Can you guess the approximate number of well-known guitarists and bassists that are actually self-taught? Is this a "trick" question? You bet, because the answer is "all" or "none," depending on your personal perspective. Let me try to explain this minor riddle in this edition of "Coach's Corner."

By the popular definition of what being "self-taught" is (i.e. never taking lessons), I guess that I would classify myself as being a member of that group. After all, about 95% of what I've learned as a musician stems from my own pursuits, and not directly from private instruction. And yet, if influences count as much for sources of growth and inspiration, then by definition that would instantly reverse the percentages. Directly or indirectly, I've probably had more teachers and influences than any player that I've ever met. I think sometimes that a better way of defining self-taught success would be to call it by a different name. How about "self-motivation?"

Consider the fact that all successful players are motivated to evolve and grow. Make no mistake about it! Whether it be any combination of specific instructors, surrounding themselves with challenging environments, or taking on the tedious task of exploring the recorded works of other innovative artists, the bottomline is that there is a job to do, and the successful find a way to get it done. The greatest compliment that I can give a fellow musician or student is to applaud their work ethic.

Okay, so much for riddles and definitions. Let's segue to the title of this article: "Maintaining A Journal." If I have any special secrets about manipulating both my time and knowledge gained from these influences, keeping a regular, daily journal would represent something very significant in my own personal success.

I've mentioned many times to my students that the only truly "measurable" factor in one's musical pursuit is time itself, or more specifically how you manage both your time and the material that you choose to study. Well, keeping and updating a personal journal or diary allows you to constantly maintain and redefine your direction and focus as a musician. Not enough of this? Add more. Too much of that? Subtract some.

On a more general front, several years ago I recall looking back to my previous year's journal, and seeing that I had averaged two hours a day study time for that particular year. I simply knew that if I disciplined myself as I believed that I could, I might conceivably bump that quota to three hours per day. Well, I'm not going to lie to you. It wasn't easy, but guess what? I did it. And when I looked back one year later, I was genuinely amazed at what the extra 365 hours allowed me to accomplish!

This "journal" thing started relatively early in my career, so that's why I attribute so much of my efficient use of time to it. I can recall constantly writing new study schedules, always making slight alterations in the amount of time that I would allocate to each area of my practice, until I could stand back and really feel satisfied at the results. Until the next change, of course.

You know, artistic pursuit remains a timeless entity, yet I really believe that there is a great deal that we can do to ensure that we get more mileage out of our experience. You've just got to think about it. So think about it!

"Coach's Corner" is an ongoing addition to Vision Music. The purpose of these brief articles is to share philosophy, offer practical insights, and to enhance your musical studies.

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