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Riley Music Academy Music Cast: Are you a shepherd or a sheep?

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Are you a Shepherd or a Sheep?

Can you think of a time when you didn’t really know what you were doing but just went with the flow? I certainly can; it’s human nature. Being lazy and letting someone else take on responsibility is great but does it really get you anywhere in the long run? It is my belief that you should look at both the short term and the long term gains. Sometimes it pays to be led and other times it really doesn’t. Let’s look at an example: there are people out there who join organisations like British Military Fitness. They actually pay to be shouted at and forced to drop in the mud and “give them twenty”. I can completely relate to this as motivation is often fleeting and before you know it you’re drinking beer and watching trashy sitcoms on Netflix.

Being a sheep isn’t all that baaa-d*

There are some instances where being led by a ‘Type A’ personality is a great idea. You trust that person implicitly and you use them to get results. Using others to push you to the next level is a fantastic way to break through plateaus. Whether it’s being encouraged to try something new, being taught a new skill or being pushed that extra mile, following the advice and guidance of well trained practitioners can lead to success.

What happens when that person isn’t around though? Do you work as hard?

The trick to gaining skills is consistency and if you have the luxury of a regular teacher/trainer then the results will show quite quickly. Not everyone has access to this though. It then falls to your own grit and determination to improve.

Being a sheep is not good for ewe*

Have you ever noticed that when you sing a long to your favourite artist it’s pretty easy? You may even convince yourself that you are on a par. Then when you try out the christmas karaoke party it goes horribly wrong. Why could you sound so good and then completely lose it? Well, you may not realise that your brain has a good 10-15 second delay in what it perceives. Read the study here. It takes in stimulus from the present, mixes it with memories of the past and predictions for the future and reacts accordingly. While the study focuses on visual stimuli, it is feasible that auditory stimulus works in the same way. You hear the audio cues from your favourite artist and using your memory of what happens next, you predict when to come in with a correctly pitched note. When you remove the stimulus you don’t have the same audio cues so there is uncertainty.

I’ve noticed this with some students. If I play along with them they can play the piece with good pitching and great timing. When I let them play it on their own, they play out of tune and with poor timing. They also get lost. Does this happen to you?

A lot of people get lost when reading music or following along to a backing track. The reason for this is that the focus switches from ‘follow the flock’ to guess work. If you have nine and a half bars rest then come in with just two notes, it’s so easy to just wait for someone else to tell you to come in. If there’s no one else to help, it then boils down to only two options: you guess and hope for the best or… you count the bars!

This was a revolutionary moment that stands out in my musical career. I remember the time when I realised how much I had been guessing and waiting for someone else to show me the way. I realised that if I was to be a professional musician I would have to…

… be the Shepherd!

The Shepherd is not immune to losing his/her way or getting things wrong; the difference is that the shepherd does something about it. If you know that your reading of rhythms is dodgy then you work on it until you can do it (as I did – and continue to do). If you get lost at a jam session then you study the forms of the tunes. If you can’t play along by ear then you methodically practice ear training.

No one is going to do it for you. It’s not like The Matrix where you can download a program of how to pilot a helicopter directly into your mind. You have to work hard. You have to work consistently.

Be the Shepherd! 

*So sorry for the terrible puns – sometimes it just helps me get through the day!

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  1. Les Whiteman
    June 23, 2016

    Jay, your blogs are brilliant , you have a great mind, your thoughts are all so true.
    I have always been a shepherd , always worked hard too achieve my dreams , and make them a reality.
    But it was only in my field ,the things I new best , the trade that l loved.

    I love music, like many people, but l would love to entertain ,and play good sounding music with great feeling.
    I am sure l have it in me !! ,l have just got to find it , l am hoping one day it will all clique , then l will be off and running.
    At the moment l just feel l am a bit thick,

    Like me my wife Brenda, we feel that having found you Jay , l now have the best chance l will ever get.
    Thank you.
    Les Whiteman.

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