The Task At Hand
Most times, you don’t want to be confronted with a task list. Visions of sorting laundry, cleaning the gutters, pulling weeds and getting the oil changed - ugh.
But some tasks, if they are something you know you’re good at, and the results make you happy, are very fulfilling. This is really only true of tasks that are complicated enough - nobody gets too proud for brushing their teeth or rinsing out a glass!
But if you’re a master carpenter, for example, and your task is to build a table - something you’ve done many times and fully expect a satisfying outcome, you’ll actually relish the process.
The carpenter knows, from experience, what materials she’ll need, and what tools she’ll need. She’ll select high quality materials and the tools will be properly maintained. The task isn’t easy - the successful outcome not guaranteed - but the skills and experience being brought to bear should prove out the endeavor, and in the end, the carpenter, and the owner of the new table, will be happy.
I feel the same way about playing music. As the day of the gig approaches, there are numerous preparations to be done. Are the instruments in good repair and can be counted on? The same goes for every other aspect that handles the sounds - PA, cables, microphones - are they ready and available? What songs will we play, and in what order? A good setlist will keep the audience engaged with a variety of keys, tempos and arrangements.
Do I remember how to play all these songs? Do I remember the arrangements? Some rehearsals with the band, and personal practice time will ensure this is so. If there were any parts of songs that have proved problematic in the past - they get extra attention.
Do I know the venue? If I’ve played there before, I can picture the setting and have some expectations of the environment, and the audience. If I have not played there before, some research is prudent. I will need to know how to get there, of course, and how long it will likely take. But it’s also good to know how parking will be, and the location of the stage area and its size. Sometimes, I can find this information online and sometimes, I will contact other musicians who have played there to get their impressions. Every gig is different.
Lastly, I like to visualize me playing that show. Looking at the setlist, and having some idea of what the setting will be, I picture the performance in my mind. For me this is not deep concentration but a pleasant daydream, and it’s important to me. If I have too many other things going on that day, it can interfere with that mental preparation, and I can be a little irritable.
Finally, it’s time to hit the stage. That means I found the place, we’ve loaded in, and got set up. I will be in the moment, which is what I owe myself, the audience and the proprietor. And I will have a great time - and help others have a great time too! Now, that’s a task worth tackling!
by Bruce Campbell