Becoming a successful musician or an entertainer in the 21st century is a tough endeavor. It’s probably as difficult as becoming a successful actor in Hollywood. In this field of extreme competitors, you need to have every advantage you possibly can. Even if you aren’t going after the big prize, for many musicians, a lifetime of pursuing their craft will still take its toll. This is why it is in the best interest of most musicians to be physically fit.
If you are a musician, whether you play guitar, drums, sing, saxophone, or other, you inevitably fall into one of two categories; 1.) Professional musicians, semi professional musicians, and musicians aspiring to become professionals, or 2.) Amateur musicians, hobbyists, and musicians that play solely for expression, art, or the fun of it, regardless of compensation.
If you are either working as a professional musician, or aspiring to do so, you probably already know how competitive this field is (if you don’t, you might want to take a look around you). To earn a living as a musician in this day and age, or at least a partial living, a great many things must come into alignment. Talent, social skills, looks, longevity, and luck are some of the essential components. Since you really can’t control luck, and assuming you have some talent and social skills and are already honing those traits, that leaves looks and longevity up for grabs. This is where physical fitness comes into play.
I chose to address this factor first because so much of what happens in the entertainment industry is based on appearances. As superficial as this may be, it is simply a fact, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. While I do feel that looks and talent shouldn’t have to be tied together, the focus here is on the music business, so I’ll save that discussion for another time.
We have a strange way of approaching how we look in our society, that being that we tend to put makeup on a pig. I’m sure you’ve heard that expression before, but here’s my spin on it. How many times have you seen some performer, whether on TV or in a nightclub, who has obviously put a lot of thought into his or her wardrobe and appearance? $300 haircuts, pre-ripped and pre-faded designer jeans, fancy shirts, eye-catching jewelry, makeup, even an obvious obsession with tanning is evident for some. Yet when you look at the performer’s arms , there isn’t a hint of muscle tone to be found anywhere. Even though they aren’t obviously overweight, you can’t help but notice their ass looks just a little too big for the outfit struggling to hide it. Or perhaps he or she has no ass all, flat as a board on the backside due to the fact that they have no muscles there either. Of course this description would describe many people in almost any field. As most Americans are now overweight, each year the numbers steadily increasing, so is our desire to attempt to mask this fact with fancy haircuts, designer clothes, spray-on tans, and makeup.
But if you are aspiring to be a professional musician, you are different than most people, you are in the world of showbiz. This means that, in many cases, your appearance is directly tied to your career, and sooner or later you will be judged on your looks. So rather than continuing to follow the trend of ‘putting makeup on a pig’ why not address the issue at its core and put more emphasis on physical fitness. There is a difference between being skinny, a little overweight, and being physically fit. I have been skinny for most of my life, but I have not always been fit. When you are physically fit clothes automatically hang better, your skin color looks better, and your face looks younger. People who are physically fit tend to have increased energy and stamina, and this helps to project a more youthful vibe in general. Not to mention the increased confidence and sex appeal that can come with being in great shape. With the music and entertainment industries now more competitive than ever, there is simply no excuse to not look as good as you possibly can. A fancy haircut and designer clothes aren’t going to fool everybody.
To me, the need for longevity makes the best case for being physically fit, and this applies to all musicians, pro or otherwise. From the time we were teenagers, through our 20s, even into our 30s, typically, our bodies are still functioning under their original drivetrain warranty, meaning that, at least for most of us, things aren’t yet starting to go wrong on the grand scale that they eventually will. If you are a young person and reading this, you’re probably thinking “That’s the kind of crap my grandfather used to tell me.” Well I hate to say it, but ol’ grandpa was right. As our bodies age our joints begin to wear, we become more susceptible to injuries, injuries take longer to heal, and a whole host of other problems ranging from high blood pressure to heart disease and beyond start becoming more likely. I’ve had tendinitis for five years now, and sometimes it interferes with my playing. Some of my musician friends, after decades of problem free careers, are now starting to have their own problems too. Everything from back problems to carpal tunnel and even diabetes and strokes are now interfering with their careers and lives.
The effects of aging can and will happen to people from all walks of life, but the hard lifestyles of many musicians can further amplify the effects of aging. Being a musician is stressful, often requires extensive travel, and for many of us, requires a repetitive hand, arm, or leg motion that is certain to lead to problems. Being physically fit is the only way to combat these problems. Alcohol or drugs, whether prescribed or other, are only a band-aid, and for many, masking the pain in this way can lead to further injury. Being a career musician, I often have little to no choice about the gigs I need to take to make a living. Sometimes I will play a 3 1/2 hour show nonstop. This requires great stamina and, even though I am in good shape, sometimes my whole body aches after a long hard gig. How much worse would I hurt if I didn’t take care of myself? I still have to load my gear into my car regularly and my Vox amp weighs almost 100 pounds. Over the years, I’ve thrown out my back doing this on more than one occasion, being physically fit helps combat this as well. Regular exercise has been the best weapon against my tendinitis too. Without regular stretching and exercise it quickly becomes almost unbearable.
In the world in which we live and work, a world full of extreme competition, an extreme approach to health and fitness simply makes sense. Some people say that America has the best workforce in the world. If this is true, shouldn’t the best workers be in tip top shape? You can either continue ‘putting makeup on the pig’, or you can work towards becoming fit and give yourself a real leg up on the competition. Even if you don’t aspire to play professionally being fit will help ensure the likelihood of enjoying your hobby or art for years to come. As far as achieving an extreme level of physical fitness, there is no shortcut. It can only be achieved with good old-fashioned hard work which involves a lifelong commitment to regular exercise and healthy eating.
Do you want to look good when you’re 50? Do you want to still be able to play music effortlessly when you’re 60? I do.
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