What Ira Glass Can Teach Struggling Musicians

You may have heard Ira Glass on the NPR program “This American Life,” where he performs as a radio personality. On his show, he takes on topics ranging from the humorous to the thought-provoking, and ultimately he is very successful in both radio and literature.

Ira Glass has a message for any artist out there, musicians included: what he calls “The Gap”. Watch it below.

1. It’s good to know you aren’t where you want to be.

It is one thing to be mediocre, but it is another thing to be mediocre and know it. The reason that self-awareness is so important is because with awareness comes the ability to improve on yourself. Realizing the problem is the first step to fixing it.

Try to identify the part of your process that is lacking. Is it practice, instruments, inspiration? Don’t hide from these shortcomings; embrace them so you can improve your music.

2. All artists go through this struggle.

You aren’t alone. Mozart wasn’t a master from birth, nor were the Beatles or Bob Dylan. Everyone is a beginner at some point, and all artists experience that gap between their ambition and their actual product.

Understanding that gap means you are on your way to crossing it.

3. The best way out is to work.

Often, pure quantity can help overcome the gap in your work. When your taste is telling you that the last song was missing just that special ingredient, but you aren’t sure exactly what that is, write one more song. Write two, or write a dozen. This kind of practice will expose you to the entirety of your current skill and reveal both your weaknesses and strengths.

Below, Ed Sheeran talks in a similar way about how after being inspired, he spent years grinding out thousands of songs to get where he is today.

4. Be patient, but don’t be complacent.

Neither Ira Glass or Ed Sheeran made their careers in a day, and skill comes with time. It can be demoralizing sometimes when nothing is working out, but remember that simply time and not your skill is what is stopping you.

Patience is critical, but don’t let it betray you. Don’t write the same style song over and over again. Instead, challenge yourself and never become complacent with your work.

Ira Glass calls it “the gap,” and any artist knows what it is like to not be making the art he or she wants to be making. For many, there is a gap between their ambition and reality. What Glass shows aspiring artists, however, is that this gap is not permanent or inevitable.

Know you aren’t alone, know practice makes perfect, and never become complacent with what you have. That is the key to success in music or any art form.

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Sean Harris is a writer in the midwest US who plans on majoring in computer science or physics at college. He enjoys listening to music, blogging, and reading.

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