Man Down and the Art of No Rehearsal

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I admit that I was a little stressed out. I had a gig with one of the bands I play in, Man Down, and I haven’t had time to practice my instrument as much as I’d like, let alone work on ANY of the Man Down tunes. This might not have been such a big deal if it were not for the fact that Man Down hadn’t played a gig in months. For those of you who know the band, this probably sounds silly. Stress and Man Down are two things that should never go together – it’s about as laid back as a band can possibly get. If there’s ever a rehearsal, it’s the day of the gig in either our basement or backyard for whoever can make it. There’s ten of us, so getting everyone anywhere at the same time is always a trick. In fact, at this last gig, Man Down was a man down: our trumpet player couldn’t make it & none of us realized it until we were setting up. So you see, a Man Down gig really isn’t something to get bent out of shape over. We’re there to play music and have fun. Now, before you start thinking that we’re a wholly unprofessional group bumbling our way through a gig – we’re not. That’s just the thing: rehearsal or no, sporadic gigging aside, we always manage to pull it off. The band sounds good. It sounds good, because of the natural talent & charisma of the part time musicians, and the polished talent, musicality & charisma of the full-time professional musicians in the group. This is where I start to feel a bit inferior. Ok, more than a bit. Especially lately. Lately, my days have not been spent working on music for hours on end. They’ve been spent knee deep in diapers, laundry, groceries, and barely getting kids where they need to be on time – and when they get there I’m still in my jammies. 🙂 This is ok. It’s ok, so long as I am able to at least maintain my current level of playing, but it does make me feel inferior.

Usually, this inferiority complex is a good thing because it has served as my best motivator. I wasn’t a Peabody trained wunderkind like some of the other guys. I’m just a gal who played the violin half-heartedly in middle & high school and quit as soon as I could. I believe my exact words after the 11th grade end of the year orchestra concert were “I am never playing this stupid instrument ever again”, (and I believe I said under my breath “good riddance.”) Usually when I say stuff like that, it comes back to bite me in the ass. Usually when I make any sort of definitive statement – especially one with as much venom as I felt then, the exact opposite comes to pass. In this case, I seem to have made a life out of playing that “stupid instrument”, and regret whole-heartedly not spending every spare moment of my youth practicing it. I do regret it because I have come to a realization: I’m not a natural at it. I wanted to be, so I told myself that I was, and then would get frustrated when I couldn’t do things. Then walk away blaming something else. “I just have a mental block.”

“I’m stressed out.”

“I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

“I hate this song.”

“No one ever taught me how to do that, so…”

“This instrument is stupid.”

After years of making excuses for myself, I buckled down, started taking lessons and worked – really worked really hard at it. Progress felt slow. Still does, but it was progress. I was feeling more confident. I was able to take a more accurate inventory of my strengths & weaknesses. I was able to believe in my strengths without relying on them to mask the lack of technical skill in other areas. I am expressive and a good performer, but that is no substitute for good old fashioned skill – and skill is something that for me comes at a high price:time – and a lot of it. Time, though, is something that is in short supply lately. This is why I was stressed. Man Down has made an art out of performing without rehearsals, but I have not. I need to work every day to feel adequate. Even for Man Down.

In the end, I did get some practicing in, and though the band didn’t get that afternoon-before-the-gig rehearsal, (and were trumpetless), it sounded good – and what’s more, I was able to relax and have a great time. I don’t know what I’d do without music in my life, and I am so grateful to be able to play with people who not only are good friends, but who have also unwittingly made me work to become a better player.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Man Down and the Art of No Rehearsal

  1. Marcey Schnieder

    great story sky keep it up , u r a natural @ alot u seem not to see now !but u will one fine day , trust me ~i see it from a far !! ;> nope noboday told me to say it -pay me hahaha to see it , twist my arm -or scare me – so if u read this believe in her n Jeff and thier muzic i DO !!

  2. Ed Tetreault

    Skye, you sounded great! I agree that one of the beautiful things about Man Down is that we are all there because we love music. We certainly arent there to make money! 🙂 And to top it all off, you couldnt ask for a better group of friends. It just makes the gigs that much more special….

    I, for one, am very proud of how far you have come on your instrument since the day I met you. The violin is no joke, and you have worked incredibly hard to push yourself beyond the zone where you were comfortable. That speaks volumes about you right there. But I think that the learning process of being a musician is one that never stops…at least I hope it never does for me! I try to learn something every time I play (even if its what note NOT to hit…) Its a wonderful journey and I am so glad to be on it with you…

  3. I sooooooooo relate to what you are saying here. I always, always feel inferior because my voice is not perfect and technical and trained, and I spend a lot of time stressing about that. So I totally understand. And I understand about spending the time in Mommyland which (between you and me and the wall, regardless of its many rewards, can eat your soul sometimes). Here is what I am working on realizing. This negative self-talk serves as a means of protection – we are worried about embarassing ourselves or being judged – so our brain tries to keep us small, and a little hidden, if that makes sense. Protected because we say the mean things to ourselves first. BUT…. If you acknowledge that and try to counter with the fact that this experience is good for your soul – you grow from it – it enriches you, and plus, most importantly – YOU LOVE DOING IT, maybe you can get a little relief. Anyway, that’s how I am working on it. Doesn’t always work, but worth trying, no? I love you madly madly and you are honestly one of the smartest, most beautiful, and diversely, wickedly talented people I know. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, too. 🙂

    • skyeblog

      I’m not trying to be negative, actually. I think being realistic is a good thing -and like I said, I am grateful for the motivation. I think that playing next to people with more skill than myself is the best way to improve. I needed a swift kick in the behind & several years ago, i got it. Not just there, but in several other places, too. I’m really glad I did, because now I can be more 🙂 Also, I like “unpolished” voices so much more than pristine ones … with the exception of Allison Krauss. and Alicia Keys. You know what I mean – give me Brandi Carlisle with those heartfelt breaks in her voice any day.

      ________________________________

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