So where do you live?  The playhouse or the woodshed?

I recall quite a while back when I heard a student say, “I didn’t have time to practice this week”,  it was the fourth week in a row I had heard this comment at the beginning of the lesson.


I also recall that I was actually not that concerned about my own personal world of music and in that regard I was safe.  In other words, whether or not a student practiced had no effect on the amount of playing that I did, my methods or my standards.


However, I was curious and challenged – in a healthy way – about what else I might try to inspire the student.  As their teacher, I felt a definite sense of some responsibility. But, what came to my attention, more than what I could do to help from my end, was an intriguing thought regarding what people do with their instruments in their spare time and how that spare time was created or bumped up in their priority system.  In order to make room for playing music, it had to become enough of a passion to take its place on the list.


Understandably, we all have different priorities in life which allow for a certain amount of time to actually make ourselves available to sit down with our instrument of choice and play.  Did I say play?  I meant practice.  No, wait – play.  I mean uh, practice.


Therein lies the difference.  As guitar players we have often heard each other reference our time woodshedding, a term which I believe implies a serious dedication to our instrument.  And when I say, dedication, I mean a desire to improve the actual craft that we are pursuing.  Our scale runs, sight reading, metronome work, theory studies, repertoire development: the list goes on long enough to fill volumes and classrooms around the world.


I like to refer to that willingness to stay in that space as living in the woodshed.  The other room we tend to venture into is the one we all love to live in – the playroom.  This is the place where we just jam out with a genuine devil may care, pick away and let it rip attitude.


Now don’t get me wrong – living in one room or the other exclusively is, at least in my opinion, no way to live musically.   As much as anyone, I love to just play away to my heart’s content and have a great time plunking on one of my guitars as I drift away, sometimes past Planet Richard – Population 1.


I have to admit I feel very fortunate that I get just as much joy spending an equal amount of time in the woodshed – diligently and meticulously pursuing every microscopic musical detail I can get my hands on and working it to death – or I should say –  to life.


The balance of the two rooms seems ideal and there are many times that I am indulging in the world of the playroom, banging away with my little baby spoons, and my imagination runs wild and I create or corral some nifty nugget of a motif.  At that point, if I’m doing it right, I can live in both rooms simultaneously, peeking at the craft but staying off the planet as I create, which for me is the highlight.  More than touring, teaching or performing, the creative process is what I yearn the most. 


I would simply like to speak here to the teachers out there and challenge them to inspire their students with enough of the right ingredients that allow the student to begin cooking the musical meals they enjoy.  Exposure to many styles can help students determine their level of commitment and creativity.


To the students I would suggest that they choose or at least begin to recognize whether or not they are just content to play away and have a good time or pursue the craft in depth.  I would be comfortable in saying that throughout a player’s musical life they often bounce between the two rooms – the woodshed and the playhouse. 


So, where do you live?

Originally posted 2013-08-08 14:54:59.