As a young musician, I was often caught between holding back and being a disciplined player. I was never really one to take a chance musically because I was afraid that I would make a mistake and/or I thought that others would think that my idea would be corny. I battled this for a long time. Usually, younger musicians tend to overplay and play everything that they know. I, on the other hand, held back a lot. I still do this even now.
I remember when I attended Purchase College and studied under Pete Malinverni. He told me that I have great musical instincts and I should trust them. He also told me something that I carry till this day:
"Always do what the music calls for."
This statement has helped shaped my view of music. It has enhanced and added to my musical instincts. It has helped in terms of what kind of musical vocabulary I should use for a specific tune, how I should shape a solo, and shaped my understanding of the musical language. It's all about knowing what goes where. Creativity is involved in this because sometimes I have to know how creative can I be with the given parameters.
Often times, other musicians and band leaders tell me to open up and play out more (I call that giving me the green light). My thing is that I want to blend in with the band. When I get the green light, I get excited! At the same time though, I make sure that I do what the music calls for. There are some cases where I had to "water myself down" due to the insecurities of others and in that made me a dishonest player. I felt like I had to lower my skill level because other band members didn't practice or take their craft seriously as I did. Discipline is still the name of the game though. I have to continue to play my parts with excellence. If the song is joyous, then I have to express that. If the song is sad, I have to express that feeling.
A good friend of mine told me that discipline is all about timing. It's like trying to throw a ball in between two train cars while train is moving. It takes patience and risk in order to do it. So when I play I pick my spots carefully. I play an idea just enough so that the listener would hear it but quickly enough to not be in the way of another musician or vocalists.
I'm really glad I learned it this way. Some musicians learned this concept in a more traumatic fashion. Just do what the music calls for and try to throw the ball between the cars. Take a risk but be patient!
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