Author: Campbell, Bruce

Milestones - Ahead and Behind

As I look back on 40+ years of playing music, there were a lot of steps along the way. Some of them I recognized as steps, some were specific goals, and others I only realized were breakthroughs as Iíve watched others go through them.

I imagine a lot of things I think of as significant breakthroughs are no big deal to some folks for whom playing music comes naturally. I speak then, for those of us who have to power through these obstacles.

As a teenager, I remember being taught bar chords by my cousin, and it was an epiphany. All the stuff I had learned on guitar up to that point had been within the first 3 frets. With a bar chord, I suddenly realized that there were a myriad of ways to approach how to play a song. Itís a very simple thing, but it taught me why guitars donít just have 5 frets.

Watching my kids learn to play music, I had to learn to let them pick up some of these things on their own. Not that Iím terribly wise or anything, but I learned early on if I tried to help them too much they didnít enjoy the process of discovery as much.

Left hand hammer-ons and pull-offs were a big step, but they werenít discovered through one big ďwow momentĒ. Some of it was laziness. I found that if was able to hammer on the next note in a melody, it freed up my pick to move the next note after that, and sped things up a bit. Ditto for pull-offs.

There are lots of performance and band milestones, too. The first time you play music in public is transformational. Most people have one of two reactions:

1) "Well, I'm never doing THAT again! What was I thinking?"
2) "Wow! I need to do this much more often!"

Either way, you're never the same.

Your first paying gig is a milestone too. I remember mine. I was about 15 (I remember I needed to be driven to the gig by my parents), and we had a rock band, and we somehow discovered that a middle school across town was having a dance and needed a band. We reached the "Talent Evaluation Committee" (two kids - one boy, one girl - who needed their parents to drive them to my garage to evaluate our band), and they came out to check us out.

We roared through a few songs, and it dawned on me that no one had ever heard us except for our long suffering families, and we were too young to check out many other bands of young teenagers either - we had no idea if we were good or not.

We got through a few songs, and said to the Committee "What did you think?".

The girl started to say "Well, we'll have to discuss this -- " and the boy blurted out, excitedly "I thought you guys are great!". The girl shot him a dirty look and they huddled away from earshot. After a few moments they came back and offered us the job for a shopping $45! It was so exciting!

Years later, I was blessed enough to see my youngest son perform with his teenage band, and all the emotions came flooding back. It's still exciting to perform, but that first time - well, that was special.

And so on it goes. I have set and reached a number of goals with regards to venues, songs, musical genres, etc - and it never really stops. But it does feel good to glance in the rear view mirror now and again and remember the good times, challenges met and adventures we have. Lord knows, it could all come to screeching halt at any time, and all I will have is the rear mirror view.

Posted:  2/19/2014

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