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Riley Music Academy Music Cast: Simple VS Complicated

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Simple VS Complicated

I’ve been teaching at a private school in the Cotswolds since September. It’s great but it takes me an hour to drive there. I’m sure most of you have to deal with commutes so I presume you’re aware of the tedium of national radio. Radio 1 makes me feel completely out of touch with popular culture. Ken Bruce on Radio 2 is like taking a trip to the head office of Crap Christmas Cracker Jokes Inc and sitting through their annual review. The haunting classical music of Radio 3 reminds me of the film Sleeping with the Enemy and creeps me out as I drive through the dark rolling hills of middle England. I used to enjoy Radio 4 but listening to people debate (which is essentially arguing) sends me into a spiral of negativity!

So…I’ve recently discovered ‘podcasts’. I realise I am probably 8-10 years behind the times on this, but still…

I listened to a 2 hr interview with Derek Sivers and so much of what he said was absolute gold that I can’t help but write about it.

This week I’m wondering how you got on with setting your goals for the year (from last weeks blog) and if you actually implemented any of the plans into action.

Derek Sivers (from CD Baby fame) suggested that for any action there are two mental outlooks:

Simple vs. Complicated. 

He used the analogy (man, I love analogies) of people who run/jog. The sceptic looks at running as a series of complicated actions which require huge amounts of effort.

For example:

  • Getting changed into shorts and moisture wicking t shirt
  • Finding your running shoes
  • Lacing up those shoes in a particular way based on your foot measurements
  • Setting up your running app
  • Selecting the perfect running playlist
  • Warming up
  • Stretching
  • Having a shower
  • Replacing your electrolytes

You get the idea. It’s a big deal, and so complicated!

The other person when asked about running says:

“I just leave my house and….run!” 

The point of this is that you can become aware of this mindset when continuing your musical journey and achieving your goals.

If you set out with the mentality of complicated and difficult you will probably waste time and lose motivation.  Plus it will be a miserable experience!

You may:

  • Try to find the perfect time to practice (there is no perfect time!)
  • Set up your practice area ‘just so’
  • Download a scale syllabus
  • Watch YouTube videos
  • Research new instruments and accessories
  • Create a fancy chart of what you will practice and when

While these are not necessarily bad per se, they are light years away from just sitting down and getting on with some serious practice!

It should be simple. You set your target and you aim at it. You just do what it is that you need to do.

“But I don’t think I’m improving”

Not seeing instant results is bad for motivation so you document your results. Simple.

“Today I did this piece at 60bpm with 1 mistake.” 

The next day:

“Today I played the same piece at 65bpm with no mistakes”.

A small, almost imperceptible improvement but over time it adds up.

And this leads me onto my final point:

Be consistent.

If you set your mind to something and constantly work towards it then you will inevitably be rewarded with success.

So after you’ve shared this blog with all your friends ;)


Do you listen to podcasts? If so, please let me know so I can check them out- post below 


6 Comments Add a Comment
  1. John
    January 14, 2016

    Try the podcast WTF by Mark Marron. He interviews people in his garage. Includes musicians so he’s interviewed Elvis Costello for example, Keith Richards, James Taylor, Lemmy to name a few. But the most mindblowing was with President Obama! Try it! WTF stands for what you think it stands for!

    See you soon


    • Jay
      January 16, 2016

      Thanks John

      Will definitely try that one!

  2. Roger Hughes
    January 14, 2016

    Hi Jay. On long journeys I too tend to listen to pod casts, usually previous Radio 2 episodes of the Jamie Cullum show or the Paul Jones show (which clashes with lesson with you on a Monday). And what I find is that the diversity of the music and the interviews the have with various music legends, serve to inspire me to play more myself.

    And as to practice, I don’t think of it in my head as practice anymore, I see it as a learning opportunity. Be it learning a new piece (mental learning), going over a previously played piece to ensure no bum notes (muscle memory learning), or going over simple arpeggios (both mental and muscle learning). Consequently the whole activity is so much more rewarding and so I spend more time playing.

    Who’d have thought this time last year I’d spend 60 mins just playing 3 different arpeggios and enjoy it!. My aim for this year is simply to keep learning regardless of either the complexity or the simplicity of the “lesson”.

    • Jay
      January 16, 2016

      You’re on a roll Roger. Nice one!

  3. Laura tan
    January 14, 2016

    Love these posts Jay. Like having a sax come life coach. Your post on goals made me revisit mine, share a few, break the elephant ones down into bite sized pieces. I listen to audio books, TED, pieces of music I’m trying to play, but I don’t often go in a car anymore, walk everywhere and play about with rhythms as I walk.
    Reading a book about hardwiring happiness and simple neuroscience. It could be reshaped to totally help with learning to play an instrument, noticing, experiencing and absorbing the good sweet spots of life is really important, as our original brain wiring and nervous system was set up for us to notice bad stuff so we didn’t get eaten …..die. It’s so easy to focus on what we play wrong, lack of progress rather than what’s going well, and slide into a sort of spiral of non improvement. So much of successful playing, playing that makes me happy, is about what’s going on in my head.
    Anyway. Enough streams of consciousness. As always thank You so much for helping me when I was in Warks. I’m eternally grateful.
    Off to band practise. Oh, a little portable modem with unlimited download is great for listening to stuff, if you need wifi on long journeys to listen to stuff, I find. Oh and Roger Hughes , me too, I don’t even think of practising as practising any more. A huge mind shift for the better, the language we use around playing is also important to explore, reframe….

    Happy new year

    • Jay
      January 16, 2016

      I have a feeling Laura, that if we met at 9am for chat we’d probably drink 17 cups of tea and conclude at 9pm! I think we’re on the same page. Glad you like the posts. It’s so nice to hear; i’ll keep writing them!

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