Take a Hard Class

Wouldn’t it be fun and informative to be a fly on the wall at a top level meeting where they are discussing a topic that is of interest to you?

Perhaps you have an interest in marketing and would like to know how the big decisions are made about logo placement and audience targeting – wouldn’t it be an eye opener to sit in on a meeting on a top floor executive meeting? Or imagine another “inner working” you’d like to be privy to… like music.

I teach a lot of music in both private and group settings and something I have observed is, that in many cases, students just want to review what they already know, or they are there just to have fun.

I often start a workshop by asking the attendees why they chose my particular workshop – in this case, a workshop on leading and following during play-alongs. One lady responded, “I just wanted to play some songs.” When I informed her that though we might be playing some songs in the class, we were really there to learn how to be a song leader and how to follow others who were leading. She got up, packed her uke, and left.

That was both a good thing and a not so good thing. One one hand, it’s good to be clear on what you want – on both our parts. She just wanted to have some fun, and I made it clear that I was going to teach some useful information. We both were better off. (By the way, we did have fun while learning.)

But it got me thinking about how much one could learn by challenging oneself. It’s true that reviewing information is helpful – taking an easy class to confirm your existing knowledge, but there are so many opportunities to do that without paying money to attend a festival or workshop series. Think of how much that woman would have learned about playing together – which was actually what she said she wanted to do!

And that brings me to my first paragraph’s statement: wouldn’t it be fun to be in a group where they are discussing top level information?

Why not take a class that is hard once in a while? Challenge yourself! Sit there politely and let the “know-it-alls” talk, but rather than look frustrated and let things “go over your head”, you simply listen and absorb the information discussed. Sure, you won’t know everything they are talking about but take notes and imagine yourself in that league. Make it a goal to someday soon, know what they are talking about. Put it in orbit! 

I remember as a young man, sitting in on rehearsals with a bunch of older musicians who were in a salsa band. I was so eager to learn and so honored to be allowed to sit there and listen to them discuss rhythms and how to improvise. Once in a while, they would let me play a simple part, but mostly I would just sit there and observe. I didn’t interrupt nor try to divert the conversation to something I could understand – I just listened. Wow, what a difference it made in my musical learning.

So I ask you: what do you think about what I’ve said?

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5 Responses to “Take a Hard Class”

  1. webmasterpluc Says:

    Thanks for those thoughts – I totally agree with this.

    I’ve been to a few uke festivals and always like to sign up to some of the workshops. It’s a great opportunity to get some tuition, guidance and tips, especially from people you might have been following on YouTube for a while. No point in going for the easy ones, I try to get topics that will challenge me.

    Same with my practicing: to move forward and improve, I’ll watch new videos, read different articles and swap round what I’m playing every few weeks. I find otherwise I seem to plateau and it’s better to return to things after a break, as it suddenly seems easier, which is always a pleasant surprise.


  2. June Says:

    I totally agree! Give yourself a chance to grow. I have taken workshops with Herb Ohta Jr, Corey Fujimoto, Andrew Molina and more….. I watched them amaze on YouTube first. If I had let that keep me from trying, I would have missed out on so much. Sure it may be hard to “get” everything during the workshop, but you walk away with tools and techniques to practice on your own….. May be one of the reasons I have learned to read tab so much better!!!

    I DO enjoy a challenge!

  3. lawrence Says:

    Good advise. I’ve been playing for over 60 years and still learn every time I play. I may play at workshops but mostly I focus on listing and taking notes. To learn that’s what works for me.

  4. Marilyn Gibbons Says:

    Yes, absolutely! Years ago, I took a “beginning” blues guitar workshop at a well-known music store. That’s how they advertised it – beginning level. It turned out NOT to be a beginning level workshop. It was a workshop for people who were beginning to do solos. Everyone but me had an electric guitar, and I only had my acoustic. But I stuck with it and met a friend who showed me a couple of things. Everyone there was super nice. That was as out of place as I have ever felt in a music setting, but what I learned was you will never learn anything if you don’t get out of your comfort zone. Thank you for the inspiration to continue doing so!


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