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How getting organized can make you more talented

I don't know who needs to hear this, but taking the time to organize your music, equipment, accessories and schedule can be just as valuable as practicing.

I've been playing for most of my life, and usually feel pretty confident with my playing - whether I'm rehearsing or performing.

But there is one thing that can instantly destroy my confidence and make me feel uneasy and insecure. And that is when I forget something that I need or can't find something when we're supposed to be playing.

How do you feel when you don't have a piece of music, your mutes, a pencil, a stand or a rag? I think it's important to bring all those things, not because you need to be perfect all the time, but because when you are caught unprepared, it can undermine your confidence.

It certainly triggers my anxiety... which is a shame since it has nothing to do with the music.

Have you ever been at a rehearsal where someone called a tune and people had to wait for you while you rummaged through a messy folder? Even if the other players are being nice about it... they're still kind of rolling their eyes, and that will make you self-conscious (which is the LAST thing you need to be feeling when you pick up a trumpet).

Or worse, you were supposed to print it out and didn't and now have to look at someone else's stand. The other person probably doesn't mind, but it can make you feel like you're not a fully functional part of the team. You feel a little less than and those uneasy feelings can seep into your playing and make the whole experience less fun.

Why do I say that getting organized will make you more talented? Isn't that kind of a stretch?

Not when you think of talent the way I do:

Talent is a lack of obstacles

For example, let's say you want to learn a new song but it's not sounding right yet because you have some things standing in your way...

  • There's some gnarly fingerings in the middle... but once you take a closer look, discover it's in F#, and get used to playing that passage, you've become more talented.

  • There's a high note that you aren't hitting every time and it's stressing you out... so you work on your warm up routines, zero in on that interval, and strengthen your chops just enough that you KNOW you'll nail it in the performance... Congratulations! You are now even more talented!

  • Let's say you have to improvise the solo and you aren't familiar with the key changes... over the next few weeks you listen to other players improvise over that tune, transcribe a solo, memorize the chords, and write out a solo. Now you've overcome the obstacle of not knowing those chords and your solo just comes out when you need it to. As if by magic, by overcoming this obstacle you've become more talented.

Being disorganized is just another obstacle to playing your best

I can't stress enough that if your stuff is getting disorganized, you're not alone. It happens to everyone and I'm not trying to shame you in any way.

Because things get out of hand for me, too.

I had been putting off organizing my music folder for a band I play in, The Partizani Brass Band for months. I have most of the music mostly memorized, which makes me want to ditch the folder. But there were a couple of new songs and I hadn't printed them off, so I had been sheepishly looking off the other trumpet player's music during rehearsal. (Which made it obvious I hadn't practiced that one). There was a mess of songs in the front of the folder, unalphabetized and a half dozen other random songs that I didn't have that I needed. And for some reason Funky Serenity was tucked in at the back instead of between Funky Nuts and Funkytown where it belonged.

These are the kinds of things that can wear away at your self confidence and lead to flashes of sheer panic when you least expect it.

I could tell that my disorganization was getting in the way of my confidence and overall swagger as a trumpet player, and so I set aside an hour to get my folder in shape. I made sure I had all the songs, they were in order, and they were neatly placed in the three ring binder.

Now I can't wait for the next rehearsal, because I'm ready for anything.

Set aside 10 minutes (or more) a week to get your supplies and music organized

Don't overlook this crucial area of your musical life. Being organized allows you to feel confident, prepared, and focus on what's going on around you.

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