Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What does it take?

"What do I need to learn to be able to play banjo like...?"

"I want to be as good as... What should I be practicing?"

The questions go on and on.  They're all about the same too.  I see them posted online.  I hear them from students.  Truthfully, they're fair questions.  I mean really, just how does one get to a level where others hear you play and stand in amazement?  What is it that sets apart our heroes?

I was talking to a young banjo player this past weekend and it came to me in a way that I could explain it - I think.

I just don't think it's a matter of acquiring knowledge.  Just simply knowing things isn't going to turn you into an artist.  I'd even go as far as saying that even being able to play scales, understanding modes, learning tons of tunes, getting the fingerboard under control, and more won't get you very far toward becoming a musician/artist of the caliber you're looking for.

I'm not saying that it'll hurt to know all of those things, but I've come to realize that those are not the main things that you'll need to know.

I also don't think it's just a matter of practicing the fundamentals, or even having a good understanding of even what those might be.

What is it then?  Good question.  While enough practice to get a solid grasp of how to actually "work" the instrument is incredibly important, there's still something else you'll need to get to the next level.

For me it's been the pursuit of creating things, and honing the craft of creativity.

I'm convinced that even moderate technical ability such as I have combined with the craft of creativity is key to attaining some high level of artistry.

Think of it like this.  Let's say I learn how to make a step stool in wood shop.  I could take those plans and build more, and each one would progressively get better.  I'd get quicker, and the step stools would look nicer.  Yet, they'd still just be normal step stools.  Getting beyond the norm would require a bit of creativity.  I'm sure those first "creative step stools" might not be so great, but the more I create the better I'll get.


TL;dr -- Practice creativity.  :)

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