Repetition is the key
the Caribbean or doing weekend gigs across North America. Do the math. We were playing four hours a night, roughly 350 nights a year, every year for 14 years. When you see musicians performing, and the music is solid, in every case that kind of repetition is behind the seemingly effortless presentation taking place. You have done the material so often, in front of different audiences, on nights when you’re not feeling great, or the crowd is small, or the sound system is acting up, or when the crowd is rowdy. You have learned what works. You have learned the craft of what you’re engaged with; you have become a seasoned product. You have been honed.
Furthermore, it’s not just in music. It is true in theatre generally and in persons who are accomplished public speakers, but it is also true in sport. Right now, we’re watching two championship events – the French Open Tennis Slam and the American NBA Basketball Finals – featuring athletes who have been honed to a fine edge by that over-and-over repetition. Rafael Nadal, at the French, is showing it as he adjusts his game to counteract whatever his current opponent brings to the court; pressuring the weak backhand, or employing the drop shot when the opposing player is too deep. Nadal has been there before. He has the miles on him. Similarly in the basketball clash between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers – the experience from playing the game over and over, night after night, year round is so obvious in one delicious play after another. There was a vivid example in one of the recent matches when the Warriors Stephen Curry, coming up court with the ball, was being harassed by a Cavaliers defender. As he was on the move at 3-point range, the defender reached in and knocked the ball away from Curry; in an instant, Curry jumped forward, grabbed the loose ball, and in one motion let loose a long arcing shot that went clean through the basket for the score.
Curry’s action was part talent, of course, but a key factor in it is that the player has made that impossiblelooking shot in practice, time and again, probably more times than he can count, so that the muscle memory of that action is embedded. He is simply doing in public something he has done in private countless times, on countless courts, in countless cities, only net. Repetition is the key. Look at Lebron James shooting free throws; it is clear he is just repeating a groove he has honed in practice. The one step set before the shot is the same; the knee bend is the same; his body rising upward is the same, and the release of the arm is in the same arc, like a piston, as the balls drop in the net. The repetition is embedded in the athlete; he has already spotted the variation before the shot fails, so that in a recent tennis match at the Open one could see the Argentinian player Juan Martin del Potro attempt a drop shot with his opponent at the base line and there was del Potro visibly grimacing as his racquet struck the ball – he already knew from the feel of the shot that it had gone wrong, and the ball falling into the net confirmed it.
To revert to where I started, it is very unfortunate that when one looks at the current Guyana music scene the shortage of places to perform means that the opportunity for those repeated performances is sadly lacking here for our budding talents; our young musicians and vocalists are not getting that repetitive “every night” work. Unless and until that changes, these talented persons are not gaining by the required repetitions; they are not being honed.