The activity of picking up and playing a musical instrument opens up many synapses and channels in the human brain, due to all of the concepts being put forth at once. The act of forming a thought in your mind and using whatever technique you’ve learned to produce a sound from said instrument requires a great deal of focus and practice.
Eventually the channels of “thought/action” become easier and at some point, as natural as speaking. It’s safe to say that once you get the physical motions and actions mastered, playing said instrument becomes a more cerebral and mental “game”. And this opens up a completely new area of practice; that of your creative mindset. Much like practicing your instrument, the care & feeding of your creative id is a necessary priority that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Let’s See Some ID
Your muse needs more than just musical stimulation (which is what most musicians feed it constantly, not a bad thing!); it’s an entity that absorbs your daily grind, and allows you to reprocess it out onto your instrument of choice (whatever that may be) through a filter of passion, experience and personal truth, being that our life experiences eventually find a way out of our minds and over to our set of musical tools.
Providing the creative id with quality grist to digest & amalgamate into positive output will greatly enhance your musical endeavors. Your “Talent” (muse) can almost be construed as a small little creature, begging for attention. That nagging feeling of “I gotta go play my instrument!” which eventually occurs when you start walking the path of becoming proficient on your axe.
As a professional drummer for nearly four decades, I’ve looked back over the years and asked myself “what books have had the greatest impact on my playing?” And while you’d assume the titles would be “Stick Control For The Modern Drummer”, “Syncopation”, “Future Sounds”; all very legendary drumming instructional manuals in their own rights, the ones that really reached me were a collection of self-help books, each of which I will elaborate on briefly.
- Zen & The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig– a very hard book to get through in that you will certainly have to stop and ponder what you read, sometimes for a day, sometimes for a month. It taught me many concepts in how to rationalize the music I was hearing and/or learning.
- The Way Of The Peaceful Warrior-A Book That Changes Lives by Dan Millman– This book was huge for me. I actually read it twice, and it was responsible for my shedding the attitude of “swimming against the current of life” and allowing my natural abilities, talents and energy to flourish by allowing the “current” to carry me downstream. This thought process alone has been one of the elements in my success as a musician. And like the title says, it’s very true. This book does change lives, if allowed.
- Body/Mind Mastery by Dan Millman– Whereas The “Peaceful Warrior” book was the storyline, Body/Mind Mastery is the “How-To Manual”. It breaks down your talent into several parts; Mental, Physical and Emotional talent which are all equally important in their own rights.
- The Greatest Secret In The World by Og Mandino– This book was the training I needed to develop new and better habits in my life. I feel that prior to reading this book I was merely stumbling through life. Reading this book gave me a clarity and focus that has helped carry me through many hard times.
None of these books have anything to do with drumming and music, yet at the same time they have everything to do with drumming and music. For me, Drumming & Music are my life, and by installing those two elements at the top of my “mental hierarchy of important things” while simultaneously feeding my id more than just saccharine-sweet things from “how to play rad drumming chops” type of books, has instilled into me more of a philosophy, than merely a physical approach.
Mental Fertilizer (The Good Kind!)
The books mentioned above are just a few to get you started on some new fertile paths of thinking. Because while we might think that playing an instrument is all about the physical movements and where to put our fingers or hit the drum, at some point the movements become natural and conversational. Preparing the fields of creativity for ideas to plant and having good “mental fertilizer” in place can only help them to grow. And once the ideas begin to germinate, it’s up to you to grow them strong and true.
Self-help books definitely changed my life for the better, and there’s a lot of them out there. The aforementioned are titles that mean something to me on a deeper level, and I certainly hope they can give you some good ideas on bettering your craft, whatever it is. Hence, “The Mental Game of X”. The art of practicing “thinking outside the box” and correlating something you read in “The Inner Game Of Tennis” (another great book) to your instrument is not only healthy; “this is the way”.
Happy reading. And yay for books!