You’ve just spent the last 30 minutes staring at your music. Your eyes are glazing over as you force yourself to continue sitting there until you feel you’ve made progress.
The minutes keep ticking by without any significant results happening. Your practice may have paid off in the past, but now it seems like you’re just spinning your wheels getting nowhere. What do you do when you get stuck?
If you want to keep improving, you will have to find a way to keep absorbing and applying new information. One good way to do this is to steal it.
Some of Our Greatest Thieves
Believe it or not, stealing has a very long tradition in sports, design, and the arts.
The high “wooooo” sounds found in the Beatles’ songs “From Me to You,” “She Loves You,” and “Twist and Shout” came from their idol Little Richard.
“Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” –Pablo Picasso
Xerox Palo Alto was the source Steve Job used to steal the idea for the computer mouse and drop-down menus.
Babe Ruth created his own swing based on his hero’s, Shoeless Joe Jackson’s, mighty uppercut.
Septien School of Contemporary Music
Linda Septien is the founder of the Septien School of Contemporary Music. This school has produced millions of dollars in pop-music talent through students like Ryan Cabrera, Demi Lovato and Jessica Simpson.
“Sweetheart, you gotta steal like crazy. Look at every single performer better than you and see what they’ve got that you can use. Then make it your own.” –Linda Septien
Septien steals ideas from others on a regular basis filling a total of fourteen 3-ring notebooks. She looks at some of the top performers and writes down any kind of useful tips from how to hit a high note to how to deal with a noisy audience.
Sometimes she writes these ideas down on paper and other times on cocktail napkins stuffing them into plastic sleeves and storing them in a binder.
Stealing By Looking at Others
Stealing does help us to understand a little bit better why the youngest members of many musical families are always the most talented.
Andy Gibb, Michael Jackson, Nick Jonas, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, J.S. Bach, and Yo-Yo ma all have something in common. They are the youngest siblings from a family with a long history of music.
As these younger kids grew up, they had access to a lot more information than most. They had a much better opportunity to mimic ideas from their older sisters and brothers as they watched them perform.
Not too many people get the chance to see for themselves what works and what doesn’t work through the performances of those in their own family!
How to Become an Idea Thief Yourself
1. Stare at one of your favorite musicians, composers, or top performers and gather up as many concrete facts as possible.
YouTube is a great resource for watching and listening to many different performances. If you write music, pull out a piece considered to be a “masterwork” by your favorite composer.
2. Take note of all the details very carefully. Look at the precise shape of a clarinetist’s embouchure and the angle of their horn as he hits the high notes. Notice the exact harmonies and notes used by a composer during a transition moving away from one thought onto a new idea in the music.
The more specific you can get in writing down these tips, the better. What exactly are they doing at this critical part in the music? How do they do this differently from how I do it?
3. Store this information and review it often. Use a shoebox, 3-ring binder, a simple folder, or a spiral notebook as a place to store all of these ideas.
By having your own secret stash of guidelines on hand, you will never get stuck again when you’re practicing. Even more important, you now know exactly what to work on and how to go about getting this accomplished in a much more effective way.