What a mysterious title for a post: Pep Talk Advice and Cautions…
First, let’s have what I wish to call, “The Pep Talk”.
I started this blog some time ago with the idea that we learn to understand music and rhythm, while doing it with the knowledge that we do it with patience, hence the name, “All In Good Time”. Like planting a garden we select our seeds, germinate them, plant them, take care of them, and while doing so go about our day. We needn’t hover over them with a ruler to measure them every day, but rather observe and be confident that some plants will grow rapidly while others won’t. Radishes are often planted alongside other plants to mark planting areas, as they are super fast growers and are often matured before other plants.
I talk about plants and gardens because I often get the idea that some people think that they have special musical seeds that will magically grow overnight into the ability to play like they have been playing for years. It doesn’t work that way.
But think back a few weeks or months. Do you notice that there were some things that were giving you trouble when you first tried them? A certain chord, or rhythm? Perhaps you’ve adjusted the way you sit or stand while playing, or are able to play AND listen better at the same time?
You see, these are all types of learning that are important to notice from time to time. Yes, your ultimate goal may be to sit down and play a song from beginning to end flawlessly with flourishes and you will, but please take time to remember that you have been learning and improving!!!
Now here’s the caution part:
First of all, let me take the emphasis off of the word “caution”. I don’t like to live life afraid of anything. I don’t like warnings, so let’s change the word “caution” to something more like “before you begin”… or “let’s start with the basics”.
If you knew absolutely nothing about building, would you jump in and build a two story house?
Of course you wouldn’t. You might start by learning to identify the various types of lumber: 2 by 4s, 2 by 6s, etc. You would learn how to measure the lengths of the boards needed and learn how to use the saw properly. Nails or screws? What type of nails? What size? How do I read a blueprint? You get the picture.
And you might want to start by learning how to build something much simpler – like a box or a bookshelf.
I hear of many players having frustration with not learning fast enough, or thinking that they are not learning fast enough.
I want to ask people to consider some of the things that go into playing a song: first, there is having in instrument tuned up. Then, can you play the 3 or 4 chords that make up the song? Don’t even worry about playing them in the right order or in time, but just being able to easily transition from one to the other without too much trouble. Then you have to sing at the same time?!!! And listen to others while playing?!?!
No wonder you are frustrated. You are trying to build an entire house!
Start with a box. Learn to play those chords by themselves. Four beats on one chord, then four beats on another – back and forth until it’s second nature to you. Then try two new chords. Learn how to build the elements of something bigger.
Once you learn those elements, you will have everything you need to build anything. Any song will come to you with ease.
Now here’s the good news:
Go ahead and try building that musical “house” without knowing how it’s done. That’s okay. It won’t fall down on you. You won’t get electrocuted, or cut your arm off. That’s the joy of being creative and playing music. Just remember that it’s a process… it takes time to get it to look like the picture of the house in the magazine. But if you remind yourself that you are, and have been, learning the parts that make up the whole, then you can feel better about your progress.
Remember that while you are trying to learn one thing, that you are actually learning other things at the same time. You may not learn that fancy rhythm in one sitting, but you are absorbing information about how it sounds and where it goes in the song.
All in good time. Remember that.
(By the way, I love analogies.)