The subject for this edition of "Coach's Corner" is an extremely important one. It's a topic that ultimately has everything to do with your day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year, and even decade-to-decade growth and experience as an evolving musician.

"Project" and "basic," as some of you know, are my ways of classifying all present and past musical pursuit, respectively. Let's define what they mean, and then discuss how they affect your decision-making, and your musical path in general.

What's "basic?" Essentially it represents everything you consider yourself to be as a musician today. Basic is the sum total of every hour that you've practiced, every gig you've worked, every band rehearsal you've ever attended, every lesson you've ever taken, etc. But basic is much more than just a memory of experiences past. It's what you've got to show for those events. It's what remains in the way of actual knowledge gleaned from your past. Sort of your musical "bank account," a metaphor that I often think about when I make a frequent "withdrawal" from mine. Got the picture?

Without your basic, you're like a "ship-without-a-rudder," adrift in a sea of confusion about where you've traveled and where you are today. But, of course, you can't live in the past either. You must evolve and expose yourself to fresh ideas in order to grow. This is where the other half of the equation surfaces. It's called "project."

Project might be defined as any new musical pursuit. It could be as small as one new riff or song, or as large as a new band, or an upcoming gig or recording situation. Project, in a sense, becomes the singular most important source for your ever-evolving basic.

Okay. With me so far on the definitions? Now it starts getting more interesting, as we move into the subject of setting goals and avoiding ruts. It's all about one word in the subtitle of this article: "balance!"

There are two common ruts that musicians seem to fall prone to. The most typical scenario is that of only playing what you already know. It's easy to fall into this one, because by doing so you avoid the challenge (and the inherent frustration) of scaling new heights in your career. In this instance your path is out of balance. You may have accumulated a lot of basic, but it can get pretty old if that's all that you do.

The other rut is definitely less common, but stems from a constant pursuit of new growth, without taking the time to commit the knowledge to basic. You remain stuck in "neutral," moving from band to band, gig to gig, teacher to teacher, etc, and feeling as though you've got nothing to show for it except memories. This time it's the project aspect of your pursuit that's out of focus.

You can avoid these ruts and keep evolving upward by keeping close track of your path, adjusting your time regarding balancing basic and project by setting your personal goals accordingly. Make sure that you stick with a project long enough to really get it into your basic. You don't have to master it, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure that you get the subject memorized. If you do that, the mastery will eventually take place. And make sure that you choose your "project" material wisely, since it represents what you will eventually become. Later...

Project to Basic Progress Chart

"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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