Commercial airplanes are mostly flown by computers. There’s just a tiny fraction of time during the flight that a pilot actually has to fly the plane. Pilots spend years learning to fly, and spend the majority of their air time sitting at high altitudes doing essentially not much. 


. . . . . . . . . . . . .  


Last night was a rough show for me. I ate some bad BBQ right before going onstage, and felt awful the whole night. 


Mid way through the set I was on empty. I wasn’t feeling the music at all, and drifted into autopilot.  


As as we walked offstage, the show’s MD told me I’d played amazing. At first I thought he was just trying to make me feel better.  Listening back to audio recordings of the show I realized he was right. I had played pretty well. 


Musicians are paid to show up and pour everything we can into a performance. That’s impossible to do every single time, because we’re human.


Pro musicians have developed the ability to let an autopilot step in when we’re not capable of making a great performance. We need the help of our internal automatic defaults to create the best performance we can when we’re running on empty. 


Our autopilot mode is only as good as we’ve built it. It comes from hundreds of hours of caring about the music we play, and establishing routines that we default to instead of strive for.  




P.S. Be careful how much you rely on autopilot mode. Automatic responses don’t handle changes, emotions, and unexpected problems well. But in a pinch, it’s invaluable for delivering consistent performances night after night.



5 Tips For Mixing Up Your Practice Routine

5 Tips For Mixing Up Your Practice Routine

It was a beautiful blue sky day in East Nashville, and me and my friends Justin and Matt were hanging out at the trendy East Nashville coffeehouse Barista Parlor. As we sipped 6 dollar black coffees (no creme allowed at this place) Matt and Justin blew my mind with a few practice suggestions. Here’s a few tips from them: 

4 Ways To Keep Your Head In the Game At A Show

If you’re playing a long set, it’s easy to zone out and miss an important part live. Here’s a few tricks to avoid making an embarrassing mistake live: 


1. Take notes beforehand. 


When I say take notes, I mean chart out every song, write notes for every transition, write in the notes for every solo you play, include which patches you need for each song, etc. It’s very hard to take too many notes, and mentally writing down what you need to focus on in each song will keep you attentive at the gig. 


2. Listen. 


I keep saying this in blogs because its so important: listen. Lock in as much as you can in the feel that the other band members are creating onstage, and blend in. Don’t go on autopilot with what you’re playing, or it will show. It’s easy to sonically get in the way of others when you stop listening to them. 


3. Finesse your dynamics, not your notes. 


By the time that you’re playing the gig, you’ve probably got all of your notes locked in. Rather than throwing off the other musicians in the group by switching your rhythms or notes, focusing on being subtle with your dynamics can keep you interested while locking in more tightly with the rest of the group. 


4. Use self talk.


Keep the running dialogue in your head pointed in productive directions, and make it laser focus on your own musicianship instead of pointing out faults in other players. Above all, stay positive about your performance. Say stuff to yourself like “I’ve got this” and “you’re doing great”. It sounds stupid, but it will make a big difference in your performance.

5 Soloing Tips In Worship

5 Soloing Tips In Worship

I got a note this week from blog reader, worship leader and friend Kyle F.: 


I am a pretty solid "rhythm" key player, but have never been good at improv and solos. Could you write a post with some tips on improvisation and soloing? Maybe some exercises you do or something like that? Anything would be helpful!


5 Ways To Simplify Your Playing

5 Ways To Simplify Your Playing

I was playing a set with a band a few weeks ago. The gig was going great- we were all getting along, and their was some top flight talent onstage. I was nervous, and overcompensating a bit by playing some of my more showy chops- this was one of my first breaks as a Nashville musician, and I wanted to make sure I put my best foot forward. 

5 Things I Learned From Not Playing With Other Musicians

5 Things I Learned From Not Playing With Other Musicians

January is always a slow month for musicians, myself included. Last night, I got to play a show with a trio I lead- my first gig in about 3 weeks. Last night’s show made me realize several things that get rusty when you’re haven’t played with others in awhile: