Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

Anyone who’s worked retail or shopped in any mall during the holiday season has heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” on repeat. It’s a good song that perfectly embodies the festive energy that the end of the year brings for the first twenty plays. After that, though, it just becomes a drag to listen to. So, if you’re less into pop and want something more mellow to jam out to as Christmas approaches, this list is the one for you.

This first one is actually a Slade cover of their iconic song. Merry Christmas Everybody by I Don’t Know How But They Found Me (better known as IDKhow) has the typical punchy and chipper piano found in every well known Christmas song along with a violin and trumpet. The chorus is sung by a group, with clapping, cheers, and the subtle hi-hat tapping that sounds like the shake of reindeer bells.

A departure from his usual emo-rock genre, Gerard Way delivers Dasher with dreamy languor, showcasing the soft side of his vocals. Featuring Lydia Night, this jazzy song is a wanton ballad about escaping reality and leaving a miserable life to run away with a lover. If you believe Gerard Way, then that lover is, in fact, Dasher the reindeer. It doesn’t sound like the typical Christmas song, but it surely has the themes. 

It wouldn’t be an indie song list without some Twenty One Pilots in the mix. Christmas Saves The Year has it all: jingling bells, the distinct ambient sound of driving through snow, and synthy holiday cheer. And, of course, that distinct singing from frontman Tyler Joseph that is equal parts mournful and positive. The slightly muffled drums kick in halfway through, granting this song an added boost of nostalgia, alongside its reminiscing lyrics.

Figure 8 by Peach Pit is an honorary holiday song. While the themes have nothing to do with Christmas, it carries the vibes in its beautiful guitar riffs and soft use of the hi-hat and snare that doesn’t distract from the dreamy singing. It’s reminiscent of early 2000’s songs that exude the somberness that accompanies the holidays, like Chasing Cars or Somewhere Only We Know. And the lyrics speak about ice skating which, if you squint, could be a Christmas theme.

Much like with Figure 8, This December by Ricky Montgomery has less to do with Christmas cheer and more so carries the vibes of the season. He sings about loneliness that comes with the holidays but also a determination to grow and become happier as the years go on, even if December brings back bitter memories. It’s one of the more optimistic songs on this list, and for a good reason. 

As Halloween approaches, pumpkin spice everything returns to stores and twelve-foot skeletons take center stage on decorated lawns. There’s no better way to establish the mood of the time than with a playlist that fits your scary vibes. Most people have heard The Monster Mash, I Put A Spell On You, and Thriller, all these classic but overplayed songs associated with Halloween, but there’s so many other overlooked songs out there that belong on your curated soundtrack to get you through the spooky season. 

Anybody by Dom Fera starts with ghost-like hums that immediately sets the tone for the song and maintains it throughout. It brings on the feeling of walking through a haunted house, where the spirits cling to the shadows and scurry away from the beam of your flashlight. Fera’s sultry singing blends so well with the punchy piano and trumpets that embodies the Hallow’s Eve vibe easily. And to add to its charm, the album cover is a sheet ghost.

Nearly everyone knows Metallica, especially after Stranger Things reignited its popularity, and although Master of Puppets is great, Enter Sandman deserves its own time under the spotlight. It is the perfect song for any metalheads with a love for all things scary, with addictive guitar riffs, solid vocals that will scratch that itch in your brain, and the titular haunting figure Sandman as the center of the song, adding a haunting feeling, especially during the bridge. 

If you’re looking for a short and explosive love song with supernatural themes, may I introduce you to Baby You’re A Haunted House. Gerard Way is a master at macabre and intense songs, as seen throughout his entire discography, and although this one stands out against most of his other songs from My Chemical Romance, it’s a great chipper song to add to your repertoire for when you’re dancing in costume at a Halloween party. 

all the good girls go to hell starts distant church bells and spine-tingling reverb over Billie Eilish’s sweet and misleading voice, already putting you on edge. Many of Eilish’s songs could be on this list, as they fit the aesthetic of the spooky autumn holiday, but this one in particular evokes that shiver of dread that runs up your arms during a horror movie. It’s the perfect song if you’re trying to embody those awesome final girls who kill the bad guy in the end. 

Although Somebody’s Watching Me came out in 1984, it has been trending on TikTok for some time now, a well-deserved revival for a great song. It embodies all the great things people loved from the eighties, like the funky synth, head-bopping bass lines, and of course, the lyrics sung in that exaggerated manner. This song is a staple of Halloween, and should be on everyone’s playlist, no matter if they’re looking for a harrowing or fun vibe for their parties.

Do you love bikes? Do you like helping those in need? Then we have the perfect place for you to visit, and to help. 

Cola Town Bike Collective (CTBC) is a community bike shop whose mission is “to educate and empower the community by providing a welcoming space to learn about bicycle repair, engage in maintenance practices, and promote safe operation through outreach and advocacy activities.” They help spread their good natured mission throughout Columbia with their bicycle repair network, which provides accessible and free-to-use bike repair stands throughout the Midlands, as well as The Reliable Transportation Initiative.

For every bike they sell, they donate back to the community. Every paid repair equals five free or low cost repairs for someone in need. In a sense, what you give them, they return to the community tenfold. This program ensures that nobody is without a good pair of wheels to help them get to where they need to be. Access to bikes helps those experiencing homeless achieve a more stable living situation than if they were on their feet all day. 

Their mission is a valiant one, and unfortunately, now this shop needs your help. They’re in danger of losing their space, as the building is being sold, which puts all the progress they’ve made to better our community at risk. Recently, Freeway’s talented rock band, the Midnight Monarchs, performed at their #SaveOurShop campaign to raise money and awareness to the shop and the circumstances they’ve found themselves in. Big thanks to Will Brennan of Columbia’s City Council for having us! 

Everybody deserves a mode of transportation, because without it, getting ahead in life is that much tougher. CTBC gives them a leg up. Or rather, a pedal up. 

If you wish to help them out, or just want to donate to a great cause, visit their website and help them save their shop. They’re currently 30k away from their goal in their efforts to buy the location and get necessary repairs done on the building, and anything you can provide helps. 

Over the weekend, on August 19th, Charleston-based band Homemade Haircuts released their debut album Sun Showers. They celebrated its release—and the coinciding birthday of drummer and Freeway teacher Blake Hunter—by performing downtown in Columbia’s New Brookland Tavern, with three opening bands who absolutely knocked it out of the park, keeping the energy high the entire night with performance after epic performance. 

First up was Clay Dixon and The Piccadillies, a folk-indie band from Gainesville, Florida, who came to Columbia while on a mini-tour. They opened with a cover of Hozier’s Like Real People Do, setting the tone before performing the first of their many great original songs that just kept raising the bar. The lead singer was definitely a crowd-pleaser, charismatic and kind, telling the backstory of each eclectic song they played. With the surprising and wicked use of a banjo and cello came songs such as Vice and The Warlock Witch of Armageddon that are guaranteed to worm—no pun intended—their way into your mind for weeks after hearing them for the first time. This band is geeky and colorful, and every member was a joy to interact with. What more could you ask from your next favorite band? Their EP, Live From My Home, is available on Spotify and YouTube. 

Following the Piccadillies is an indie-rock band also based out of Charleston, Whitehall, The Band. From the very first song they played, it was obvious that their eccentric and pulsing music was going to rock the tavern. Every member made the stage their own, moving around in the way only dedicated rockers do, headbanging and swinging long hair around. They filled every inch of the space with life, matching the crowd’s high-energy with their own ten-fold. It’s obvious that every member is in love with their experimental and loud jamming songs that will leave your ears ringing and head spinning in the best way possible. And if that wasn’t cool enough, they’ll be going on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls. Yes, THE Goo Goo Dolls. Be sure to check out their album Ocean Fiction and their latest EP Garden Song, also on Spotify. 

The final opener of the night was Paisley and the Birdwalkers based in South Carolina, with the frontwoman being Freeway’s very own awesome teacher Paisley Marie Suttlemyre. This all-girl band absolutely dominated the stage with their killer vocals, lovely harmonies, and fun fairy lights decorating the drum set. They seamlessly mixed multiple genres together—country, folk, pop, indie, rock, probably every other one— into a lively and killer rendition of their creative and dynamic original songs, including my personal favorite Solar Flare, a powerful ballad of female power. They kept the crowd’s energy up even as the night and drinks waned down, readying the stage for Homemade Haircuts. Even though they played last, they cemented a spot into the memory of all the listeners for many months to come. Check out their singles, Solar Flare and Hide from the Rain, on Spotify.

And finally, for the reason we’re here: the homies themselves, Homemade Haircuts. Paisley returned to the stage as the bassist, and this band took the lull of the late Friday night and ramped the energy all the way back to a thousand. Heavy and fast drums, killer guitars, and creative lyrics, the performance was a celebration of Sun Showers and all bands that played before them. At one point the lead singer of the Picaddillies hopped on stage to assist on a song with a tambourine. Voices were hoarse from all the well-deserved cheering and singing. They played every song on their new album before ending the night with their most popular song, Fairy Tale, as a thrilling finisher. 

Overall, the night was one to remember. Every single band that played that night was amazing, the musicians were kind on and off the stage, and they deserve every ounce of praise that can be given. 

Stream Sun Showers on Spotify, and support all these other bands! 

Every musician loves overcoming a challenge, and with drumming, a challenge is more than a sore throat or blisters from plucking strings. It takes a toll on your entire body—legs for the kick and hi hat, arms for the snare, cymbals, and toms, neck for headbanging—which means a challenge is as broad as music genres. 

Here are five songs to challenge your skills and push your limits as a drummer in a fun, exciting way. 

Brianstorm by Arctic Monkeys

Brianstorm is a powerful opener to Arctic Monkey’s album Favourite Worst Nightmare with a quick and heavy drum beat in the beginning that flies around the kit, transitioning swiftly into the first verse with a rapidfire hi hat that is dizzying to follow. This 2:50 minute song never never slows down, so it can be a great way to test out your arm and wrist strength. Although it seems like a simple enough beat, it’s the speed that truly makes it a fun challenge to tackle. 

Hot for Teacher by Van Halen

Starting strong with some double pedal action, this Van Halen song takes funky, offbeat rhythms and meshes them into a high energy classic that is sure to rile up any crowd. Hot for Teacher takes a lot of energy, physically and mentally, in order to power through. Although it might take some time to adjust to two pedals, once you’ve memorized all the stops and pattern changes, it’ll be smooth sailing for you there. 

Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin

Moby Dick is misleadingly easy at first, with a simple, jazzy tone at the beginning, but its simplicity is what makes it so challenging. It consists almost entirely of drumming, which means you get the spotlight. With sudden, fast movements that are sure to make you trip up during every listen, this Led Zeppelin song gives plenty of breathing room to be creative with your own fills—which in and of itself is a challenge—but also grants you bragging rights if you manage to memorize it. 

Goliath by The Mars Volta

This Mars Voltas song is bound to make any intermediate drummer have a heart attack out of pure intimidation. A loud, eccentric banger with lots of stops, it becomes simpler in the verse, but maintains that fast-faced energy all the way through. Not to mention Goliath is also over seven minutes long, no doubt testing any experienced drummer’s energy levels with just one playthrough, but is also a satisfying beast to tame. 

Ticks & Leeches by Tool

Another song that leans less on speed and more on disorienting beats that are hard to keep up with, Ticks & Leeches is 8 minutes of rock and metal ups and downs, giving pauses in between verses to grant you a break every now and then before diving straight into another fast, harsh chorus. If you’re a huge Tool fan with enough time to dedicate to learning every second of this, it’s a great song to push yourself to your drumming limits. 

Drumming takes many skills. Not only do you use both hands and feet on a kit, but they’re all most likely going to be doing different things at once. It takes practice to build the skill of rhythmic multitasking, which most drummers won’t have developed when they decide to pick up sticks for the first time.

Here’s five songs for beginning drummers that will help them build up the skills needed for harder songs. 

1: Do I Wanna Know by Arctic Monkeys

AM by Arctic Monkeys is full of songs with interesting and tricky drumming patterns that challenge a drummer to use their entire body. The exception, of course, is Do I Wanna Know, which has an easy to follow beat on the kick drum and snare during the verse. While the chorus does add some flare, with a different kick pattern and some high hat, the beat is steady and slow enough for starters to keep up with. 

2: Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes

Ah, the dreaded beginner’s song. While every instructor on the face of the earth may be sick and tired of hearing this song, that doesn’t change its simplicity that any new drummer can easily pick up without any prior experience. Sure, your teacher might lose their mind, hearing this song for the thousandth time, but it’s good practice to work up your leg muscle on the kick and teach your hands to do two different things at once. 

3: Dreams by Fleetwood Mac

Dreams, among many other Fleetwood Mac classics, is a great song for any beginner to try out. It has a sweet and mellow vibe that’s easy to keep up with on the kit. Although it’s slightly faster than the other songs on this list, it’s a great way to build up that high hat speed and have fun with new drumming patterns that don’t become too complex. This song also allows you to have some fun with fills and adding ghost notes to the pattern if you feel up to it.

4: Buddy Holly by Weezer

A loud, heart-thumping banger, Buddy Holly by Weezer is the perfect dip-your-toes song for any young rockers eager and ready to go all out without the struggle of a difficult drum beat. It has an easy tone to keep in time with, a slower pace so you don’t lose the tempo, and enough leeway to use the space and play any funky little drum fill that your heart desires. 

5: Psycho Killer by Talking Heads

This classic by the Talking Heads is one that everyone should learn purely for its funky bass, catchy guitar stings, and of course, the heart of the song: the drum beat. Although it’s nothing too difficult for a beginner, Psycho Killer leaves plenty of room to experiment with patterns, drum fills, and anything else your heart desires. And, if you’re feeling particularly experimental, try and play Cage the Elephant’s cover of this iconic song. 

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If you love Jack Black and everything musical, then you’ll love School of Rock.  Based on the 2003 cult classic by the same name, this musical is coming to the main stage, with all new music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who you might recognize as the man who composed Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Freeway Music and CCT’s students will be performing School of Rock on May 21st, at 2 pm and 7 pm. There will be loveable characters, talented teens and tweens, and rock music that will be stuck in your head for weeks after witnessing the magic on stage. 

School of Rock follows Dewey Finn, a slacking and struggling guitarist who’s constantly fantasizing of making it big as a superstar. He’s kicked out of his band No Vacancy for trying to upstage the lead singer and is later fired from his job at a record store. His friends call him ‘nothing but a dreamer’ and that he will go nowhere unless he grows up.

After getting a phone call from a school counselor, mistaking Dewey for someone else, he impersonates this person to get a job as a substitute teacher at a prestigious school. There, he ends up teaching a group of uptight students who don’t like him because of his careless nature. However, upon hearing the musical talent of these straight-A fifth graders, Dewey becomes determined to join these students together into a band and win the Battle of the Bands. 

This musical is about determination, about working to achieve your goal instead of being in a constant state of dreaming, but not doing. Dreaming is a virtue, to imagine things that might’ve been unimaginable or too farfetched, but it’s not until you try and fail, try and fail, will you end up learning and one day, succeeding.

Although the musical is different from the original movie, it acts as a worthy adaptation by accentuating the rock and roll influence and maintaining the theme throughout it as honestly as the movie. 

If you’re interested in seeing this cult classic adapted on stage, come watch School of Rock performed on May 21st!

With the release of Lin Manuel Miranda’s first film as director, this eccentric take on Jonathon Larson’s autobiographical musical Tick Tick Boom, there has come a revival of interest in his Larson’s other successful musical, Rent.

The film follows Jonathon Larson, a musical writer in the 80’s struggling to get his science-fiction musical to take off while working at a diner. Top that off with his girlfriend Susan—a fictional take on his previous real-life girlfriend—wishing to move away for a job and wanting him to follow, and his strained relationship with his best friend Michael as he climbs the ranks in an advertising company. Although his workshop of Superbia, the musical he spent 8 years working on, didn’t go anywhere past that, Larson’s agent gave him vital advice to any artist: write about what you know.

His next musical was Tick Tick Boom, followed by Rent, which exploded into popularity, tackling issues such as homophobia, artistic gentrification, the AIDs pandemic, and grief accompanied by the healing power of love. Unfortunately, Larson didn’t get to see his own success, as he passed away from an aortic aneurysm the same day Rent opened on Broadway, at the young age of 35. However, his influence on theater has stretched decades into the future. 

Lin Manuel Miranda, a Puerto Rican native, saw Rent at age seventeen, and was so inspired by the beauty of the rock musical that he dedicated his career to Broadway. He would change the game forever with his hit musical Hamilton. After this he would direct a movie for his debut musical In The Heights.

Miranda’s career expanded past Broadway, as he wrote the music for hit Disney films such as Encanto and Moana, which opened the door for more diverse animated movies in the future. His most recent project was an adaptation of Tick Tick Boom, a love letter and homage to the man who encouraged him to pursue his dream. 

Past Lin Manuel Miranda, Rent was so radical for its time—tackling topics nobody dared to speak about while also being one of the first rock-ballad musicals—that it was revolutionary in both style and message. It showed other writers that they, too, could discuss new or ‘controversial’ topics in a nontraditional form. Broadway was always about pushing boundaries, talking about things nobody wanted to hear in a palatable and stylized way.

Without Jonathon Larson’s few musicals to open the path, Broadway wouldn’t be as profound and popular as it is now, touching the hearts of everyone and making marginalized people feel seen and heard. 

The New Year’s Song:

“Auld Lang Syne” Written by Robert Burns

“Auld Lang Syne” is the iconic tune likely to be the first song most of the world sings every year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Robert Burns’s poem “Auld Lang Syne” is a version of an old Scottish song and now possibly one of the most famous songs in the world. The seemingly global feelings experienced at year’s end, like community, friendship and even a general good will, are certainly felt in the melody and lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne.”

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is called “Hogmanay.” It has its own rich and revered traditions, not least amongst them are singing “Auld Lang Syne.”  And Hogmanay has another tradition called “first footing,” which is that the first person entering a home after midnight, and not usually having also been there during the evening celebration, is meant to bring good luck for the year. The person who is the “first footing,” or first guest of the new year, also may bring traditional symbols of good fortune—a fruit cake, a “dram of whiskey,” some shortbread, or a lump of coal symbolizing warmth. In Scotland, and many parts of the world, January 1st is in the dead of winter. Giving gifts of these sorts to friends as their first visitor of the new year is meant to bring them luck and a prosperous year to come.

Robert Burns was born on January 25th, 1759. Recognized as The Scottish National Bard, to this day, he is still celebrated, not only by singing “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight on New Year’s Eve, but on his for the traditional Burns Supper. Starting in the early 19th century, the bard has been toasted and honored around the world with a Burns Supper every January 25th. Burns’s birthday is possibly celebrated more fervently than even the national day in Scotland. Burns was born into a family of farmers in Scotland and sometimes called the Ploughman Poet. A poet and lyricist, Burns used the rich material of Scotland’s folk music and stories as inspiration for much of his work.

Below are the traditional words, penned by Robert Burns, to “Auld Lang Syne.” You can find various translations that have changed the words, but there is something in the traditional language which can be lost in translations.

“Auld Lang Syne” – Robert Burns (Traditional Scots verse)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll take a cup o’kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

For auld &c.

We twa hae run about the braes,

And pou’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld &c.

We twa had paidl’d in the burn,

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld &c.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!

And gie’s a hand o’thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught,

For auld lang syne.

For auld &c.

Above is the Scots version of the song, and much of it is better left as is, but to understand the sentiment let’s look at the translation more closely. The English translation is below. The words to “Auld Lang Syne” speak to remembrance, and deep appreciation for our friendships, and old acquaintances. The song almost insists you look closely at those with whom you spend your life. It implores you to pause and reflect on the warm gratitude you might feel towards your friends, having travelled another year together.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind,

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And days of auld lang syne?”

The middle verse is one worth considering as it relates to happy memories, and their potential loss. This verse, retelling from childhood memories of “paddling” in streams and “running about the hills” tell of how their days were once side by side their long ago friends. So, the eventual “seas between us broad have roared” show the singer and those they once were close with, have parted ways. This verse shows the potential for loss starkly brought to light even while remembering and honoring current friends. I will add the English translation here:

“We two have run about the hills

And picked the daisies fine;

But we’ve wandered many a weary foot

Since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,

From morning sun till dine;

But seas between us broad have roared

Since auld lang syne.”

Because of its relevance now and for future New Year’s though, I wanted to share a much lesser known piece by Burns. He wrote to his “first friend,” Mrs. Frances Anna Dunlop on New Year’s Day in 1789. Just as we might now text or call our closest friends a Happy New Year! Burns wrote many letters to Frances Dunlop, more than anyone. In these lines, Burns reflects on the year before and the transient nature of life. There is always the question of what tomorrow might bring, and also hope that all of our plans will succeed in the coming year. Looking forward and back on the night before and on first day of January in the new year we make resolutions about our future.

 From Sketch. New Year’s Day. To Mrs. Dunlop- By Robert Burns

First, what did yesternight deliver?

“Another year is gone for ever.”

And what is this day’s strong suggestion?

“The passing moment’s all we rest on!”

Rest on—for what? what do we here?

Or why regard the passing year?

Will time, amus’d with proverb’d lore,

Add to our date one minute more?

A few days may—a few years must—

Repose us in the silent dust.

Then is it wise to damp our bliss?

Yes—all such reasonings are amiss!

The voice of nature loudly cries,

And many a message from the skies,

That something in us never dies:

That on his frail, uncertain state,

Hang Matters of eternal weight:

That future life in worlds unknown

Must take its hue from this alone;

Whether as heavenly glory bright,

Or dark as misery’s woeful night.—

Since then, my honor’d, first of friends,

On this poor being all depends;

Let us th’important now employ,

And live as those who never die.

Tho’you, with days and honors crown’d,

Witness that final circle round,

(A sight life’s sorrows to repulse,

A sight pale envy to convulse)

Others now claim your chief regard;

Yourself, you wait you bright reward.

In both “Auld Lang Syne” and the verse that he sent to his friend on New Year’s Day, Burns seems to emphasize the importance of friendship, time, and seasonal holidays. He ponders the inevitable procession of time, and the loss of “days gone by” and those who traveled with us before. “Auld Lang Syne” invites you to stand on the edge of the past and the coming year with gratitude for friends, and hope for the future. However you may celebrate the calendar’s turning, I wish you all a Happy New Year!

By Elvin Boone

What’s Better Than Motivation?

You just finished your first big show, showcase, private event etc., and it was a roaring success. Everyone has stopped you and told you how amazing you were. Some folks have even been specific, “when you played that solo…” and the show afterglow is all around you. Then you get home, and the next day feel the same. But the feelings of all that adoration fades, slowly perhaps, but still it goes away. Is it always the next big thing that you’re reaching for? Yes, probably. That’s part of the daily chase to become more, achieve more, reach your highest artistic potential. You might experience a piece of the happiness, musical actualization, and personal fulfillment in reaching a goal, but it’s really in the daily process of achievement that you will find perpetual satisfaction and joy.

How do you keep up the daily practice that’s required to reach the next musical milestone or pinnacle? How do you foster the type of motivation that you need to reach those lofty goals? It’s not the final goal that is going to keep you practicing every day. It’s not the huge wins that make you pick up the instrument, or sing obsessively. It’s seeing your own progress every single day and enjoying the work of becoming better and better. Success, especially small daily wins, in any area of life, is how sustainable motivation is created. Accomplish one thing today and you are happy about today and that motivates you to accomplish more tomorrow.

Enjoy the small victories. Did you learn that riff or that trill or that fill that you’ve been working on for three days? Celebrate. Did you figure out how to play triplets in one measure of that piece that yesterday still seemed too fast for you? Celebrate. And on and on you’ll go with a certainty that you’ll be able to appreciate your own process and reach those huge goals.

Break yourself of the putting off  celebrating progress until “someday”. You might think that it’s okay to constantly think that “someday” you’ll be/do/have, but it’s not going to help you get there. Yes, it’s extremely important to have big dreams, and to stretch yourself beyond limiting beliefs, but you shouldn’t focus on the gap between where you are and want to be.

That’s one of the major reasons people fail. They spend all of their time comparing themselves to others’ success instead of figuring out their own path to personal achievement. How many times have you heard one of your musical inspirations play and instead of thinking, “What did they practice every day to become that amazing?” you thought, “I’ll never be able to…” The truth is that everyone is able to accomplish a lot more than they think, but it takes a different approach to daily practice and motivation.

The Competition Trap

If you’re like many people, then you are constantly comparing yourself to other musicians. This can potentially become the opposite of motivation. It doesn’t have to be that way though; you could compare your progress with where you were musically yesterday. You could become better than you were yesterday, and one day you may look back and realize that you’re nearly as good (or better) than your favorite artists.

Try it for a week. Write down where you are every day and then tomorrow write down how you’ve improved. In a week you’ll see your daily improvements and be able to see how practice is paying off. Also, while competing with yourself everyday instead of people who’ve already been playing for 30 years, you’ll remove that crippling fear of “never being good enough”.

Shift Your Focus

You have to imagine the big goal, “forget the goal” and focus only on the process. Here’s another way to consider this idea—did you get to work/school/the game on time this week? Why? The answer is simple—you have a routine. You’ve created a routine where you get up at certain time and get to where you need to be at a certain time. This can be applied to reaching your musical goals as well, but will mean that you create a way to hold yourself accountable.

You don’t wake up every morning and think, “I have to get to work or school on time or….”, no, you just do it. You don’t think about the goal of what a high school or college degree will mean for you when you go to class every day. You just go to class, and focus on one day, one assignment, one paper, one reading, at a time. It’s the same with sports. You might imagine winning the game this Saturday, but Monday through Friday you’re out there doing the work and getting to practice on time. This is also true of becoming the best musician possible.

Back to focus and how it can possibly derail your progress. If you want to save $10,000 (or a million) and you start by setting aside $10.40 every week, you’ll start feeling pretty defeated immediately because you’ll constantly compare the goal with where you are right now. When you’re thinking about finishing a degree, and you only have two classes out of 200, you may think you’ll never finish. These might seem like trivial examples, but they’re not. These are just two examples of countless goals people never reach because of the comparison trap.

Don’t allow the comparison of where you are, and where you want to be to demoralize you. Stop measuring the distance between your present and your future. Instead, create the big goal, figure out the daily practices you need to do to accomplish the huge goal, forget the big goal for now.

Goals and Processes

Simply put, a goal is the end result, and a process is the daily action that moves you towards that goal. Daily routines are the path to success. Goals are the, well, the GOAL, but to get there you have to forget the big picture and hone your skill, your craft, your voice. You may also hear people talk about SMART goals, which means Specific, Meaningful, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound. While this structure might be excellent for businesses, it’s not necessarily going to help you achieve your big dreams. I add this here because it’s something that may get in the way of true progress. Your goals really shouldn’t be explained in some group of letters describing words that will most likely bog you down in wondering if learning to play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major is “meaningful”.

First, you allow your goal of playing lead violin to create your process. Next, you prevent decision anxiety by following a daily routine. Maybe you get up 15 minutes earlier and practice every morning, or 30 minutes before dinner every night. It doesn’t have to be grueling; you’re just trying to create a routine to create a habit. If that routine isn’t working, then adjust it, instead of 15 minutes, get up 45 minutes earlier in the morning and go to bed earlier at night. You’ll know when the best time for you to practice and make progress.

This is similar to that of triathlon training. You start with two miles this week, then 2.5 next week and so forth. Incremental progress will yield the greatest results in the long run. You may need to change your routine to accommodate the new practice schedule, re-evaluate your daily plans to make doing the work every day as natural as possible.

You may consider breaking your day down into 30 minute blocks to plan your practice, and learn. Here, I would caution you to make sure to plan for down time, and time to really rest and recover. Try each routine for at least a week, and then change it according to your best results. This might be one of the most important parts of achieving your goal. Creating a solid routine that you can follow throughout the year is essential to sustainable growth.

In Summary

In Summary

  1. Imagine your large vision or dream
  2. Form your goal
  3. Make yourself accountable to attaining the goal
  4. Construct a daily process to reach your goal
  5. Practice your process every day while forgetting the large goal

Your dreams, big or small, are the some of the greatest things that you can strive towards—you can find a way to reach them if you make progress every single day on what matters most.

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