It goes for many musicians that our passion is oftentimes not our main source of income, meaning most musicians need to work other jobs to keep their heads above water. An unfortunate consequence of this is that time that would often be better spent rehearsing, practicing or just plain working is eaten up by grinding it out for the man. I hope by sharing with you some of the ways around this that I have figured out I can help you with this conundrum.
The big one is the time of day. You only have so much say on when you need to be at your job be it 9-5 or otherwise. Whatever the case may be, you will know best when you are at your most productive - the key is to seize this time when you have it. Personally, I know for me it is right after work at 5 o’clock. This will change when offices return to work & we begin commuting again, but for now I have been putting this spare hour to good use, making sure to use the time when I am most alert to focus on studying.
Something I plan to explore is leaving an instrument in my office (I am fortunate enough to have a ‘spare’ guitar I am not too attached to, but I understand this is not the case for everyone) so that I can transform my lunch hour into metronome guided scale running time. It is true that lunchtime is the fastest hour of the day! Remember to respect your colleagues & always check with your team/line manager that this is not stepping on anyone’s toes.
Finding the time is one thing, but finding the will is quite another. Too often do I find myself running scales endlessly, though building chops may be fun (not to mention important!) it is not the most productive way to spend your time. To continue building on yourself as a musician this requires challenge & learning that only comes with encountering new material which can be hard when you have little time around your working life. Setting small goals for what you want out of your practice that you can actually achieve is a great way to see how you are still improving. This is especially true after a few months when you have accomplished a few of these goals. This can be as small as learning one new thing each week, maybe when your favourite YouTuber puts up a new tutorial.
Despite our best efforts and as Jeff Goldblum once said: life finds a way. This sentiment works both ways, that while we try our best and can indeed achieve everything we want out of our practice we can just as easily fall afoul of life getting in the way. This cannot always be helped, but to use another adage: if you want something done, ask a busy person. You cannot account for every eventuality & if you are anything like me will find that your week disappears before you checked even half of the things you wanted to off your to-do list. If you know yourself & know your schedule, you can get ahead of this. It may sometimes be the case that there physically is not enough time for you to squeeze in a family/personal life around a full-time job, your own life admin & music. Learning when best to say no is an invaluable skill that will spare you no end of headaches. No one wants to disappoint anyone, but your friends, family & boss will be more grateful if you turn down the odd pint, project or extra shift as necessary now than hearing an apology that could have been avoided.
Now we have discussed productivity, motivation, planning & barriers. With all of this in mind I hope you are able to workaround your vocational life in a meaningful way. The above is a sure-fire case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ since I know my own work/life/music balance can always be improved. I work 9-5, am in a wedding band & a heavy metal band. In peacetime I go to 2-3 jam nights a week. Practically there is no such thing as a night off. If I am not drawing chord sheets for covers or rehearsing for originals I am learning things I hear at jam nights when time permits.
Given the above, it is important to remember that music is a passion. It is something I love doing & I love when it works out. It can be easy for it to feel like a chore when you have a lot to do & it can be just as easy to forget why you are putting yourself through this. For many, music is a fun hobby & it should stay that way else you might end up spoiling it for yourself. It is by holding music dear that I can rationalise the late nights practicing.
I am that unfortunate stereotype of being ‘the music guy’ in my office, always lugging an instrument to practice during lunch or heading straight to rehearsal after work. These are small sacrifices that when made regularly have a huge benefit over time. Being persistent at building these habits is what allows me to keep so many plates spinning at once & I hope sharing my experience with trying to fit music in and around my job helps you in coming up with your own ways to help both co-exist!
Cameron is a friend of Songplistic and one of Songplistic’s session musicians. He plays bass for Sloan & the First Gentlemen as well as Berkeley Wedding & Function Band.
Sloan and The First Gentlemen:
Facebook: Sloan and The First Gentlemen | Facebook
The Berkeley Function Band can be found on:
Facebook: Berkeley Function Band | Facebook
If you would like to hire the Berkeley Function Band for any functions please head to: https://www.coastentertainments.co.uk/band/berkeley
Cameron also played bass on the Songplistic Session Band's new release Losing My Head, listen here: Spotify – Losing My Head