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Music Is Not a Competitive Sport

As both a professional musician and educator for decades, I've weighed in on many social media arguments I've seen where people start comparing who the greatest "(fill in the blank)" is.

Who's the BEST guitarist? The BEST bass player? The BEST drummer? The BEST vocalist? I hear these comparisons all the time, and I have for years and years. In fact, I heard it again yesterday and who knows about today because it's not over yet. Musicians often have musical heroes. Those they aspire to play like. The artists that they spend years listening to and trying to sound like. There's nothing wrong with that, and we who play can learn so much by emulating the musicians who inspire us. However, does that make them the "best?" We may have opinions, but is there an actual measure that one can use to calculate who the best is on any instrument? Is it fame or wealth? I would think not. Would it be who has mind-blowing technique that is so fast we have to slow it down to try to learn it? Does fastest equal best? Most obscure chord changes and solos over those chords? Is that better than a ballad that can tug at your heart and bring real tears?

As both a professional musician and educator for decades, I've weighed in on many social media arguments I've seen where people start comparing who the greatest "(fill in the blank)" is. I have my favorites, but do my own years of scholarship and practice, or the numbers of gigs I do, make my opinion worth more than anyone else's? I prefer to call them our favorites. They might have many characteristics that can lead one to believe they are the best. Perhaps they can pull off some things on their respective instruments that you've never heard anyone else do. Hey, maybe there's a guy or girl sitting at home who's just as good, though they're not famous.

Did I say FAMOUS? Does fame make someone better than an artist that few have heard of? Is Taylor Swift one of the best because she is worth more than most? Honestly, I have met and seen girls in Nashville who perhaps write better songs, have a better sounding voice, and also look like super models (not that looks matter). Taylor IS in fact extremely talented and driven. Though does that make her BEST? That kind of fame is like winning the lottery. I'm not kidding. To hit that level of super stardom, your odds are the same as winning the lottery. That does not mean one cannot have a thriving career. Too many musicians think they need to measure their careers by dollars and popularity. I know countless musicians that have great careers, and the majority of the world has never heard their names. For most, that's okay. Doing what you love for a living in is wonderful thing, and in my long career I've come to view it as the one percent. Those who get to wake up and do music for a living equal about one percent of the population that owns or plays instruments. It's reachable with hard work. Nurturing your given talent by putting in the hard work.

So I'll leave those who compare musicians as to who might be BEST with this advice: There is only ONE BEST that you need to be concerned with. Your own PERSONAL BEST. Just work on that. It's a far better use of your time and you'll enjoy the results from using it that way.

Read next: Music Is Life
Dave Stark
Dave Stark

Dave is a session musician, educator and clinician. He's also an  artist for Zildjian Cymbals, Vic Firth drum sticks, GMS Drums, Evans drum heads, Solomon Mics, Drum Muff and Tru Tuner.

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Music Is Not a Competitive Sport
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Music Is Life