Is there a secret besides hours of practice?
Is there a secret method or formula that gives anyone the edge?
Is it the way we practice?
Is it having an incredible teacher that can lay out the path and guide you?
It’s actually a combination of all of the above. Can you learn off YouTube - 100% YES!! The issue is that the amount of content and noise online impairs students more than it helps them.
Is the student learning the correct thing to help them achieve their musical goals? Well, it depends on the tutorial, and if that’s the best thing to learn first or what the student may need to learn to progress musically.
The BEST way to learn is by learning the way we learn a language because music is a language. When you learn song after song what you are learning is a recipe for one meal at a time - sure it can taste great, however, what you want to do is learn to cook.
You want to open the fridge and pick the ingredients to CREATE something unique or have the tools to learn something fast because you understand it. You need to know what salt is and how it affects your food and the taste. Learning a song doesn’t focus on the individual ingredients that make it, so students take forever to figure out how its works and makes it much slower to improve.
So many students learn song after song and don’t understand the principals and how they work. This is why students who study classical music, for example, have difficulty improvising because they have learned pieces of music and scales separately not how they function together.
The SECRET is to break your learning up into four parts!
Learning this is imperative to getting better and building muscle memory and the skills so you can play without as many errors. Why do sports people do drills and not just play the game? It’s to master the elements within the game, and that is precisely what technique is.
Just like learning a language and reading words that you don’t understand. Saying them doesn’t mean you know what you’re saying. The theory is not the secret its APPLIED theory that is the key.
Songs, especially in Pop music, follow a very predictable harmonic structure and when that’s understood learning a pop song is not only super-fast but also easy to change the key or arrange to suit a band or singer.
The theory is only boring when you learn it like words from a dictionary but using those words to create an epic and exciting story is applied theory. You won’t improve if you don’t learn theory as you progress.
This is the songs or pieces you learn. It has to be fun and something that inspire a student. Learning a variety of genres will help students understand what defines each style and makes the transition really fast when learning a song. Variety and passion in what you are learning are the keys.
Performance and Practice
There is your practice self, and your performance self and they are two very different people. When you practice, you should learn a phrase at a time and not keep starting from the beginning. The song is as great as the worst section you play. I could write a book on how to practice as it’s so deep, but breaking it up into small sections and doing less time but focusing on parts is the key.
Performance is about getting comfortable in your skin and knowing how to control your nerves and let the music speak and try to move people via expression. Performing is developing control of your instrument, nerves and finding your own voice. It’s not about perfection but expression.
I hope this helps you discover new tools and principals to get your craft to a new level.