and artistically? I believe discovering the answer to that most basic of questions is an excellent way to begin designing an artistic framework for you to follow, as well as beginning to start to perceive and construct a relevant course of study to pursue. Remember, there is no one particular course of study that works for everyone, and you being in touch with that reality is paramount.
You might decide to pursue a path of musical diversification, which many of the artists I’ve interviewed highly recommended, especially with the times as they are. Or on the contrary, following a path of becoming a specialist in some particular area might suit your personal needs and musical desires. Understand, there are no rights and wrongs here, just possibilities, and it’s about you getting in touch with “your” aspirations.
Many of the greats that I’ve interviewed have more or less gone this path of artistic individualism. Victor Wooten in his early days spoke of his serious love affair with the drums. He conceptualized an approach to his instrument based around trying to capture the sounds, the rhythm, and the sonic dynamics that the drums had to offer. If you’ve watched him, you can easily hear that he was quite successful in his quest, which has everything to do with his sound and his approach.
Bassist Anthony Jackson also realized very early on in his career that the standard four string bass did not encompass the sound he was hearing in his head, i.e., the advent of the six string contrabass, which has everything to do with “his” sound, and “his” approach.
Bassist extraordinaire Gary Willis took a close look at his relationship with academia and found for himself that it was more about learning to trust his musical instincts in performance mode than an academic excursion. He speaks in terms of simply trying to “connect ideas”, which if you’ve heard him, especially in improvisational mode, he totally owns, and it clearly defines his approach.
I think the most sterling example of what I’m trying to present here is bassist Michael Manring. Michael is a proponent of what is called Lateral thinking. Lateral thinking is about discovering ideas that may not be obtainable by using traditional step-by-step logic. For those of you who don’t know Michael, he has a Hipshot de-tuner on every string, as well as de-tuners built into his bridge. This gives him the opportunity to play in over 40 different tunings, which has everything to do with his sound, style, and approach, and gives him an extremely unique voice on his instrument. Each one of these individuals found a particular path for themselves which obviously has worked well for their artistic pursuits.
So, what’s the first step you can take to find that path, that vision for your artistry? Cut some spin time! Go in a room, shut the door, make sure your not disturbed, shut the cell phone off and try to “focus” on seeing this quote unquote path for yourself. It may take a while to begin to conceptualize an answer to this. This process is actually very akin to the beginnings of meditation. When you begin, you’ll have 9000 thoughts going through your head…this is typical. The trick is to stay with it. Eventually, those thoughts will clear, if you’re patient, and you’ll begin to see a glimpse of what you’re searching for. Questions like “what am I missing as far as understanding a direction for myself” might be worth considering to get you started. It’s about getting out of the “obvious”, and into the “not so obvious”, and hanging out there for a while…interesting place.
Take this seriously…follow through…try to discover that path. Your decision to go after this is in my opinion one of the most important decisions you can make as far as your artistic advancement on your instrument is concerned. Good luck on your quest.
An Artistic Guide to Economic Survival is available for purchase on this site, or you can write me personally at Jake@JakeKot.com.