Try New Things

Photo courtesy of Alan Levine

Photo courtesy of Alan Levine

One thing about working in the church is that it happens pretty regularly. Every week, in fact. That can be good because you get plenty of opportunities to practice and hone your craft. But it can also be bad because it’s so…routine. For the most part, church services don’t vary much. Most churches get into a rhythm and stay there. Three songs, announcements, offering, message, dismissal. It’s a formula, but it works. People know what to expect. But it isn’t necessarily a breeding ground for growing your skill set. That’s why we as technical artists have to stay self-motivated to grow. And the best way to grow is to try new things. 

Can The Best Get Better?

When I was in high school, I really liked the band Rush. Still do, in fact. I remember listening to Moving Pictures, Exit…Stage Left, Signals, Hold Your Fire over and over again. I saw them live during the Moving Pictures tour, and was blown away. Neil Peart, the drummer, was particularly notable. I’ve always been fascinated by drummers, and Neil is arguably one of the best in the business. The guy is simply a monster and has a seemingly unbelievable ability to disconnect his arms and legs and play four completely separate rhythms at once. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s amazing.

While watching a documentary on the band a while back, I learned that about 15-20 years into his career, a time when most would consider him one of the best rock drummers in the world, he decided he wasn’t playing up to his potential. He found an instructor and started taking lessons. He changed his entire technique and sure enough, became a better drummer. It takes a rare mix of drive and humility to want to improve when you’re already that good. 

We Have To Try

The thing that struck me the most about Neil’s story is that he was willing to try to get better. It’s completely possible that it wouldn’t work. It’s possible that messing with his technique would make him a worse drummer instead of better. But he tried anyway. He tried something new, and he grew. 

I have found that most times, when I try something new I grow. Not everything I try ends up the way I thought it would. I’ve tried mixing techniques that have failed miserably. But I learned from them. No matter what the outcome is, we always learn when we try something new. Sometimes all we learn is to never do that again. But that is a lesson. 

Some friends of mine recently had a baby. We visited them the other night and it was fascinating to watch her crawl around the floor. She tries everything. Usually, she tries to eat it. But she’s learning at a tremendous rate. The other night, I think she learned that a remote control has no nutritional value, but is fun to chew on. That’s something. 

We should have the same innate curiosity as a baby. Try a new audio effect. Try a new lighting look. Try a different font for your lyrics. If we are serious about getting better at our craft, we should be constantly seeking out new ideas to try and trying them. Simply reading about something on this or any other blog but never trying it defeats the purpose. 

I am a demonstrably better audio engineer than I was 5 years ago because I’ve spent hours talking with other audio engineers and trying things out. 

Don’t Be Afraid

Don’t ever be afraid to try something. It might work; it might not—that’s not the point. Try, learn, grow, repeat. Do that for a few years—or better yet, the rest of your life—and you’ll be better at whatever it is you’re doing. If you’re not getting better at what you do, what’s the point?

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