Long-time readers know that I am a guy who likes to learn new stuff constantly. Last year I finally was able to acquire and start learning to play the double bass, a long-time goal of mine. I’ve been taking regular lessons with a graduate student at Arizona State University and making great strides in my playing ability. Indeed, I’ve improved enough over the last ten months that Lady Luck has now stopped throwing things at my head when I start playing.
My teacher is a fantastic player, good enough to sub for the Phoenix Symphony, and he’s even getting to record with them. His teacher, Catalin Rotaru, is a bass monster.
In my last lesson, he passed on some wisdom Catalin had shared with him. Catalin told my teacher one should always strive to play well at a skill level higher than required for the most difficult piece you’re going to perform. In other words, be better than you usually need to be. That way, if something happens to you (say, slamming a finger in a car door an hour before the show), you’ll still be able to play as well as needed.
As an example, according to my teacher, Catalin crashed his scooter a couple days before this performance. As you watch him (and doubtless think “hey, that looks easy”), consider that he had road-rash all down his left side.
As Irondad pointed out over on Musings of an Intrepid Commuter, riding a motorcycle is a lot like being a musician. And he’s absolutely right, in both situations there are a ton of people who are skilled enough to have fun, but who really aren’t that great at it.
The catch is, if you screw up playing a song, you probably won’t get hit by a truck. Unless it’s a tough crowd.
Riding a motorcycle is a skill, and one that needs to be practiced and improved constantly. Yes, we can all get away with having mediocre skills most of the time. After all, most of the time we just ride in a straight line. The bike could do that without you, and probably better than you. You really need above average skills when unusual and possibly bad things happen on the road.
Wearing down the edges of your tires is fun, but being able to and knowing that you can is what can make the difference between getting home a bit shaken and getting home in a cast.
Our sport and passion is risky, but the risk is what makes it great. We can manage risk by continuously learning and honing our skills so in bad situations we are able to perform better than usually required. I encourage everyone to take rider training, and then take advanced rider training or refreshers when you’re ready for them. There are no amateur motorcyclists in traffic, and there’s no excuse for not being the best rider you can possibly be.