Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Teen Jazz Radio for 2014! We’re now almost into July which is just crazy, it’s probably just me, but I feel like this summer is just flying by.
For those of you new to this series, I’m Shannon Kennedy, your host and I’d like to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to our show and to the fantastic young artists we feature as part of each podcast.
I know many of you are listening to this podcast for different reasons – some of you may be here for the advice offered as part of this episode and some of you may be listening to check out the music we feature as part of the show. So, as I mentioned in the last episode, I’m going to try and space the music and the advice out evenly throughout the podcast so that there’s a little something for everyone.
In today’s episode, I’m going to feature the music of Tyler Nathaniel Hindsley, Lori Jenaire, Jason Weber, Liza Carbe, Incendio and Darryl Williams.
Today on the show I’m going to discuss this issue of being “good enough” and settling as an artist. Not settling as in doing music you don’t want to do or selling out, that’s something entirely different. Instead, I’m going to talk about not working as hard as you should on your craft or relying on natural talent and why you shouldn’t do it. Why you should always push for more, strive to improve and grow and search for knowledge.
It’s easy to get frustrated and throw your hands in the air, pushing out content or music that is not as good as it should be. Of course, we can always do better, but you have to make a serious effort to do the best that you can all the time and not settle for sub par material or performances. And it’s important to continue to try to do better, to continue to practice, to continue to learn. Even if you play great or you write really well, it’s important to keep working at it so that your playing and writing continues to evolve and you continue to improve.
So, before we dive into today’s tips, let’s check out our first music set. This week I’d like to introduce you to Tyler Nathaniel Hindsley and Lori Jenaire. The first song you’ll hear is Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough by Tyler Nathaniel Hindsley and second I’m going to feature Unexpected Storm by Lori Jenaire from Fruition.
Once again, that was Lori Jenaire with Unexpected Storm and before that was Tyler Nathaniel Hindsley with Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough. You can find more information about Lori Jenaire at lorijenaire.com.
Why “Good Enough” isn’t Good Enough
You’ve been practicing for hours and everything you can think of to improve, but you just don’t feel like you’re getting any better. You can’t hear any difference in what you’re playing. You grow frustrated, decide that it’s “good enough” and move on to another activity. But is good enough really enough or should we strive for more?
The Internet and tools like Youtube have opened up the possibility for anyone and everyone to put homemade videos and recordings up along next to professional quality music videos and recordings and as much as I hate to say it, not everything matches in quality. Because anyone and everyone have been taking advantage of these tools to create.
That’s not to say that I think that they should be more exclusive, not by any stretch. I think they are great for the developing musician to get their stuff out there and receive constructive criticism, but that’s not what happens most of the time.
In fact, I recently saw a video of a performance I was there for on Youtube where the comments accused the singer of lip syncing (when she wasn’t) and of creating terrible music (which is subjective). We’re all entitled to like the kind of music we like and dislike the kind of music we don’t, but my personal opinion is that we’d all have much pleasanter lives if more people spent more time discussing what they do like rather than what they don’t like.
To play devil’s advocate with myself, however, one could argue that we’d never improve or make progress is people didn’t point out what was wrong and to some extent, I agree, but there’s a difference with a comment like “I really don’t like this style of music, but the singer is great” and “The singer needs to work on her pitch, but she’s a dynamic performer” over “This is complete crap. Who listens to this anyway?” and “He sucks. He should quit guitar and go work at a fast food restaurant although he’d probably be terrible at that too.” Or something like that, but you get the picture.
Anyway, in regards to the video, there were at least twenty negative or brutal comments for every one positive comment and it was heartbreaking especially because a lot of it was untrue and therefore unwarranted. Of course, all of this to say that a lot of people apparently have nothing better to do than bash others on social media and it unfortunately comes with the territory. You just have to learn how to move past it.
If you’re interested, we actually have an article on dealing with negative criticism on Teen Jazz, it was one of our past Teen Jazz Radio episodes, and we’ll include it as a link with the transcription of today’s episode at TeenJazz.com.
Back to the subject at hand.
There’s a lot of stuff out there that is only “good enough” and it’s easy to fall into producing similar content. Rather than aiming to do something unique or outstanding, we create things that are comparable to what everyone else is doing. It’s not great, it’s only good enough. Everyone else is putting out clips of this quality, so what’s wrong with me doing it? We have to constantly generate new content. More, more, more. So we only spend a short time working on a lot of things, never really focusing on quality. But success is quality over quantity and not the other way around. What if you focused on a constant stream of content (music), but focused on creating fewer high quality recordings or videos?
Fans would look forward to your next release with more excitement because 1) the quality would be better and 2) because you made them wait a bit longer to get it.
So when and why would you want to settle for “good enough”?
It may be difficult to push yourself and stretch beyond what you’re comfortable doing but that’s one of the challenges you’re going to come to over and over throughout your career and you’ll have to learn to push past it.
Now let’s check out the next set of music featuring Liza Carbe and Jason Weber. The first song you’ll hear is Five by Jason Weber from the album Five and second I’m going to feature I Will Be There by Liza Carbe from Wait for the Spring.
So here’s my advice to you.
Don’t settle for good enough, aim for great.
Like I said earlier in this article, it’s important to know that you should never stop looking for opportunities to learn and grow. Push and challenge yourself to be great. Good is too familiar, too easy to settle into but great offers something valuable to the world (and yourself). Good and good enough are forgettable but great is what makes a recording, performance or video memorable. Strive to be memorable.
Another reason to aim for great, rather than settle for good enough, is that you can take the negative comments in stride. Rather than feeling like they might be deserved, thinking, “yeah they might be right,” you’ll know that you worked hard and that’s far more important.
Of course, it isn’t easy dealing with negative comments when you’ve poured your heart into something, but at least you’ll know it isn’t on your end that something’s wrong – it’s the other person who has a problem. On the other hand, if they offer valid criticism, thank them and work on it.
If you follow Teen Jazz, in an article I wrote a while back I shared the fact that I tend to be shy and for the first several years I played I let my introverted personality inhibit my ability to perform. For me, I was doing good enough and that was all I thought I needed to do, but it wasn’t.
When I was in high school, one of my teachers really challenged my way way of thinking – he often put me on the spot so that I was forced to do better than “good enough”. I could no longer get away with playing by ear rather than reading music, play timidly nor pass on opportunities to solo. I was forced to put myself out there constantly and I had to get past “good enough”. It was challenging, frustrating, often embarrassing, but it pushed me to get better and I’m thankful for the experience even though it was tough to go through at the time.
Avoid the danger of comfort.
When we get to a certain level with our playing, it’s easy to let daily routines and practice sessions become comfortable. We put in the time, but don’t really push ourselves. It’s easier to play for 30 minutes to an hour mindlessly, maybe sightread a few etudes, solo over a song we’re familiar with or run through scales, play along with your favorite recordings than it is to sightread something really challenging, learn the changes to a new song or really focus on the inconsistencies in pitch or finger movement as we play our scales, or really learn the entire solo on that recording note for note.
Don’t fall into this trap. Actively think about where you’re at with your playing or songwriting, keep track of things that have room for improvement and work on them. Don’t settle into a routine. You’ll only hurt yourself and limit your own potential and you’ll have no one else to blame.
Create goals so that you don’t wander aimlessly.
As I just mentioned, spend the time to sit down and really think about the aspects of your playing or songwriting you want to work on.
For example, maybe (as a sax player) you want to learn altissimo, play more like Charlie Parker or improve your pitch in the lower register. You can break down each of those goals into more digestible actions so that you can take daily steps towards improving in each of them. Maybe for altissimo you first take the time to find out which fingerings work for you, then work on getting to them, then work them into scales and arpeggios, learn to play melodies that transition up to altissimo, etc. To play like Charlie Parker you could learn the Omnibook at a slow tempo, work it up to speed, memorize your favorite licks from the book and then learn them in several keys, try to transcribe his solos from recordings that aren’t in the Omnibook, etc. And finally for pitch in the lower register, play long tones and practice with a tuner.
The best musicians are those who really look for opportunities to improve and grow, they know that they are “good enough” but they always aim to get better. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to achieve perfection – for most, that’s impossible – but don’t let yourself settle for less than you can be as a performer. There’s a balance somewhere between “good enough” and perfection and every musician needs to decide for themselves what that is.
So there you have it, our thoughts on why “good enough” isn’t good enough. If you’d like to weigh in on this week’s emission, the transcription on TeenJazz.com is open to comments and we’d love to hear from you.
Our last set of music for today’s show is going to feature Incendio and Darryl Williams. The first song you’ll hear is Secret Traveler by Incendio from the album Seduction and second I’m going to feature Costa Rica by Darryl Williams from That Was Then.
Once again, that was Darryl Williams with Costa Rica and before that was Incendio with Secret Traveler. You can find more information about Incendio at incendioband.com and Darryl Williams is at darrylwilliamsmusic.com.
Before I close out the show, I’d like to invite you all to check out Teen Jazz if you’re interested in learning more about me, Shannon Kennedy or the community. As I just mentioned it’s TeenJazz.com.
Or if you just would like to say hello, come and say hi at our Facebook page – that’s facebook.com/teenjazz. I promise to say hello back!
All the links that I’ve mentioned as part of the show will be up on Teen Jazz and Teen Jazz Radio, so if you’re interested in learning more about these talented artists, please stop on by – I know they’ll appreciate the love! You can leave comments on any of our posts at TeenJazzRadio.com.
A very special thanks to Jazz and Bossa Radio for featuring Teen Jazz Radio on their web radio station. We recently partnered with them at the beginning of this month to share our artists with a wider audience and we are excited to have joined the Jazz and Bossa Radio family. You can visit them at jazzandbossaradio.com. All of our Teen Jazz Radio podcasts are featured over at Jazz and Bossa Radio on Sundays at 3pm EST and on Wednesdays at 5pm EST.
And last but not least, we appreciate your iTunes reviews! If you’ve enjoyed our podcast, please help us get noticed on iTunes by writing us a review. Let us know if you’ve found our podcast valuable or if you’ve enjoyed some of the music we’ve featured as part of the show. We’re so very thankful for those of you who have gone in and taken the time to write us reviews for Teen Jazz Radio.
Thank you again for tuning in the Teen Jazz Radio podcast from TeenJazzRadio.com.
In this week’s episode, you heard the music of:
- Tyler Hindsley – Don’t Stop tip You Get Enough
- Lori Jenaire – Unexpected Storm from Fruition
- Jason Weber – Five
- Liza Carbe – I Will Be There from Wait for the Spring
- Incendio – Secret Traveler from Seduction
- Darryl Williams – Costa Rica from That Was Then