Let's face it; we can't expect to be on form 100% of the time when we're involved in something as complex as making music. Especially when it comes down to recording an album – after all, posterity has a long and rather unforgiving memory...
I had a studio session for my new album recently where I was down to record one of the most demanding pieces I've written so far. Why demanding? Well, it involves playing over virtually the whole fretboard so there are a lot of position changes, it's quite fast (138 BPM, if you're interested), it changes key in the middle and loads of other yippy-eye-oh-fol-de-diddle-all-the-day type of fingerstyle skulduggery. I'd deliberately booked a whole day in the studio because I knew I wanted to get it right and if that meant doing 25 takes to get a good one, then fair enough.
As it turned out, I discovered quite early on in the session that I wasn't having a good day. Having practised the track beforehand until my fretboard screamed for mercy, I was sure I was ready to record it... Trouble is, I just wasn't 'in the zone' mentally. My mistake was to plough on with grim determination; by the end of the afternoon I was literally playing takes with gritted teeth and, as I've said in most of my books, if there is any tension in your body, you're like a machine beginning to seize up and you're definitely not going to be capable of putting in a good performance.
If you want the full list of excuses (and if you don't, please skip this paragraph) then I could say that my car had exhibited a worrying tendency not to start earlier in the week; my computer – which I obviously rely on for a great deal of my work – was beginning to behave rather strangely and I was sufficiently distracted to the point where I couldn't get that sublime head-to-heart-to-hands connection necessary for putting in a good reading of the piece concerned.
I could have saved myself a great deal of soul-searching angst if I had remembered some very good advice given to me once by a very well-known musician: 'Everyone has bad days,' he told me. 'The trick is to save yourself a lot of grief by recognising that you're not on form early on in the day, forgetting about it and going down the pub instead.' He was right. There's always another day – it never does you any good to beat yourself up over circumstances that you haven't much control over.
Battle will recommence at the end of this week... and this time, I know I'll nail it!