Wednesday, 20 August 2014

How to Learn an Instrument

Last week, I talked about how I am certain that music is a language. I discussed some of the implications of this. But one implication I didn't discuss, is how the fact that music is a language should change how we learn instruments.

To explain my point, I'm going to refer to the way in which babies/toddlers learn to talk:  

Firstly, babies can not read or write before they can speak. They do not know what adjectives are, or how to use sub-ordinate clauses. They just focus on the act of speaking. To apply the same concept to learning an instrument, actually just exploring the instrument and what it can do should come before learning about what we are doing.

Image sourced from here.

Secondly, babies 'talk' every day. They never shut up! They are always babbling. This babbling is practice that improves every day. In the same way, musicians have to play for as long as possible every single day if they are to improve.

Image sourced from here.

And thirdly, babies are not locked in a room with each other until they are good enough at talking to be allowed out with the professionals (the adults). To use the proper musical term, babies are 'jamming' with the professionals from the moment of birth. And they're not recording what the grown ups do: they listen over and over again, and then eventually, they try to recreate the sounds they're hearing themselves. The same thing should apply to musicians....

Image sourced from here.

Just listening to everyone who can play, and absorbing what they're doing is so important. If we don't have access to musicians who can sit and play for/with us, then listening to recording and watching videos is the next best thing. But understanding what an instrument can do through watching/listening to those who already know is one of the best ways to learn.

So, if music is a language, then we should learn to produce it like one. Practising actually doing something, and leaving the finer details till later is so important.

And finally, another piece of advice from my Dad:

"Don't practice until you get it right, practice until you can't get it wrong."

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