david santistevan


Nobody is Talented

This book and this book ruined me for blaming extraordinary performance on talent.

It’s true that if you’re 4′ 5″ you won’t beat Lebron James in one on one. Your physical DNA is a good starting place for certain career paths.

But it’s not everything.

Those who are extraordinary:

  • work extremely hard
  • show up when they don’t feel like it
  • seek out mentors
  • invest hours upon hours of time improving
  • increase their knowledge
  • practice well
  • fail a lot
  • refuse to give up
  • invest financially in getting better
  • contribute more than consume
  • wake up early
  • think differently about failure
  • consume a lot
  • manage their time well
  • don’t watch much TV
  • think differently about success
  • see their work as more than work
  • would do what they do for free
  • admit when they’re wrong and where they’re weak
  • learn things wherever they are and whomever they’re with
  • have a driving passion

Don’t blame your inability to succeed on ‘not having enough talent’.

What do you think? Are people talented or do they just work hard and have unique experiences that make them better?


January 6, 2011 Posted by | Practice | Leave a comment

How To Practice Better – Acoustic Guitar

*This is another post in a series on “How To Practice Better”. Check out the other posts on worship leading and bass guitarSubscribe for free to receive regular updates of my posts.

The acoustic guitar is the instrument in the band that is oft-overlooked and rarely practiced.

Why is that?

It’s because most people who aspire to guitar stardom start with an acoustic. They want to be rockstars but they realize it is extremely hard work to be good – to shred, melt faces, blow people’s minds with fingering speeds Jimi Hendrix would envy. So they learn three chords, two strum patterns, and start playing worship songs. They eventually take their bad practicing habits over to their Epiphone Les Paul and digital effects pedals, thinking they have finally made it. Far from it.

But what if you want more than that?

Here are a few tips to help you practice better with your acoustic guitar:


I know I say this a lot, but it’s important. Pull out a metronome and practice those crazy strums in perfect time. Work on that internal clock. Most often the drummer is blamed for bad time, but the acoustic guitar is quite often an offender. Your band will thank you and maybe buy you a new guitar for such dedication.


It drives me crazy when acoustic players strum full force through an entire song. Relax. Sometimes all that is needed is a strum on the downbeats. But not just any strum. The most passionate strum you have ever strummed in the history of strumming. Slow your pick down. Sweep slowly over your strings, covering the entire length of that downbeat. Pour your passion into the simplicity. Play it like it’s the coolest thing you ever played. If you start arguing with your leader that it’s too simple, you may not be on the team much longer 🙂 Great music has space.


I can’t stress this enough. I know it’s cool to learn bar chords for the first time. Sorry to disappoint, but they’re not that cool. Especially on an acoustic guitar. The best tones for an acoustic are open chord voicings. The less fingers you use and more open strings you strum, the better it will sound. Sometimes I will even detune my guitar to something like DADGAD in order to utilize more open strings. Also, get to know your capo. When a song is in the key of Ab, don’t play bar chords. Use your capo and get that open sound. I know some guitar players call the capo a “crutch for the weak” but I think THEY are the weak ones! In all seriousness, it’s not a matter of weakness. It’s a matter of good tone.


I know it’s tempting to show up the lead guitarist with your smooth jazz leads, but just stop it. You are there for rhythm. Learn how to harness what you know and contribute only what the song demands. This goes for all musicians – submit to what a song needs. Don’t show off all you know within the course of a song. Don’t seek to impress, play simply.

Acoustic guitarists, the floor is yours. What is ONE PRACTICE TECHNIQUE that has helped you become better?

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Practice | 7 Comments

Thoughts from a Touring Bass Player on Practicing Well

* This post is a guest post from my friend Rob Morgan. Rob is a full time touring bass player. He has a fantastic website where you can chronicle what part of the world he’s sipping coffee and rocking out and also glean from his thoughts. Insightful stuff. What sets Rob apart from a lot of young musicians is that he works hard. Really hard. I’ve been writing a lot on how to practice better. Check out my posts here and here. I asked Rob to give some insight into what he does. Love this post. I know you will too. Btw, that picture there? Yea, that’s Rob. Get to know him.

I don’t know about you, but I started out with a pretty glamorous view of music. The stage, the lights, the ripping guitar solos; that’s what I saw. What I didn’t often hear was the amount of work it took to get to that point. I was always attracted to the finished product but never wanted to think about the time spent alone home practicing.

Well, now we recognize that if we want to be great, it’s going to take some practice.

Here are a few points that have helped me greatly in my journey to be deliberate about my practice time. Hopefully they’ll help you in yours.

[My main instrument is bass guitar but this can be used in context with ANY instrument you’re focusing on]

1. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

  • Be intentional about what you want to practice.
  • It’s easy to space off and only practice what we already know but push through and work on things your not good at in your practice times.

2. Schedule Your Practice Times.

  • Lets be real, nowadays if it’s not in our iPhone or calendar we don’t do it. Set aside a specific time to practice your instrument. AND STICK TO IT.

3. Embrace Your Inner ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)

  • Recognize that the average person can’t sit down with their instrument and work [productively] for four hours non-stop. Break up your practice time into 15 or 10 min segments throwing in a 3-5 min break to get up and stretch your legs every 30-40min.
  • For example: 15min-Scales/Modes; 15min-Sight Reading; 15min-Playing Something Fun and pointless; 3min-Water Break; (etc.)
  • Don’t think you need it? You do. It’ll keep your practice times focused and stress-free.

4. Practice with a ‘click’ ALWAYS!

  • Enjoy playing with people? This will help guarantee that they enjoy playing with you.
  • ‘Click’ is a fancy name for metronome. If you don’t have one, buy one or pull up onlinemetronome.com and ALWAYS practice with it.

5. Learn New Songs

  • Want to get better? Learn the (bass/drums/piano/guitar) parts to new songs. Sound way too simple? Probably because it is, but learning songs that aren’t what you’re used to will help stretch you.
  • Just love playing Hillsong? Maybe try learning a Jazz tune. Love playing pop-rock? Maybe learn a *gasp* country tune! (but only in moderation) 😉

So there you have it, a few tips on making your practice time more intentional. And remember, the hardest part about practicing is actually sitting down and doing it. So make it a priority and it’ll be impossible to not see results in your playing.

December 3, 2010 Posted by | Music, Practice | 2 Comments


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