The Same Set Syndrome: How to handle the responsibility of repetition

Musicians who repeat without excellence marinate in mediocrity. – Gerald Klickstein, The Musician’s Way 

The third set.

The third Sunday service.

The thirteenth show on the tour.

You’ve done each performance as planned. The same songs in the same order. You know the riffs, breaks and chord changes like the path to your kitchen in the middle of the night.

Let’s call it the Same Set Syndrome: a chronic feeling of boredom and lack of inspiration caused by repeating a performance several times in a row.

This is when the dangerous force called familiarity creeps in. The voice that tells you that your full attention is no longer needed, that you can put your artistry on automatic pilot.

The voice of familiarity is the enemy of your artistry.

How do you keep your performances fresh when they are all too familiar? How do you handle the responsibility of repetition?

“Concert”, Weeklydig

Consider these two factors to avoid becoming jaded by repeated performances – the audience and the moment.

First, honor your audience. Remember the people listening to your performance may be hearing it for the first time. They deserve your best. To cheapen the experience for your audience by mentally checking out is a poor way to reward them for supporting your music.

Second, embrace the moment. Each time you step up to play, you change the atmosphere and experience by your presence and intention. What was old becomes new the second you strike a note. What may have been familiar is now a new moment, and you will never get that moment back again.

“Never play a thing the same way twice.” – attributed to Louis Armstrong 

The mark of a true professional musician is the ability to re-create timeless music, while never losing his or her passion for excellence and creativity.

Don’t reject the responsibility of repetition. Instead, embrace every opportunity you are given to share the joy of making music.

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