The most obvious and common problem a beginning musician can struggle with is how and where to start. It’s a question I’ve been forced to grapple with both personally and with new students.
If you look up the question, “How to start _____” up on google for literally any skill you will notice a consistent pattern. For this example, I chose “how to start woodworking”. The steps are fairly simple.
- You need to learn the basics of woodworking
- You must have an appropriate woodworking space and the basic tools necessary.
- Learn from the masters.
- Have fun building and learning.
Let’s translate the process into music!
- You should learn the basics… your instrument, how to operate it, and perhaps some simple music theory.
- You need a space to practice and you need a physical instrument. (This is very easy for singers)
- You should draw inspiration from the masters, listen to some of the great piano players!
- Listen to music mindfully and pay close attention to what makes the music sound and feel good! And it may help to take a few lessons… (I have open spots for more students… Feel free to reach out!)
- Have fun practicing and making your own music.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously! I’ve been trying to improve my singing and I’ve had some very cringe-worthy moments listening back to some of my recordings. Just stay the course and stay positive!
Step three has personally been the most important source of improvement. You must immerse yourself in whatever type of music you want to play. If you love pop music, learn some Justin Bieber. If you like jazz, listen to Miles Davis! If you want to be a classical pianist, learn about Beethoven and Debussy! It is a beautiful thing to be able to pull ideas from so many of the great artists to create your own unique sound.
Similar to how great writers read a lot, great musicians listen to music just as much. This may be a foreign concept, but next time you have a few minutes to spare, try sitting in your room and just listening to music, nothing else. You will be surprised at how much more detail you will hear when you mindfully listen to music as you would read a good novel or watch an intriguing movie. Many of us listen to music several hours a week in the car, but few simply sit and listen for listening’s sake.
One great way to do focused listening is transcription. This could mean simply learning the melody and lyrics to your favorite song and translating that melody to the piano. Learning music by ear takes some extra effort, but it puts you in the headspace of the composer so much more than a YouTube tutorial might.
Immerse yourself in the music culture, watch live performances on youtube, follow great musicians on social media, read books about music, etc… You will find out fairly quickly if music is something that you would like to pursue as a hobby, more seriously, or not at all.
Don’t be afraid to go through a phase! When I went through my Charlie Parker episode, I lost all aux privileges indefinitely. Apparently bebop isn’t cool anymore…
Step one is something that lessons, or youtube tutorials can help a lot with! Some basic starting points with regards to music theory are scales and chords (which involves understanding the major keys), rhythm (which we all have a natural sense for), and reading music.
There is no cookie cutter way to go about learning the piano. But there are two principles that I like to generally go by…
- Perfect* Practice Makes Perfect
- If you practice mistakes, you will have to unlearn them down the road, which will make the process 10x harder. So always be intentional about your practice and have a clear goal in mind.
- *Perfect may not actually be the best word for this, as it can be crippling to get caught up in every minute detail, so perhaps a better way of phrasing it would be, Intentional Practice Makes Perfect.
- Consistency is key
- 20 minutes a day of focused and intentional practice will go a long way. It is better to practice a little bit every day for two weeks then go on a 5 hour practice-a-thon and burn out.
- You should not only be consistent in terms of frequency of practicing, but also what you practice. Don’t spread yourself too thin trying to learn several concepts at once. Pick one and go with it for a while until you feel comfortable, then you can add more elements! Need an idea? Shoot me a message and I can help you out!
This process doesn’t apply to just beginners, but anyone that is on their musical journey. Whenever you attempt to learn a new style of playing, a new song, or a foreign musical concept, you are essentially a beginner, even if you have been playing your whole life.
Feel free to reach out and comment if you have any questions, additional insight, or resources related to this topic. Additionally, reach out if you would like to request a specific topic or question for a future blog post!