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Book Review

The Musician's Lifeline: Advice for All Musicians, Student to Professional


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Play to make others sound good. Playing music in a band is about the collective.
—John Beasley
The Musician's Lifetime
Peter Erskine & Dave Black
191 pages
ISBN-10: 1-4706-4247-6
Alfred Music

In 2017 drummers Peter Erskine and Dave Black co-authored a book entitled The Drummer's Lifeline. The purpose of the book was to share their paired expertise of the profession. Written in a thoroughly entertaining and accessible format, the book is engaging and tailored to be advantageous for any and all drummers, student to professional.

The book was indeed well received by drummers of all shapes and sizes. A larger scale operation was in order to benefit all musicians, not limited to drummers. Just how did two experienced drummers connect with, or have the depth of all instrumental mastery to expertly impact and guide musicians from guitarists to flautists, from keyboardists to kazooists? Well, as The Beatles said in song, ..."with a little help from their friends."

Erskine and Black reached out to over two hundred top professional musicians and educators with a set of questions that examined and probed their collective minds and years of acquired knowledge. Over one hundred and fifty of the best musicians and educators in the world engaged in the project with a wealth of insightful wisdom. The cross section of countries, ages, races, backgrounds, and experience provided invaluable and broadly diversified information.

The result is The Musician's Lifeline, a comprehensive collection of narratives, advice, quotes, and actual useful, applicable material. The opinions and observations accumulated range from sophisticated to humorous, from sound logic and common sense to priceless nuggets of gold. The myriad of responses lends itself to a bevy of varying viewpoints, and consequently, far more than one approach or plan of action to each item or facet being addressed. As much as you will find relatable "comfort food" tidings, turn the page and you will be challenged to move out of your comfort zone in order to grow and get the most out of your time, your skills, and your career. The range of discussion touches on many aspects of music, and the music industry. The questions asked, and the answers provided, lead to a detailed look into the art of playing. There are hands-on performance tips, advanced audition protocol, practice habits, sight reading, performance anxiety, even how to stay healthy on the road. Further, the book expands into the business of music. The art of networking, how to best utilize social media, how to negotiate, non-performance careers in the music industry, and considerably more is outlined. In its preparation, the authors personify an admiration, respect, and appreciation of music, musicians, and the many obstacles and challenges accepted and endured in a musician's lifetime.

Divided into eleven expansive sections, each umbrella is rained upon extensively with the instructions of a "thousand minds." As with its predecessor, The Drummer's Lifeline, the book is presented in an enjoyable, and again, entertaining manner. Many of the quotes are sprinkled throughout the book in a stand-alone fashion. Simply stated, they pop, and are more easily digested and reflected upon. Although the book is obviously intended to be beneficial and purposeful for musicians, most of the territories entered and guidance administered are cornerstones that are readily applicable to many, if not most other personal, or business-related endeavors. Preparation, approach, understanding your options, and developing better people skills are not concepts singular to the music industry.

If we acknowledge the adage that "two minds are better than one," then surely over one hundred fifty minds is a generously overflowing fountain of useful ideas and illuminations. To wit the proper perspective, this is not so much about the fact that over one hundred fifty people are involved, as it is the nucleus of over one hundred fifty lifetimes. A book that could easily be read in one or two solid reading sessions, The Musician's Lifeline, is more likely a handy reference tool to be referred to again and again. It assuredly has enough substance to be read over more than once. It also is written as to quickly find and reference specific thoughts and concepts at a glance. Erskine and Black refrain from the theoretical and succeed in providing a framework of hands-on solutions and functional summations. Relaying the best advice they have ever given, and the best advice ever received, is but a sample of the mass query. Over one hundred fifty takes on that alone would seem a treasure trove of practical and worthwhile education. Perhaps best to keep the lifeline open and keep it by your side.

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