Logistically Challenged Emotions

Day 3 Week 1 Q1  Tuesday, January 3, 2023

I am thinking about kits and lists to reduce the overhead associated with creative expression.  For example, if you want to go to the gym in the morning, packing your gym bag the night before makes it easier to get out of the house. What is the equivalent of a gym bag for a musician? It depends on the instrument, but one thing I know for certain, for me, is leaving an instrument out makes it far easier to play than having to unpack it and set it up. This is where being a piano player rules, except when it is too early or too late to play it. You just sit down, and there it is, assuming, of course, it is in tune. For most other instruments, you have to tune before you play. And yes, there are other reasons why a musician might want to leave an instrument in its case.

There is always a dance between logistics and emotions. For example, I like the sound of solid carved wooden guitars more than laminates which is, after all, a fancy name for plywood. But solid wooden instruments do not like low humidity New England winters. And bowing a cello permits longer sustained notes than a guitar or piano can muster. But bows have to be de-tensioned after playing. So the combination of getting a cello out of its case, and then tuning it, and then tensioning the bow and tuning it again, and, oh yes, keeping this instrument in a humidified place, all contribute to not playing it as much as a laminate or solid body guitar.

Even though the cello may sound richer than a guitar, it is logistically far more challenged, but not as logistically challenged as an upright bass which has all of the cello problems and is also twice as big. There are always tradeoffs between emotions and logistics, and having either a kit or a checklist can reduce the obstacles and the overhead associated with creative expression or any kind of expression.

And this is part of why the guitar is a far more popular instrument than the cello. I am sure being able to play chords much more easily helps too. After all, there are not too many singing cellists because the overhead is much more significant than the guitar. Being self-contained is nearly always more sustainable than requiring ensembles and humidifiers. Most guitarists have a couch guitar that is left out and easy to reach, so when walking by, it can be just picked up and played. 

So, the overhead associated with fooling around can be extremely low. Assuming excellent conditions like the proper humidity and a guitar that says in tune, there can be no overhead at all. But what if you want to be composing, preparing for performing, or preparing for a recording session? What else can you do to reduce overhead? Well, a lot! I often have either in a bag, small case, or small nearby box with a recorder, a headphone amp and headphones or earbuds, a tuner, a computer interface, various cables and adaptors and in short, everything I can think of to avoid having to get up and find it, all of which destroy the musical flow.

I have default workflows in mind, sometimes written and sometimes not, but the combination of lists and kits keeps me in a zone where flow is far more likely.  And flow is where we want to get for our highest selves, doing our best work.

It is worth it to take the time to create and improve your lists and kits to avoid getting waylaid by the inevitable knowable logistical distractions.