Advice on how to just be a musician

From Ben Folds

And just because this is my personal very favorite dead horse to beat, I’ll single this one out:

“Don’t spend effort on crap like … well, being cool. It’s a killer. It takes effort to appear as if you don’t care. What a waste.”

An awful lot of snobs can’t even play instruments — they sure can stand there while you do and tell you everything you’re doing wrong, though. But if the coffeehouse snob wants the piano to make a certain noise, then …

… wait for it …

Why the hell aren’t they playing the damned thing, then?

If they want to hear a certain type of music, it’s up to them to put in the ten years or so of work that one has to invest in order to win that privilege. If one is willing to do the work, and spend long years playing student crap and etudes and sounding like a total goob, then the reward is that one gets to make the noise one wants to hear. But you have to be willing to redirect that “coolness” effort that Folds speaks of toward the instrument, and risk being a dork in the process.

If one is unwilling to make that investment — or risk sounding like a goob for a decade because that wouldn’t be cool — then one does not get to give directions to another person who did make that investment. It’s not my responsibility to speak someone else’s truth for them. If they want to speak their truth on an instrument, they need to pick the thing up and do it.

If you’re willing to learn how to drive, you get to steer. There’s no passenger seat or back seat on an instrument. It’s like a small pickup truck — you’re either in the bed, or behind the wheel.