The Power of asking “What if…?”

This weekend I was reminded of something that’s been a huge part of who I am as a composer and solo guitarist; the power of asking “What if…?”

Oddly enough, the reminder didn’t happen while I was playing or rehearsing. It came while I was cooking bread for my sister-in-law while both my wife and sister-in-law looked on.

They were both talking about how we should make changes to the dough recipe for no-knead bread that we’d only tried once.  I was aghast, and at my OCD best telling them we knew this worked and we shouldn’t change it at all. I went even further and told both of them how much I objected to them always wanting to mess around with MY recipes.  I told them, laughingly, that it drove me nuts. It kinda does.

But then it dawned on me. If I’d treated the guitar and music like this I’d have probably never written a single piece of music because nearly all of the 8 hours of music I’ve written is played in some altered tuning. Nor would I have recorded one of the first ensemble fingerstyle guitar records in the mid-90’s. Asking “What if…?” has been integral to who I am as an artist.

power of what if

And just last week I asked”What if…?” in relation to my baritone guitar and was rewarded handsomely.  I decided to try tuning up from my baritone’s standard tuning of CFBbEbGC to reach the alternate tunings instead of tuning down and the result was everything I’d hoped for when I asked the question.

And that gave me great joy. And joy I can share with others. I was able to debut a couple of pieces at my concert last Saturday on the baritone that I’d never performed before. And they were extremely well received. And I was so inspired by the sound that I played an almost 20 year-old piece of music better than I ever have before, and I’ve played it well quite a lot. And just today, a couple of hours before I started writing this, I found another 35-40 minutes of music that works really well on the baritone-most of it music I’ve never or rarely performed.  That’s HUGE.

Forbes and other business magazines have spent time writing about this it’s so important. My favorite quote from the Forbes article is that the “status quo is mediocrity’s best friend.” And goes on to say nothing leads to more powerful ‘a-ha’ moments than asking “What if…?”

In the corporate world asking “What if…?” can lead to profitable new products, or creative ways of marketing through social media both improving the bottom line. For musicians asking what if can create hours and hours of new music, or lead to visionaries like Michael Hedges whose two-hand tapping would revolutionize the acoustic guitar world. What would happen if you asked yourself “What if…?”

When was the last time you tweaked one of your musical recipes.  Think about it. We get bored when we eat the same thing all the time right. So, what do we do? We tweak the recipes-try something new.  It doesn’t always work. I’m sure at least half of the time I ask”What if…?”, the answer comes back as a no.

But half the time it doesn’t.

And every time I ask what if and the results are positive I get another color in my palette as an artist. Something else I can use to tell a musical story. Another way to reach my listeners. And it inspires and motivates me.

When was the last time you asked yourself “What if…?”

I dare you. Try it. What’s the worst that can happen?

I double-dare you.

And yes, I’m going to start asking “What if…?” in the kitchen now too.

Cheers, kb