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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: Seth Godin

The work we do when no one is around

Andrew Hitz


It is amazing to me that Seth Godin, who isn’t a musician and never writes specifically about being one, hits the nail on the head about so many things related to our profession. It just goes to show that succeeding in one field generally requires the exact same approach and execution as any other.

Here is a brilliant blog post by Godin on two different kinds of marathons. One has lots of people around. The other is all by ourselves.

Guess which one does more to get you to the top of whichever mountain you are aiming for in the music business?

And of course, it’s the more difficult of the two (which is good or everyone would get there.)

Also worth noting: As with most of Seth’s brilliant blog posts, it will take you literally 30 seconds to read!

Godin: The solo marathon

A lot of time in the practice room ain't necessarily cutting it

Andrew Hitz

“No points for busy.

Points for successful prioritization. Points for efficiency and productivity. Points for doing work that matters.

No points for busy.”

—Seth Godin from his blog post “Busy is not the point”

Just because you practiced three hours yesterday doesn’t mean you got a lot done on the horn. The same goes for score study or marketing yourself.

I am always challenging my students to practice practicing. I think back to college and can’t believe how much more efficient I am now in the practice room. I can get done in 15 minutes what might have taken me 45 minutes back in the 90’s.

Here are just a handful of the hundred things that are more important than just the total time you spend in the practice room:

  • Frequency of practice sessions

  • Prioritization of what needs practicing the most

  • Goal setting

  • Getting into the feedback loop by recording yourself

  • Your focus level during the session

The list goes on and on..

But while total time spent is not even close to the most important practicing metric, you’ve still got to put in the time. As a wise person once said, silence can not improve.

Godin: The top 5%

Andrew Hitz

The approach is to pick the right set to be part of. Not, “top 5% of all surgeons,” but perhaps, “top 5% of thoracic surgeons in Minnesota.” Be specific. Find your niche and fill it.

—Seth Godin

You can find a great truth bomb from Seth Godin here.

A great kick in the pants to start the new year and a great read to focus our efforts regardless of whether the calendar just flipped or not.

A+ stuff from Seth as usual.

Simple Exercise to Gain Perspective

Andrew Hitz

As musicians, we can really use a good dose of perspective from time to time. I know I sure can, especially after a particularly frustrating practice session of failing to get a gig I was hoping to score.

Here is a 60-second read from Seth Godin (who my wife calls my spirit animal) with a simple exercise to help gain some perspective.

Good stuff.

Let The Ideas Out

Andrew Hitz

"If you have enough bad ideas you will have absolutely no trouble having enough good ideas. What people who create do is they let the ideas out. they sit and they do the work and the ideas come. Good ideas, bad ideas."
—Seth Godin from Leap First

Seth Godin was not talking about the practice room in the above comment but he might as well have been.

It is imperative that we "let the ideas out" when we are in the practice room.

Of course we need to focus on a daily basis on range, dynamics, articulations, releases, slurs and everything in between. This is the homework that every great musician on any instrument has done in spades.

But no one really cares if you are only a great technician on your instrument. Sure, you'll probably have a career of some kind (if you are truly a great technician and not just a good one) but you won't have one that is very rewarding or that has much impact on the world.

The ideas are what affect others. The ideas are why we all got into this crazy business in the first place. And the key to having great ideas is to have lots of ideas.

Ideas are why some people prefer Phil Smith, some prefer Chris Martin, and some prefer Thomas Hooten. It sure isn't because Phil can slur better than Chris or Thomas can. They slur equally well.

Yet all three of them play with enough clear ideas and storytelling in their playing that it is quite easy to prefer one over the other two. And that's what it's all about.

And the only way to ever approach the quality and clarity of the ideas of any of those three trumpet players is by letting the ideas out. The good ones and the bad ones.

That's exactly what they did.

No One Cares About the Facts

Andrew Hitz

As musicians we get caught up all the time in getting all of the facts right. Sometimes, in the moment, it is all we care about.

The problem is that most people don't really care. Or at the least only care when the facts aren't correct. But they are rarely a value add.

"Don't just tell me the facts. Tell me a story."
—Seth Godin from All Marketers Are Liars

The above Seth Godin quote has absolutely nothing to do with music. He was talking about marketing. But this quote could have come from any number of world-renowned music teachers.

The problem with focusing on the facts in an audition is that so many people will show up able to play all of the facts correctly that you are going to be in trouble. And the number of people who can do that is greater than ever and getting larger all the time.

There will be a few people at that audition who can deliver all of the facts (impeccable rhythm, pitch, phrasing, articulation, etc.) but will also be able to use those facts to tell a musical story so compelling and so remarkable that they force the committee to consider them for the job.

The same goes for conductors and trios and composers.

So whether you are hoping to someday replace Joe Alessi in the New York Philharmonic or are sitting in a high school band, always go for the story.

The notes on the page are a car. Drive your audience somewhere interesting. Somewhere they have to go back to. That's what it's all about.

Quitting Can Be Good (But It's All About The Timing)

Andrew Hitz

"Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can't deal with the stress of the moment."
—Seth Godin from "The Dip"

Spot on as always from Seth Godin! You should never make a decision to quit something in the heat of battle.

Don't decide to cut something from your recital program while you are in the middle of a frustrating practice session.

Don't decide that your band needs to play an easier march for assessment while you are in the middle of a bad rehearsal.

Don't decide to change career paths while you are in the middle of a terrible gig.

Any of the above conclusions may very well be the best thing moving forward. But there is never a drawback to being sure you are not succumbing to the stress of the moment.

The only way to accurately assess the long-term potential of something is to do so without any emotions involved. So avoid doing so in the stress of the moment.

Do You Want To Eat?

Andrew Hitz

"A woodpecker can tap 20 times on a thousand trees and get nothing, but stay busy. Or he can tap 20,000 times on one tree and get dinner."
—Seth Godin from "The Dip"

Don't let this happen to you when you are practicing your instrument, working on your conducting, or pursuing whatever it is that you do.

Don't start working on something and then stop when it gets difficult to move on to something else.

There is a potential trap there. If you move along to work on something else you can trick yourself by "staying busy" or "working hard" or whatever euphemism you'd like to use instead of calling it what it is: that you bailed once the work got difficult.

The successful people in the music business regularly try the 20,000 times thing and then eat dinner.

What are you avoiding by moving on to the next tree well before you reach 20,000 taps?

Figure It Out

Andrew Hitz

"I think if you figure it out for yourself you'll have taught yourself something better than I could teach you."

-Seth Godin

"Figure it out" is just another way of saying "fail until you get it right."

If you are still a student, take the initiative to figure things out on your own rather than checking the syllabus to see if something is required.

If you are out of school, get curious. Find something you can't do and figure it out.

Want to build a website and don't know how? Figure it out.
Interested in making a podcast and don't know how to start? Figure it out.
Don't know how to get something funded on Kickstarter? Figure it out.

That's all that anybody who knows how to do it ever did.