January 29, 2013     Chris Keeling

What is the best way to learn to play music?


Music is a form of communication.  It gives the performer a medium at which to communicate their emotions, feelings, and even complicated thoughts.  In a band, orchestra, and choir, music lets each member communicate with one another, their conductor, and the audience.    If we look at music this way, we should start to compare it with other ways of communicating, and how we, as individuals learn those modes of communication.

The medium we all know best is language.  This is the medium we use the most to express our thoughts, and the one we learned at the youngest age.  I would say most people feel confident that they can express their thoughts and ideas through their words.  Since expressing your innermost thoughts and complicated ideas through your instrument is what most musicians strive for, let us look at how we learn to talk.

When we are babies learning to talk, we are not put in an English class where we are taught grammar and spelling.  We are not told we are wrong when we pronounce a word incorrectly.  It is actually the exact opposite.  When we say our first word, even though it might not be correct, we are encouraged by those around us.  We stumble through incoherent sentences, and mumble aimlessly.  Yet we are rewarded by our family and are encouraged to speak more.  It is not until much later do we sit down in class and perfect our speech.  We then start to expand our diction, and learn better and more complicated ways to express our thoughts and ideas.  I think the same approach should be taken with music.

Encourage someone to play the wrong note.  Because every wrong note that exists is only a half-step in either direction from the correct note.  Let the musician stumble to find a way to communicate through their instrument.  It might not sound great, but that is how we learn.  After we learn to express ourselves through our instrument, no matter how simplistic and awkward it may sound, then we should learn how to perfect our way of communicating.  If every note is a word, I find it funny that we are taught to play scales even before we have something to say.

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