The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Putting in the reps Part 2

-Click Here for Part 1 -

The law of 10,000 hours is no longer just a bit of knowledge tucked away in a book by Malcom Gladwell. Nor is it just something that the truly elite intuitively understand and teach. It's become a movement that has spurned many to suck it up and "grind."

There are many who have tried to "hack" the system. But I don't consider their solutions to be long lasting or even remotely monumental. It's a parlor trick, a novelty. That's cute, but where will you be in 4 years. My guess is worse off than where you started. To be successful you've got to develop successful patterns, habits and instincts that always leave you winning. But in order to win, you've got to understand what it's like to lose.

Most people achieve their 10,000 hour mastery in about 10 years. And although I'm by no means a master, I've been able to achieve moderate success relatively quickly in my pursuits of both Singing and Fitness. But it's not because of hacks or "quick fixes." It's because of obsession and a willingness to put in the hours.

I had become very familiar with the principle and benefits of dedicated practice from my time as a martial artist and when I became a dedicated violist. I applied those same principles to learning how to play the bass, guitar, and became fairly proficient. The basic principle was just to work and work a lot.

When I began singing and training, I quickly noticed that the limiting factor for both was anatomical. My voice could only sing so much and I could only break down my body so much. But that didn't keep me from testing my limits over and over again. If I wore out my voice so much that I couldn't phonate the next day, then I'd rest it, or I'd taper back my practice to accommodate. If I brutalized my body so much that it was difficult to walk then I'd do what I could that day.

Basically, no excuses. Work with what you can. Put in the work.

How I put in 10,000 hours in Singing/Performing

People are always amazed when I tell them that I didn't even sing a note until I was a senior in High School. And even then, I didn't sing a lot of notes and the ones I did were NOT very good. But practice doesn't have to be good. It doesn't have to happen in front of a paying audience or even in the confines of a studio, it can happen everywhere. It doesn't matter if you suck, the key is practice. When in doubt, practice. Get in the reps. Practice when you're at home, when you're driving, when you've got 10 minutes here and there.

The greatest piece of advice that I could give to poor singers who need to work survival jobs is to get a job that allows you to be completely un-monitored by a superior or customer for the majority of the time. Not so you can slack off or be a waste of space, but so you can open your mouth and mindlessly sing free from judgment or potential unemployment. Delivery jobs are perfect for this. Hours in the car with just your stereo. Hopefully you've got control over your audio!

My first "Lead" was Giorgio Germont in La Traviata. But the entire summer before the auditions even occurred I worked as a full time delivery man. I not only learned the entire role backward and forward by listening to recordings of the MASTERS of the rep (Robert Merrill, Sherrill Milnes, Ettore Bastiannini, Leonard Warren) but I also gained stamina from singing literally hours every day. I'd sing till I couldn't sing anymore. Then I'd rest and attack it again. This tactic allowed me to be able to sing my first Verdi Baritone role at the age of 22, even when I developed a sinus infection during tech week. One of the most nerve wracking performances of my life. But I had put in the hours and dedicated myself to the craft, and I was able to succeed despite the failure of my anatomy.

The majority of my "reps" in singing and performance have been done in my car while delivering food. Even to this day I sing for hours on end. It's the easiest way to learn new repertoire. I learn rep by putting in reps.

Eliminate flukes, forget circumstance. In the end you just need to do it more and your body will discover efficiency. THEN, when you've discovered how to do something easier while still achieving a similar result, then you'll have found your own level of mastery.


How I put in 10,000 hours in training 

I embodied the term "over training" for the majority of my beginner years. And frankly I don't regret a single moment. Maybe I could have made more progress or gotten the progress I currently have a lot sooner. But what I did learn was the lifts, and I learned them quickly. I learned what worked and what didn't work. What hurt and how to not make it hurt. I learned how to train with an injury and how to prevent injury. I would tape up my hands if I tore massive holes in my calluses.

My frequency in the gym was made possible due to one thing - my employment at the YMCA. Having a job at the YMCA allowed me to not only make a little money, but also allowed me to save a little money by giving me a free membership to all of the other YMCA's in Oklahoma. I'd train before AND after my shifts. Two a days.

I shared my time with school, which is the ultimate place to be able to knock out two a day style training. Especially if you have a small campus. Rarely are people in a position like with college where you have your day set in front of you in hour long blocks. My training was LESS than idea when I first began. I'd have a whole day set for just bicep training. And although I know that this kind of training is NOT optimal, it did allow me to develop a LOT of different training tools to help target pretty much every muscle in the body. These are things that have proven extremely beneficial when traveling and equipment is inconsistent.

The "Squat Every Day" program has recently made a comeback in the training game. And although I've never squatted EVERY day, at one point I was squatting around 4-5 times a week. I did this because my legs and glutes were a huge weak point. When I did squat it hurt so freaking bad for days on end that the thought of getting under a bar again was terrifying. My technique was so far off from my anatomy that I would frequently injure myself. Basically, I realized that I just need to do more of it and figure out how to hit depth and not fall to pieces, and this was achieved by squatting more frequently.

Final Note

There is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to this game. You can bury yourself under a lot of weight, or wreck your body so much that you bury yourself under not so much weight. The biggest concern with putting in lots of training time is injury. But injury is part of the game, many people hurt themselves with training. But the point is to avoid massive injuries and to develop exquisite technique so that your injuries aren't a result of stupidity but simple wear and tear that can be fixed through traditional recovery measures. Rest and food.

So in the end, you've got to recover from what you're doing to yourself, but don't let recovery be a crutch that prevents you from ever doing any real work. You've got to push yourself to see how far you can go, then taper it back. The slingshot effect will be immense. And it will train you for when times are NOT optimal, when your body feels like hell and your mind isn't in the game, you can put on your headphones and just put your head down and do the work.

Until Next Time

Lift Big, Sing Big, and do a LOT of it.

The Opera Bro

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