If you’ve studied an instrument before, you focused on reading music, playing the actual instrument and some bits of music theory, like scales. Chances are that’s about as far as your knowledge goes. Maybe you’ve taken a basic theory course in high school as well.
Most people stop at the physical side of playing an instrument and don’t go further. The technical side is important, but music is not a physical act, it’s a mental one. You’re representing an emotion. By only learning the physical side of things you’re doing yourself a great disservice. You can play the instrument, but do you know why you’re playing what you’re playing, or are you just moving your fingers? Do you know what feeling you’re giving off when you’re playing? Do you know multiple ways to represent that same idea?
This issue is not the students fault. It’s their teacher’s fault for putting all emphasis on the technical side of music. Beginner, intermediate and even some advanced students cannot see all the things they need to master. It’s up to the teacher-to educate them properly.
In this article, I want to talk about the full view or all the aspects of music you need to study to truly master music. I hope to open your mind a little about what’s out there, inspire you, drive you and help you succeed in all your musical endeavors.
So let’s talk about the full view.
The technical side:
A side many people are familiar with but surprisingly still neglect. Ken Tamplin, a vocal coach I studied under said it best:
“Your technical side as a musician can be compared to an artist and the number of colors he has to work with. The more colors the artist has to work with, the more variety and more expression he/she can achieve. If he only has three colors, he can only paint so much. We can compare a musician and his level of technique in the same way. The higher your level of technique is, the greater your ability to express and craft the music you desire. The lower your level of technique is, the more limited your art will be.”
Technique is a vitally important aspect of playing-Many focus on just the ability to play. Many others ignore the technical side assuming it as only something classical, metal or jazz players develop.
This is almost criminal.
Technique is how you control your instrument. If you are burdened by the act of playing the instrument, you will never be able to focus on the actual act of making music.
Technique can be grouped into many categories. This is a short article, so I will only give the general categories:
The next piece of the musical puzzle is your ear training. If your ear is poor and you can’t hear what is going on in a song, you’re in trouble. As a musician, your ears are one of your most vital tools. If technique is the amount of colors you can paint with-then Ear training is like the size of your paint brush. Ear training is your ability to understand, interpret and re-represent music.
Having a proficient ear will allow you to express yourself through your own music in greater detail and accuracy, just as an artist uses different sized brushes to detail his work and give him a greater ability to express himself.
Ear training is essential to anyone who wants to compose their own music. It also allows you to enjoy music on a much deeper level than the common person. It is a skill that most musicians fail to develop, making it almost impossible for them to reach a true level of mastery.
The final area of ear training, which I’m usually surprised if a student has developed at all, is the ability to recognize emotion. If you play a specific note over a chord, do you know what emotion it’s producing? Do you know the emotion each chord is giving off? Probably not, but if you did, you would be able to represent and create any emotion you wanted under any circumstance. Can anybody say super power?