Understanding Limitations to Enhance Performance

One of the feeds I subscribe to in Google Reader is TED. TED presents “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” I was introduced to TED through a friend that attended TEDMED. They are often enlightening, exploratory, and inspirational in nature.

This past week I came across a video of Jake Shimabukuro who played Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody on a eukele.

It was pretty amazing and reminded me of a conversation I had a few weeks with Trevor Gordon Hall who performed at the Nazareth Center for the Arts.

Trevor has played several times at the Center and I really enjoy his music despite it being purely instrumental.

One thing I admire in Trevor is his innovation. Every musician wants to have their own style and don’t like be cornered into a specific, general category.

Trevor took a Martin Guitar, added pick-ups in the body, and a Kalimba on the front. Effectively making his Martin a guitar, percussion, and keyboard/piano all in one. He then created a custom board with foot pedals so he could loop sound as he played.

Here is a video of Trevor with his rendition of Come Together using the looping.

And here is a recent performance by Trevor. We left the lights on so you could really see his fingering and you get a good look at his new kalimba. He is performing New Year’s Resolution from his Finding My Way cd.

When I first met him, the Kalimba was a half octave (I believe) and now he has one that is two full octaves. Speaking with him, he told me that he is moving away from the looping and working on playing the guitar on the neck with one hand while he plays the kalimba with his right and mixes the percussion with both.

Trevor’s evolution is taking him to new places musically. A good example of his original work mixing the percussion with playing and a bit of the kalimba is found in the song Finding My Way from the cd with the same name.

He is currently writing new songs and I didn’t record them as they are works in progress, but I asked him how he can play a guitar with one hand. He said he had to strengthen his fingers in order to hit the strings hard enough to make the desired sound, and he had to understand the limitations of the style.

By recognizing what notes he can’t play on the neck one handed or can’t be done well enough, he can focus on how to make the song work in another way.

I think in most tasks we often overlook recognizing and acknowledging the limitations and waste a lot of time trying to do something, when we should be pursuing alternative paths.

Both Trevor and Jacob show what can be done when you do.



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