Quiet Quitting isn’t a thing – but fair working should be

Advice & Tips

Recently the term Quiet Quitting has emerged in the public sphere this year. The term refers to the apparently new trend of only working one’s contracted hours, foregoing unofficial overtime, answering emails from home, or living to serve one’s employer. Pieces have provided an overview on the BBC’s website and in newspaper articles often highlighting the anxieties of large corporations as they lose thousands of unpaid hours of labour. This piece by Guardian columnist Tayo Bero provides an informative insight into the practice.

Except it isn’t a new phenomenon at all. Some people have brought this mindset to their jobs for years. This article from Time Magazine (published just a month before the world closed down because of Coronavirus), discusses the work-life balance and comes very close to saying the same points that the Quiet Quitting ‘movement’ are saying now.

But not everyone can do this. The term mainly applies to those in what might unkindly be referred to as a ‘dead end’ job, from office workers to hospitality staff. Healthcare professionals don’t have the luxury of being able to clock off once they have reached their contracted hours for the day if patients still require care then and there. The same is true in allied healthcare professions such as therapy, my own area of work. Even in the regular routine of weekly sessions, there are issues, from last minute meetings to safeguarding emergencies that mean your presence and insight is required, and you have a duty of care to ensure the best care possible.

But is that always reflected in the financial compensation therapists receive? That largely depends on the employer. Those at the highest risk of working far beyond what they are paid for are those in the sector who are self-employed. These professionals face the struggle to balance charging fairly for their time against the threat of pricing themselves out of the market for a contracted service.

I have wrestled with this conundrum myself as both a music therapist and as a guitar player for hire. It’s certainly not rare to feel like you should have invoiced for more after the full scale of the work involved becomes clear. Getting this balance right is largely a lesson we learn from experience, but in a society where average wages are falling below the cost of living, it is a balance which many find increasingly difficult to maintain.

By contrast, the practice of Quiet Firing, described in this article, has also been highlighted, where employers distance some of their employees from opportunities to progress in their career. It is highly likely that both practices are being fuelled by the other, creating an unhealthy cycle that no employee would wish to be part of.

Some are even attempting to relabel Quiet Quitting as burnout, or a means of dealing with or avoiding burnout. I even read one which went as far as to suggest that the practice was a coping mechanism by employees which will help them be more productive in the future:

It’s another sign of workers — sometimes not even consciously — looking “for ways to feel less burnt out, more motivated and more engaged.”

Nathalie Baumgartner, quoted In The Washington Post

While burnout is in doubtedly a factor, I think viewing this as the workers trying to be even better workers is one hell of a stretch. Perhaps HR teams across the land are finding ways to exonerate themselves of any unpleasant behaviour by placing all the onus on the employees? The very term Quiet Quitting is misleading, as it implies that not working beyond what you are paid to do is somehow falling short of the standards expected.

Something is clearly wrong with our work culture if we have reached this point. So what do we need to change? Perhaps businesses should have been more mindful to learn lessons from the Covid pandemic, instead of panicking about getting back to Business As Usual.

It’s time we, as a society, ha took a good hard look at the way we work, and perhaps if we continue to slowly stop pandering to big businesses (where possible), they will be forced to change And if a change comes from society, then everyone benefits – even the  self-employed. But first, we have to know our worth, and accept that fairness is worth fighting for.

Why practice doesn’t always make perfect

Advice & Tips

Does practice make perfect? It’s undoubtedly true that the more you focus on doing something, the better you become at its accomplishment. However, as this Guardian news story from 2019 highlights, the modern convention of ‘the 10,000 hour practice rule’ may not be quite the guarantee some people have sold it as. Personal improvement, in any sphere of one’s life is never so cut-and-dry, nor can the same methods work for every individual.

The key question is why do you practice, or rather, what are you practicing for?
For instance, is it to sound like a particular musician? And if so, why?

Take this example: I love BB King, and have listened to his music for over two decades to date; I’ve learned some of his key phrases, his recognisable musical characteristics such as his blues box, vibrato technique and the space he’s leave between notes, etc. And despite learning & digesting all of this information – heck, I used to teach these techniques at specialist masterclasses focusing on the blues master – I still sound nothing like him when I play guitar.

That’s not a bad thing, either. It doesn’t represent a failure on my part. If anything, bring able to incorporate so many elements of a player who got so much right, while still retaining my own musical voice, has to be an achievement worth celebrating in some small way. Of course, a large part of a guitar player’s sound comes from their fingers, so I’d never have been able to completely obscure who I was, even if I wanted to.

Perhaps you simply wish you could execute certain techniques as well as the great masters of your chosen instrument? Read that Guardian article again, then learn to measure success by your own improvement, in comparison to your past self only.

It almost sounds trite, but you can’t stop being you, so be the best you possible

So how should you practice? This interesting article from Bulletproof Musician offers some insights into what you should be looking for, and offering the term deliberate practice instead.

For further reading, feel free to peruse my older blogs & reblogs on the subject of practice, such as my warm-up and practice recommendations, advice for young musicians, and this reblogged article from Nicole Rogers on how to practice effectively.

Just remember, perfection is an illusion, and no amount of practice will stop you from being you. Perhaps we should all embrace that.

Happy New Year, everyone. Here are some resolutions for guitarists (reblog for 2022)

Advice & Tips

Hi all and welcome to 2022! You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet on this blog for the last few months. This is for a number of reasons, but don’t panic – I’m fine, just incredibly busy! Expect more posts in this new year, as well as updates on exciting new projects I’ve been working on. In the meantime, here’s a slightly rejigged post on New Year’s resolutions from a few years back. I hope you enjoy it! Until next time...

As a general rule, I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. My philosophy is that changes can be made at any time, so why wait until January?

However, there is something about the end of a year which causes us all to reflect on the previous twelve months and start focusing on our plans for the next twelve. For us working musicians, this would usually mean that we have reached the end of one of our peak times, the ‘Christmas Party Season’. For over a decade (pre-pandemic), I ended the year with a NYE gig. However, for obvious reasons, things have been a little quieter by comparison, which gives us time to ponder on the gigs we’ve enjoyed, what we didn’t enjoy, and what we hope to change for the new year.

So, with that in mind, here are a few of my suggestions for guitar-related resolutions for musicians looking to grow as better musicians in the coming year:

Learn a new style

Always wanted to start learning those jazz chord voicings? Perhaps you keep meaning to work on your reggae & ska rhythm playing? Or your country picking? Blues slide? The list goes on…

Take the time to work on these new genres & styles of playing. We are very fortunate to live in a time where we can access a world of free tutorials on the Internet, or videos in YouTube. However, don’t rule out the possibility of taking lessons to focus on specific areas – working one to one with an experienced guitar tutor does wonders for improving your playing!

Mix things up

Learning a style doesn’t mean you have to abandon all you know & travel the world playing strictly Django/gypsy jazz for the rest of your life (though I imagine there are plenty of worse ways to live)!

Have you found that the majority if your playing has been on acoustic guitar? Trying swapping to electric more often (or vice versa). Do you always practise at the same time of day? If possible, can you change to a different time? Your brain operates differently throughout the day – you may well find yourself going down very different musical avenues simply by switching from a morning to an afternoon practice session.

Sometimes learning to play a song you are very familiar with in a new style works brilliantly in helping your playing. Not only do you freshen up material which might be getting a bit stale, but you’ll have a safer means of exploring new options in your guitar playing.

One area of guitar playing I can’t recommend highly enough is solo performance. By this, I don’t mean the lead guitar solo in a song, but playing the melody, harmony, rhythms, etc on one unaccompanied guitar. It’s something a piano player wouldn’t think twice about, but I’m frequently amazed at how many guitarists simply haven’t tried it properly! If you’re unsure about how to start doing this, there are several books, online tutorials (like this blog!), and of course YouTube videos to help inspire you. Which brings us nicely in to…

Widen your horizons

Music is a language. Even when playing on your own, you are creating sounds for yourself to hear, effectively taking to yourself. But there’s only so long you can do that before you end up going round in circles, or going crazy!

Set yourself the following challenge for the year: discover a new artist each month. Learn from what you hear. Take examples of their playing & try to incorporate it into your own. It can only make you a better guitarist! The beauty of this is that you don’t have to focus on other guitar players. In fact, it might be better not to! Many of the jazz & Blues guitarists I admire take inspiration for their improvisational playing from horn players, translating their melodies & ideas into their own instrument. Try it!

It also helps to get out amongst other musicians, jam, join or start a new band, particularly in a new style. It also goes further than this – always wanted to sing while playing? Start! Learning a new instrument? Do it! The best way out of a rut is to climb upwards!

Get your music ‘out there’

…And if you’re meeting new musicians & launching new projects, you’re already doing this. Go to more live gigs and make sure you perform live yourself more often (when you can), especially new and original music. I know all too well how easy it is to get stuck in one ‘world’ for longer than you might like, finding it hard to make the time to do other things, but I promise it’s worth the effort.

Remember to have fun while you’re out there expanding your guitar playing horizons!

To finish off, allow me to wish you all the very best of health & happiness for the New Year! Let’s make 2022 – like every year – a great year for music, for the guitar, and for you!

Please do get in touch to tell me what your own guitar/music new year resolutions are, and stay in touch to let me know how you’re getting on with them! Tim xx