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Give me three steps…

        By  Timmer Blakely


hat does it take to become a better musician?  Is it all about learning your scales?  Is it practice, practice, practice?  Is it buying the best gear and changing your strings at least once a week?  All of those things may or may not have merit, but becoming a better musician is simply a matter of following three steps.

Input, digest, and output.

If you follow these three steps repeatedly, you will improve.  It is guaranteed.

       The input step is all about getting information and ideas into your head.  The ideas can come from any number of sources.  A private instructor is a great place to start.  A good teacher can fill your head with all sorts of new concepts and explain them very thoroughly.  Magazines, books, and other printed educational literature are other great sources of input.  The internet is full of web pages offering tons of free knowledge.  And instructional videos are almost the same as having a personal lesson with your favorite player. 

      The only criteria for it to be input is that it has to open up new ideas and concepts in your head.  Whether it's a Global Bass article by Rocco Prestia showing how to play 64th notes over a funk groove or an instructional video by Bunny Brunell showing what changes to play over an F#5b13: if it’s new information to you, then it's input.    

        Now that your head is full of amazing new things, you have to digest it. This is where the practice, practice, practice, part comes into play.  While it's still in your head, it's just a concept. When you translate the concept to your hands and instrument is when it becomes a tool.  And the only way to make that translation is to sit down with your instrument and hammer away alone in your room.  If you take the time to learn how to fully apply the concept to your instrument, you will end up with a tool.  Now all you have to do is learn how to use the tool and get good with it.    

       Tools take time to get used to.  The first time you pick up a hammer, you can probably drive a nail with it, but you run a pretty big risk of putting a hole in the wall next to the nail you are driving.  And you don't get any better with the hammer by sitting alone in your room swinging it around.  You have to start working with nails and wood.  The more nails you drive, the better you get. 

       That's how it is with your newly found tool. The output stage is all about using your tool with other musicians.  That's how you get the feel for it.  Get out of your room and play.  Whether it's in your garage with your buddies, at a local tavern on jam night, or out on a gig with your band, you have to start working with your tool.  Every time that hammer hits the nail, your aim and confidence improve.

        If you feel like you are in a rut and aren't making any improvement, maybe it's because you are skipping one of these three steps.  Chops are great and play an important part in musicianship.  But knowledge is power and learning how to use knowledge is invaluable.  Input, digest, and output are the three steps to a new and improved you. 

Timmer Blakely
The Jeff Healy Band

The ‘Bass Man’ TIMMER BLAKELY is a freelance bassist working out of the Pacific North West.  (wherever that is!  This is a global magazine, Timmer, hence the name!! Pacific North West of What?  The Tao Ceti Star System??)

Some of the more notable artists that Timmer has performed with include

 Ry Cooder, Terry Evans, Jeff Healy and Geoff Achison.

  Timmer's Bass World website.



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