“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” - REM
Has anyone seen the movie Zombieland? It might be a bit too graphic for many of our readers, but I’m sure at least some of the parents and adult readers have come across this movie, which now includes a sequel. The general gist of the movie is that zombies have taken over, but instead of being scared, this team of misfits takes them head on with hilarious style. In the movie, the narrator and main character Columbus, played by Jesse Eisenberg, establishes a list of very specific rules to survive a zombie apocalypse. There are 33 rules in the movie, all of which have thorough practical explanations.
With this in mind, I thought, “What if every gig (tours, weddings, corporate events, local shows) disappeared basically overnight? What would musicians do? Oh wait...that already happened. Well...here are the rules. Better late than never:
It’s important to stay physically fit. Tony Robbins always says, “motion is emotion.” Simple, I know, but any motion at all helps. I personally like to run. I’m not fast and I can’t run far, but...I have a schedule. I stick to it, and I push myself a little further and harder every time. Whatever the routine might be, keep it at all costs! Right now, Down Dog has all of its yoga programs free. Download that app, and get started. There are also hundreds of other workout programs being offered for free right now. Dive in!
There are so many amazing music podcasts! These are my top three for musicians.
- And The Writer Is
- Broken Record with Rick Rubin & Malcom Gladwell
- Dean Del Rey’s Let There Be Talk
If you want to know how to do something, chances are five people have done it wrong and one has done it right on YouTube. Start digging! I am personally trying to get my country guitar chops up, so I’m really learning a lot from a channel called...wait for it...Country Guitar Chops.
Warning: Scrolling can cause isolation and disorientation. With that said, Instagram is currently filled with people genuinely trying to do good right now, bringing people together through whatever service they provide. Songwriters are hosting virtual concerts. Guitarists are doing pedal or amp demos. There is a lot of good happening. SoundLife has partnered with AuSounds to create a free daily music lesson series called Lil’ Maestros. This class will air live every day M-F at 12 p.m. PDT. Follow us on Instagram for more information. Check us out!
Did anyone see the new ZZ Top documentary? Or the Miles Davis documentary? No?!?! Well, there’s no excuse now. Get over to Netflix!
6. Instruction Books
All professional musicians had to put in their 10,000 hours. Those hours came with a mountain of books from teachers which we never threw away and always said, “One day I’ll get back to these.” That day has come. Pull out the old books. Relearn or learn for the first time that which was otherwise never going to be touched again.
7. Your Teacher’s Notes
Apply Rule #6 to all handouts from decades of learning your instrument.
8. Google Drive
How’s that Google Drive looking? Does everything have a nicely labeled folder with the appropriate things inside? Organize those files! It feels so good.
Apply Rule #8 to Dropbox. Clear out the older mp3s, and organize all of the relevant charts, song files, and project folders.
10. File Cabinet
Apply Rule #8 & #9 to the trusty old physical file cabinet. Go through each file and throw away the useless papers. Create and label new folders. Organize everything how you like it.
11. Cable Box
I’m not talking about Spectrum or Comcast. I’m talking about that giant box of jumbled up instrument cables that you keep saying that you’ll go through someday. Half of those cables don’t even work! I’m mostly talking to myself with the rule. We all have a bundle of cables—some sort of work and others don’t work at all. Separate the ones that don’t work from the ones that do and the ones that sort of do. For the ones that sort of work, go on YouTube and learn how to solder instrument cables.
12. Language Barriers
As a musician, the chances of me coming into a situation in which I don’t speak the same language everyone else speaks are pretty high. I know that for me, learning Spanish would be extremely helpful. During this time, I’ve made it a point to stay the course with my Spanish lessons using the Pimsleur Method on Audible.
There has never been a better time to just sit with your instrument and play for no reason at all, to create and express yourself. I am in no way a songwriter, but I love to write songs for myself, my kids, and my family.
14. Read Books
Old-fashioned paperbacks never go out of style. In no particular order, here are a few books or short readings that heavily influenced me.
- Miles, The Autobiography
- Life, Keith Richards Biography
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad
- Start With Why
- The Power of Now
- As a Many Thinketh
- Acres of Diamonds
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- The E-Myth
- The Autobiography of Ben Franklin
15. Read Music
It might sound strange, but reading music is therapeutic to me. I love both sight-reading and working through pieces. My personal favorite things to read are Bach’s Inventions transcribed for guitar and old jazz standard lead sheets.
When life gives you lemons...not having a plan is the same as going on a road trip without a map. There’s nothing inherently wrong with not having a map, so long as you have no definite destination. Take some time, and make a plan. Music isn’t going anywhere, and as musicians, we become most needed when people are scared, worried, lost, etc. We have the superpower to deliver medicine for the soul.
Physically writing might one day be a lost art, which is a shame because there’s something that happens between the head, hands, and heart with physically writing that does not happen with typing. Grab a notebook and go. It’s freeing to just sit and let the mind wander.
In 1665, Isaac Newton had to work from home when University of Cambridge temporarily closed due to the Bubonic plague. It was the most productive period of his life, and he used that time to develop his theories on calculus, optics, and gravity.
Musicians tend to be specialists by nature. It’s time to document that knowledge and experience and share it with the world, whether it’s on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, your website, or even just a book you one day plan to publish. Get it documented and share it with the world!
Give it out in slices, and it comes back in loafs. There is nothing more powerful than giving. In times of financial uncertainty, we need to turn our attention away from ourselves and just give. Without any thought of something in return, we need to look for people and situations in need, and just serve.
Religion or spirituality aside, prayer is powerful. Call it meditation or reflection, but there is undeniable power in taking time each day to be grateful, to think of others, and focus on what is most important in life. Creating a habit out of this ultimately develops a stronger sense of faith, which help tremendously with rule #20.
22. Look Forward
Think beyond right now, beyond the current situation. What are you going to do when life goes back to “normal?” What do you miss? What don’t you miss? What are you going to change? How? Why?
23. Look Back
A part of rule #21 is taking time to be grateful. Look back on your experiences. Go through old photos, videos, tour badges, albums, etc. Organize them, share them, reflect on them.
24. Don’t Quit
We came this far! We can not, out of fear, turn back now. We all have to adjust, adapt, and be both creative and patient. We have to do what it takes to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We have to do what it takes to support our family, but we also have to weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side. We must consider this a refining period. It will make us all stronger.
25. Keep Working
We can work without gigs. Musicians can teach. Musicians can record remotely. Musicians can perform online. Musicians have so much to share, and people need it now! Why did we choose music? Why did we risk so much for a chance to do something few ever get the chance to do? Because music is that powerful! Music can deliver the one thing people need now more than ever: hope!
26. Stay Connected
I’ve actually found myself more connected to my friends and family during this time than I have been in years. Why? Because we’re concerned for one another, we’re all in the same boat together, and we’re thinking of each other. It’s sadly something that didn’t happen as often as it should. Video conferencing, phone calls, emails, and text are such amazing tools that we sometimes take for granted. FaceTime parties are actually pretty awesome. Without having somewhere to go and something specific to do, we have to rely on talking. It’s amazing how awesome just talking truly can be!
27. Keep Routines
Just because we’re not leaving the house does not mean we should forego seizing the day. For me, getting showered and dressed is a mental requirement to be productive each day. That may not be the cause for everything, but let’s not let things get out of hand with the pajama party. Make your bed and get the day started!
Musicians! Do you remember REH? These were instructional VHS videos from the 1990s. We all had them at one point in time. Every famous musician had their own REH video, and collecting/sharing them was part of my education. I have no doubt most or all of these are on YouTube now, but if you have them stashed away, maybe now is a good time to break them out. I admittedly went to Goodwill and bought an old tube TV with a built-in VHS play. Best $20 I spent that week.
29. Highlight Reel
We all have endless hours of video footage sitting on hard drives and scattered about online. This is a perfect time to track that footage down and cut it into the ultimate highlight reel. Every time someone hits me up for a gig and asks for promo material, I scramble. It would be nice to have everything organized and easily accessible to send out. Here we are at rule #29, and I think this one hits home for me more than any of the others.
30. Tour Badges
Most musicians keep their credentials or tour badges. They become part of a collection and are a testament to all of the places you’ve been, shows you’ve played, artists you’ve played with, etc. So what's the plan with all those tour badges?
31. Fly by Night
We’re so lucky to be isolated in our homes now at this time when we can fly music to one another anywhere in the world. We can still write, record, mix, and master music without leaving the house.
Now, "you only live once" does not mean go out to the grocery store and make sure you touch everyone and everything in sight. It does mean that for those who have lost all or a large part of their way of life, there is less left to lose. Often in life, when we accept this reality, it’s comforting to know we’re still okay. We’re alive. We’ll persevere. When we face what we fear and come out the other side, a sort of rebirth happens. This new version—call it 2.0—is the same, but that fear is no longer holding you back.
33. Embrace the Moment
This is an unprecedented moment in time. There has never been anything in our lifetime like this. Embrace it wholly. Do not fight what you cannot change and cannot control. That energy can be better spent on Rules 1-32.