Are You a Frog in a Pot?

There’s an oft-repeated story–I’m sure you’ve heard it–about how, if you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will jump right out. But if you put it in pleasantly warm water and very slowly increase the temperature, it will allow itself to be boiled to death without so much as a “ribbit” of protest.


“I’m not sure I like the direction this blog post is heading…” [Photo credit: James Lee]

This is most likely not literally true. But that’s okay. We’re more interested in the metaphorical truth of the story:  It’s difficult to notice change when it’s gradual and slow.

As musicians, we especially have to be on alert for this condition because it can hit us in two directions. The first direction is like our poor frog friend–we don’t see things deteriorating until it’s too late. Maybe it’s our playing skills that we let get a bit more rusty each year. Or maybe it’s the business/networking side of things.

But as students of music (and we’re always students, ideally) it can go the other direction too. We often don’t notice ourselves getting better. Improvement happens notoriously slowly in music, and it doesn’t call attention to itself nearly as loudly as our inevitable mistakes and backwards steps.

So what can we do about it?

Here are two ideas. First, record yourself frequently. Not only does this help you improve faster in the first place, it also serves as an audio record of where you used to be. I cringe with embarrassment when I hear stuff I recorded years ago. That’s a good thing, because it tells me that I’m better than I was.

Second, revisit old material from time to time. If you’re an accordionist, dig out that old copy of Palmer-Hughes book 1 and play “Vegetables on Parade” again. Or if you’re a Suzuki-trained violinist, you might run through “The Two Grenadiers” for old times’ sake. You get the idea.

Remember how you used to bang your head against the wall over these? Hard to believe, isn’t it?

Maybe you’re getting better after all.


Kareem on Music Lessons recently featured a wonderful article by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabaar:  20 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 30.

Among the 20 tidbits of wisdom is this: Play the piano.

I took lessons as a kid but, like a lot of kids, didn’t stick with them. Maybe I felt too much pressure. After all, my father had gone to the Julliard School of Music and regularly jammed with some great jazz musicians. Looking back, I think playing piano would have given me a closer connection with my dad as well as given me another artistic outlet to better express myself.

PianoHow many people do you know who have the same regret?

Maybe you’re one of them?

I run into it all the time. People who, upon finding out I’m a musician, tell me that they “used to” take lessons on some instrument or another. Most of the time, they’ll go on to tell me that they wish they had kept up with it.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping anyone from picking it back up, at any age. Kareem was in his mid-fifties when he figured that out:

In 2002, I finally started to play and got pretty good at it. Not good enough that at parties people would chant for me to play “Piano Man,” but good enough that I could read music and feel closer to my dad.

And that, folks, is how a champion handles regret:  By doing something about it.

Swingin’ for the Swingers on May 13th

…the swingers of golf clubs that is.

Once again, I’ll be accompanying (on piano) vocalist Kristine Mylls during the “Dinner and Auction” portion of the 28th Annual Music City Golf Tournament, benefiting the Ronald McDonald House of Nashville.

The dinner takes place at LP Field the evening before the actual golfing. In addition to the music, it always promises some great food, plenty of drinks, and tables of interesting silent auction items. Plus the view of downtown Nashville from LP Field’s club level is tough to beat!

There’s still time to register, and if you’re not a golfer you can even purchase tickets to just the dinner. See you there!