High level musicianship or high level humanbeingship?

I know there is no such word “humanbeingship”. I invented it. LOL … Language is all invented anyways.

This blog is about some thoughts of mine and lessons I have learned recently. And I wanted to share them. Feel free to scroll through of course to find more of the things that might apply or resonate with you.

I come from and currently am in this music environment. And let’s be fair, it can be a dog eat dog kind of world. However recently I have been thinking of the other side of being a human. ( not just recently, for many years I guess.)

What you do is not who you are. And I must repeat this over and over, because we forget it, every day again and again. Some people are not aware of it yet. ( Many of the  musicians I know would say something like this “Being a musician is the only association of myself I can think of and the only one I want to know about… Everything I do is only pointed at being a better musician.” )

We, as musicians, we work on our technique, on our time, on the tune repertoire, on our ears, we work on our musicality and musical knowledge… We try to reach the next level… But then there is music business, where everyone is just a human, with their insecurities, defence mechanisms. Where there is competition and we see things that we don’t want to see. And it’s not only about how well you play that ‘fast tempo’ tune or whatever… But sometimes and so very often it matters what type of person you are, how well you work with others, how good is musical chemistry and the support you give to your fellow musicians. This influence your musical level and ability to get gigs, but not just that, it influences the level of life you are living.

As much as we as musicians want to just get better or maybe just get ‘more gigs’ ( as I have heard here and there from some fellow musicians… ). In the process we forget about some very important things in our existence. What we do is not who we are. ( I just want to repeat this…) Each one of us have few other interests besides music ( even if the interests are just ‘getting girls” or ‘going to gym’ or wine or ‘eating good food” , the other interests might include mountain claiming, aviation, cycling, computer games etc.), we have our characters and temperament, our views on the world, on politics… We have so many layers to us. And most of us really need to work on these other layers as much as being a good musician. That would unclude working on being a good parent, being a good friend, being a good boyfriend/girlfriend, wife/husband… and work on simply ‘ being a good human being‘. And I do feel that for some reason for many people this task comes as the last one..  Only after they have reached great musicianship… Only after they have all the money they ever wanted ( not talking of musicians here LOL ), all the achievement they ever wanted in their musical career. After they have ‘the house, kids and family, the steady income or regular gigs…  “… and all the usual stuff humans wants… and of course musicians “Play at the highest level possible, play at the best jazz festivals all over the world, play with so and so ( musicians they admire), pay all their bills… ” . Only once they are closer to all their dreams or maybe have reached some important milestone… Sometimes only then they realise that it’s not complete. The life experience. The improvement. That this isn’t the only thing in life and there is more to it…

Being a good human being requires practice and every day work/thoughts and awareness. It gives harmony in you, and ads that to music. That includes being appreciative. Music you play is connected to who you are as a person. Also if we are able to be truly ourselves in the music we play. And that’s the skill as well, skill to be practiced. To be yourself. ….”Only by being yourself you can truly serve others and this will also be your fulfillment…” ( I read this somewhere and it resonated with me. )

We learn transcriptions until we can play like Parker, Monk, Sonny Rollins, Marcus Miller, Elvis Jones or whoever you want to sound like … And forget to sound like ourselves, to be ourselves to be connected to who we are. Not to mention that most of us don’t even know who we are. Can you say it now? In just one sentence? ( stop reading now… and try to answer… ) Are you clear on that? ( I mean, not what you do as a profession ( drummer, guitarist, surgeon… ) , but who you are? What is your essence? I believe 90% of the people can’t actually clearly reply to this or maybe even 99% can’t. The greatest leaders of the world and all the game changers all were very clear on their message and on who they are…  However, You don’t have to not accept others for their messages and their truth, but you gotta know yours. 

And then comes working on better self. Cos another and maybe even more important question for most of us is “Who we want to be? ” ……

I mean, you play your arpeggios and your scales… ( or whatever practice routine you have… ). Why don’t you also spend your time on your own mindset, inner harmony, the way you perceive the world and your emotions…  I recently discovered ( and a lot of times before again and again) , psychological things often is what makes many musicians play worse in some gigs than the others. It’s this moment, when someone you respect very much enters the room ( where you play the gig ) and suddenly you lost where in the tune you where ( a lot of the time it can be not noticeable to others, the focus goes away for less than second and you get back to it…) or lose your focus on where you were going with phrasing, solo… Suddenly focus goes away. ( I am sure a lot of musicians have experienced it… This type of stuff happens less or in a way less noticeable way for high level musicians. ) Sometimes it’s not about someone you respect but just about some unusual situation in the gig… Music stand breaks and falls, your music sheets goes all over the floor…  what if there is a fight near the bar, or someone in the audience screams something, acts out and it distracts you or they decide to come over and start talking to you as you play… Or maybe you remember something about your day… Or maybe, your relative died or you going through some difficult time in your personal life, or simply a thought that is unrelated to music crosses your mind…  A lot of psychological things are also related to what other people think of you ( that you will never know anyways.. ). And even the toughest face musicians out there, they all want to be loved. As much as they say ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks”. Yes, some of us care much less than others. Or focus less energy on wondering about it. For example, it’s good to remember, that the mistake or the way I play in one gig doesn’t define who I am as a musician and/or a person and the same for other musicians mistakes. ( My mistake can tell me what to work on though… If I am aware of it and I pay attention. ) The other thing is, what we ourselves magnify on our minds as we play in the gig situation, is not necessary what other people hear, and it doesn’t even sound the same as you thought it does, when you listen back to it… Perceptions of what and how we hear music and what we pay attention the most at any given moment differentiate. And of course..  What we do is not who we are. Also, who we were yesterday is not who we are today. You gotta hear a musician in many tunes and in many musical situations to know where he or she is at. Other times, you can hear someone a lot of times in just one particular context and never hear this person on the other style or in the other context. Sometimes the impression can change for better or for worse but a lot of the times it’s not the full picture. Put a classically trained musician in the jazz situation. He/she can be the best classical musician, but he/she might not be able to improvise… Put the best jazz guitarist to read classical guitar piece and… And some musicians are great at latin jazz and not so great at swing, good at fast tempo and not so good at the ballad, good at 4/4 and 3/4 but have less experience in playing odd times … Or maybe a musician gets up in the jam in a drunken state of mind simply not putting a lot of value of sounding their best at the jam situation.. well…. and I could go on an on… there are so many layers to it…

There is of course great importance to learn multiple styles and also multiple instruments even if it’s at the beginners level. It all contributes to your musical ability in one way or the other. And the more diverse you are, the less likely ( and not as often) the embarrassing situations appear. But psychological aspect of music will appear again again. We are all humans…

The best ones of us have the ability to focus at most times and being in the moment no matter what. ( “Zen’ if you like ).

And now.. why I wrote this blog….. About ‘being a high level human being’ .

However, let’s go back to where I started and why I wrote this blog post in the first place…  As much as we want to sound good every single time. Life hapens. Outside of music. There is peace or stress, busy mind, very little sleep in some cases, there can be relationship or family problems, conflicts, there can be financial problems, health problems. If we don’t work on the human level, whatever level of achievements in music or business or art we reach..  Being a good human being and in harmony with your own thoughts and life and other human beings is what will contribute to our inner happiness. Learning to be a good human being requires a big amount of practice as well, particularly if you have been in the negative environment for too long or if you are there now. It comes easy for some, who have grown up in extremely emotionally positive and healthy family. But most of us, we have to work on it. The other thing is, we can make this a choice (or not), a choice to be aware, to be in the harmony and achieving high level human being state of mind/level, to work on it on a daily basis. Everything is a choice. And sometimes things like bitterness, negativity, depression is just a habbit, that has become a part of you and you don’t even know anymore who you are if that would have been taken away… If we control our time feel or how we focus on our solos, on our phrasing ( that many musicians practice… ) and other music layers, what about controlling your thoughts, what about your thought practice. Does judging thoughts contribute to your wellness or other people wellness? What can you give to the world and the people around you on the daily basis? Besides the notes you play. You may think that ‘defining someone’ in a judgy way shows how ‘clever’ you are, but really it just spreads unnessesary opinions that contibute more bad than good to the world. Being a good human being means not just ‘not expressing’ the opinions but also seeing things from the other perspective in the first place. Sometimes we think that having an opinion is ‘who we are’, but really opinions is just thoughts expressed that based on your current knowledge. Knowledge that changes day by day and year by year. Not just knowledge of the music or any other subject but also knowledge about humans, about life. We often see things as we are. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to stop anyone to express their opinions, but if they are somewhat negative opinions, maybe overthink them one more time, try to look from the other side…

Know who you are, but respecting others for who they are is as important. And respect the flow of life and the change, and respect the difference in us all, and learn from it.

High level human beings are rare. And sometimes, we meet them in highly achieved people circles more often. And we meet the ones who are highly achieved but emotionally unstable, deeply negative (judging everything and everyone on their way as a defence mechanism for their own mistakes and failures.) – but what I want to say here as well is, when we meet these more negative people, try to love them anyways, accept them, because you don’t know what they have been through, what experiences. Also, we all have multiple layers, maybe one side is wisdom and clarity but then the negative side comes out ( no one is perfect, don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. All we can do is just try our best day by day. It also changes depending on the circumstance as well. ) But we can’t step in other persons shoes. All we can do as humans is just work on ourselves. We can’t change our partners as well. They are the ones who can make a change and only if they decide to do so.  We also can’t know the other person fully. Even if they are the closest to us. I recently watched interview of psychologist/therapist Dr Michael Gervais, he said that he has been married for 20 years, and knows his wife for nearly 30 years, but still can’t say he fully knows her. How many of you could have even replied to the question about who are YOU?  We can only know other human being so far… We are only responsible for our own actions and our own thoughts. Control your thoughts and you will control your words and actions… Same way as you want to control your notes…

So many layers of human existence. Career, family, friends, health, and then there is inner harmony that connects thoughout all the other things… To be a good human being is to understand the difference between the street boy and fancy suit guy and not judge any of them only because you never been in their shoes. And if you have been in “similar” shoes, it’s only your personal experience not equal to anyone else.  How many times you have heard those stories ( or maybe experienced it yourself) when you have achieved one of your dreams but still don’t feel happy inside… and you ask yourself – Why? Wasn’t this what I wanted? Why it doesn’t give me fulfilment? Because human experience isn’t just about satisfying your egocentric needs. Really, music isn’t only for other musicians to listen to…. ( and I already hear so many of my fellow musicians disagreeing… but this is possibly another subject..  ) … Really being a good human being should be everyday task, the same as eating, the same as practicing ( if you’re a musician), same as sleeping… and yes, same as moving/exercising ( another task to be on the list of the things to do… ). And no, I am not trying to tell anyone how to live their lives. I just want to appreciate the people who already have learned these truths, who are already on their way to get there, or maybe simply are aware of it. I want to learn from them.

There is a great value in believing in someones potential instead of who they are right now. Believing in someones potential can make or break someone. Because it’s not just about who we are but also about ‘Who we want to be‘ and our journey that leads there. Can you contribute to someone becoming their best self or are you just placing rocks on their way? This also applies to music of course. As everything does.

I simply wanted to write this down, to talk to myself to remind myself what I want to focus on and who I want to be and of course , to anyone who is interested, agreeing or  disagreeing with me, judging or nodding along as they read… ( I don’t have advaced language or writing skills of course. I appologise for any mistakes that might appear.) Wherever you are, whatever you do. We all are the same, with the same fears and every one of us, simply want to be happy and fulfilled. For a lot of you guys, it is through music a lot of the time… if we remember to appreciate life and music… after all, if you are truly a musician, life is music and music is life …

But what if you answered these questions to yourself….

For any human being…  – Do u know what makes you happy? Can you do or feel these things more often… ? 

For a musician… – Do u know what makes you play good? When have you played the best and when have you played the worst? What psychological aspects influenced this? 

A lot of the time, improvement is all about asking the right questions…

And….. again… Life is music and music is life . It’s all connected. And we don’t live alone here, there are others around us, there is nature, there is your neighbor, there is a friend….  appreciate them…. We can help others or put rocks on their way. It’s a choice. Every day. And even if you see people who achieve a lot looking from the outside, but are “evil bastards”. Give it time. It won’t last. And also, you have no idea, what is their inner harmony like and is there any. Success isn’t what many of us think it is. Outside success is … hmmm… well… is just outside. Because, in the bigger picture… it’s just a lot of ‘success pics’ on the Facebook but constant unhappiness and stressful inner life. Social media is just social media. Tomorrow there will be another ‘news feed’. Magazines and TV and videos, It’s not life. It’s not your heart. Love is where it’s at. Not just love in relationship and family, but love for music, for other people, for nature and for experiences and for life.

Being a high level human being is never a complete process. One day you may have clarity, harmony, focus and positivity when the next day things get shaky and you let the negative mindset in again. But it’s all about awareness of it day by day. No one is perfect. We all are just humans. All we can do is try our best. The more you try, the more often you get there. Until you can be there more often than you ever thought possible.

Keep well. Thanks for reading.