Full Tilt: The Deeper You Dig, the Darker It Gets
Back in college, I transcribed the two-handed tapping section of the guitar solo from “Get The Funk Out” by Extreme.
Looking back, I’m probably more proud of my hand notation and observance of musical nomenclature formalities than any of the actual transcription. Don’t get me wrong: You won’t find a more accurate transcription of this thing anywhere else.
The reason I share this with you is because it might be … too accurate.
Yes, dear reader, such a thing exists and has many forms: missing the forest for the trees, over-analysis, obsessive–compulsive personality disorder, infobesity, etc. As a former perpetrator, I hope to impart some life-lessonry here so that you, too, can save yourself from the perils of rock and roll ignorance.
About two years after I did the transcription, I tracked down/ambushed transcriber extraordinaire (and instructor par excellence) Dale Turner in the illustrious hallways of Musicians Institute and handed him a copy. After three seconds of applying his music speed-reading powers, Dale said, “It’s good, except for this one note.”
Not sure of which I found more shocking, the man’s alien precision or the wrong note, I decided to have a closer look.
“On the second staff here. That ‘D’ should be a ‘G’,” he indicated. I instantly knew where he was looking. It was a note I remembered because it oddly broke out of a fast repeating pattern for no special reason. It probably wasn’t even intentional, but it made the record and I caught the bastard.
“I slowed the CD down and the ‘D’ is what I heard,” I responded, to which Dale then offered this pearl of wisdom:
“The point is to show what he intended to play.”
I’ll admit this didn’t exactly sink in at first. However, it eventually became a reminder for me not to lose sight of the big picture ever again.
I developed a periodic habit of dropping trivial details and asking myself what I really wanted whenever I faced important life or career decisions. In modern society, we get caught up in so much day-to-day bullshit that we constantly forget why we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place.
Sometimes you need to impose reality checks on yourself. It takes less than five minutes and you don’t need to go out and dodge oncoming traffic during rush hour, either.
I’m calling it the Existential Crisis Protocol, or ECP.
I find it effective to perform this procedure every so often, but others might need to do this multiple times a day at first. We will use the abbreviated version here. Begin by asking yourself this question:
“Am I happy?”
If your answer is yes, then carry on with your supercalifragilistic day. If your answer is no, then proceed with the protocol:
01. What do I really want out of my life?.
If what you want is to be happy, that’s a good starting point. It may seem overly simplistic, but it’s still important to realize. Happiness is a discipline and it does take effort so you’d be wise to practice this by working on things that actually mean something you.
Also, the reason I don’t like to follow up the preliminary “am I happy” question with “why am I not happy” is that many people don’t actually know why they are unhappy. Usually, they are just unfulfilled or doing work they are not passionate about.
Using myself as an example, here’s how I have answered this question many times: I want to play my music around the world.
Playing, writing and recording music is fulfilling work for me. I identify music as a personal success that brings me joy. But the zenith, or ultimate form of this to me, is playing songs I wrote in a band for people across the globe.
The key is to find something that would represent the funnest version of whatever ambitions you have, no matter how lofty it might seem. If you are having trouble, slap yourself (tears help) and then read this article.
02. What am I doing to progress toward this goal or fulfilling life?
Make two lists: One for goal-supporting activities and one for goal-destroying activities. This can be tricky if you’ve been deluded into thinking things like being a professional musician requires knowledge of every scale ever invented.
I’m not saying it’s OK to just skim the lake all the time; I still enjoy delving deep into a subject and absorbing every detail. However, this habit can lead to procrastination, analysis paralysis or information overload, i.e. you ain’t gettin’ shit done. Be brutally honest as you write.
• Writing my songs
• Recording my songs
• Playing shows with my band
• Interning at XYZ recording studio
• Practicing scales eight hours every day
• Jamming (aimlessly) with so-and-so “to be nice”
• Reading redundant “how to” articles
• Dicking around on Facebook
When you finish writing, look over your goal-destroying list and eliminate or reduce these activities as much as possible. For jobs and other obligations that may not directly support your ambitions but are necessary for your food & shelter needs, let them stand (unless you can do better).
You might be surprised to find your goal-destroying list is longer than your goal-supporting list. This is to put things in perspective for you. How much time are you really putting into your aspirations?
Once I started trimming the fat off my personal and professional responsibilities, my actions began to align with my goals. The result? I progressed much faster and became more efficient with my time.
I know what it’s like to pour all your energy into one thing … even if that one thing is just a freakin’ 16th note. It’s fun to woodshed for hours. You’ll probably learn something too (bring a flashlight cuz it gets dark PDQ).
If you wanna hit the shed, cool, but one thing: don’t forget how beautiful it is outside.
Photo: © Tom Grill/Corbis
Blake Scopino is a guitar player, songwriter and audio engineer. To see if he can back up his big mouth, listen to his band here. For more tips, tricks and other handy information for your musical journey, head on over to Cool Drifter Music Motel.