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Missive: Preparation and Opportunity

As Steve Jordan described so well in his Vic Firth interview, we should be ready for the moment when preparation meets opportunity. The immediate question that came to my mind the first time I watched this is “how do I know what to prepare for?” Short answer, you don’t. Situations in the universe aren’t fixed to any metric. In Jordan’s story, he was a D-list session player that was the only dude to live in Manhattan during a crippling snow storm. Under different circumstances, would his preparation have been enough? We’ll never know. But his moment arrived and he filled the duties to the fullest of his abilities and it obviously paid off for him. But I want to explore my question some because I feel like it helped guide me.

No matter what one is preparing for, the possible gig, the upcoming test, or the next chance with the person we care about, one must be ready. Let’s explore it from one of the other angles to give a different perspective. You’ve met an incredible person but something happened and you’re separated for some reason. The story isn’t over, both sides have made it clear that they hope this isn’t the case. What do you? If you want to be ready for the next time and be the best you that you can be, what do you do? You try to be the best you. Think to the things they liked about you and to improve those ideas and yourself in general. One has to be dynamic and grow in this time. These “desert” moments can be a lonely, trying place because no matter the situation of trying to better yourself, you’re really the only one that knows what the true differences are in real time. You’re also the only one that knows what you have always liked and what has always guided you. How did you end up with your tastes, your interests, your specific pleasures? Just as much as your story shapes who you are as a person, your musical past, both listening and playing, shapes you as a player.

swiss army madness

If you don’t want to play metal, it’s not behoove of you to practice your double bass. Yes, that is an opportunity that could arise, but, if you aren’t passionate about it initially, will you really have put in the skill and time? Would that fulfill you? It’s ok to want to be versatile, but not want to necessarily get locked in to doing a thing you’re not super into. A swiss army knife will do a lot of things, but I’m not going to use one if I need to put up sheetrock. Versatility has a limit, just as specialization. In order to truly prepare for our chance to shine is look inside and ask ourselves who we are and what we want. Maggie’s character in True Detective says this about Rust:

Rust knew exactly who he was and there was no talking him out of it. You know Marty’s single big problem was that he never really knew himself. So he never really knew what to want.

Honestly, that statement carries considerably more weight if you’re familiar with the show. However, think about it. If you don’t know yourself, how do you know what you want? Is knowing what you want the gateway? Maybe in some cases. There are a lot of players that have carved a nice niche for themselves because they do a thing that not really anyone does. Is that a bit of pigeonholing? Yeah, but you might get pigeonholed either way. Maybe we should accept that and roll with it?

There are qualities that every good drummer should have: ample technique, feel, solid time, personality, proper equipment. What each of those things means in any musical context is different. I know my intensely dark rides would never cut through in a heavy rock setting. Does that mean I shouldn’t practice that stuff? That’s the line of questioning we have to ask ourselves. What do we want to play? How do we want to play? How do we want to love? Who am I? What do I want? But mostly, how do I want to live?


PS: I ran across an article after this that touched on a very related idea from a different angle. It’s worth a read.


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