My favorite diversion is my six-string acoustic guitar. I started as a 12-year-old. Taught myself, mostly. Finger picking. In my late teens and early 20s, I organized small ensembles; we played many long sets in bars and ski lodges in New England.
While I’ve continued to play, I’ve lapsed from time to time. I restarted last Fall, intent on learning a Leo Kottke version of “The Last Steam Engine Train”.
While the chords weren’t difficult, the right-hand picking was a bit of stretch for me. So, for six months, I listened and practiced. A few minutes almost every day. The song now is “fully recognizable” when I play it. It ain’t perfect and it ain’t completely Kottke yet and it’s close. I’m in range.
Feeling excited about my progress, I wanted to record and share my rendition with a friend for feedback. Musician’s version of role-plays.
One night after work, I warmed up a bit and played easily through the piece. With a strong “yeah, I’ve got this” surge, I started the recorder and began to play.
It was absolute rubbish. Fingers on both hands felt stiff. My speed was off. My chording was off… it sounded like I was playing in gardening gloves. After 15 seconds, I stopped and shut off the recorder.
I repeated my warm ups, played comfortably through “Steam Engine and, again turned on the recorder and started to play.
Again, rubbish. Better, yes, and still rubbish.
Sigh… Nerves, you know? “Live” audiences are forgiving; recordings not so much. They capture every squeak, smudge, and slide – black and white. I wanted best fret forward for my friend. Like getting dry mouth before a client presentation, I tightened up.
Only one remedy for that.
I am again reminded about what it means to be “fully ready” to play or to sell and what we need to ask of ourselves when we practice.
P.S. If you listened to the first version of the piece, introduced above, and you’d like to hear more, here’s Kottke’s 1972 version. So fast…So clean…Yikes….
Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at https://clarityadvantage.com/knowledge-center/ .
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