If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase "music is a language" I'd be able to get a 2nd Lamborghini. Ok, I'm exaggerating. It probably would have to be a Benjamin instead of a nickel. And it wouldn't be my 2nd Lamborghini. Actually, it wouldn't be a Lamborghini, but something more like a stroller bike.
Now that I've managed to destroy my trustworthiness and credibility in the opening paragraphs already, let's get serious for a moment...
Music As A Language Video By Victor Wooten
Music as a language is a cliche, but there's a lot of truth to it.
Take 5 minutes to watch this awesome, inspiring and enlightening video by master musician Victor Wooten. Trust me, if you haven't seen this video yet, it'll be well worth your time. And if you have seen it already (good on ya), watch it again to re-enforce its message.
Let's examine some of the points Victor expressed so eloquently in the video.
1) Don't Fear Mistakes
We adults have this idea that mistakes are a bad thing. And in many situations they are. When you are a doctor operating on a patient, a pilot landing a plane, a construction worker maneuvering heavy machinery you don't want to make a mistake.
But as adults we should be able to put things into perspective and choose the appropriate mental toolset for the job at hand. When learning an instrument and nurturing our creative side, there's no need to cling to this pragmatic mistake-avoidance state of mind. Because it's ok to make mistakes when practicing - nobody will die or will get hurt.
I sometimes tell my students that they can make mistakes without worries. After all, they (or their parents) have paid for the lessons and the tuition fee is my compensation money for suffering. 🙂 Most of the time they chuckle and lighten up.
But even if you don't take lessons where you pay somebody else to endure your beginner mistakes, lighten up as well.
Become more child-like.
Which leads me to another point that Victor expressed...
2) Model The Way A Baby Learns A Language
A baby is totally immersed and allowed to constantly "jam with professionals." You, assuming you are a musical baby or child, most likely don't have the opportunity to play with professionals. At least not often or for long.
Or do you? Actually, when you consider the availability of jam tracks you do have the opportunity.
Invest Into Well-Recorded Play-Alongs!
For a nominal, insignificant amount you'll get professionally-recorded jam tracks with world-class musicians.
Let me even add a shameless plug of self-promotion. When you invest into the Lessonz GuitarYoga series that I co-produced with my good friend Bernhard Beibl not only do you get a proven warm-up/technique routine.
There are also a lot of professionally recorded play-alongs included that are very musical and sound great. You don't have to use them just for the intended exercises, you could simply jam along for fun, too.
Just a suggestion...
Regardless of which jam tracks you go for, they share many advantages:
- improve your timing while playing along to well-recorded tracks
- subconsciously copy the phrasing/feel/groove/attitude of top musicians
- no need to feel intimidated - like in real life scenario where you (understandably) might get the shakes
- get comfortable playing without having to fear embarassing mistakes because the play-along won't mind those mistakes
Like Victor said - don't just speak to other babies.
3) More Playing Than Practicing
This is a biggie and a point I needed to hear myself and reconsider seriously.
If you are busy, and who isn't nowadays, your available time is incredibly limited. You need to focus and get the most out of your scarce practice time. So, the tendency is to go for highly-effectice exercises and routines in order to maximize your practice sessions.
This is smart.
However, there's the danger that you also lose the fun and playfulness that keeps you motivated in the long run.
Just think about it for a second.
What Attracted You To Music In The First Place?
Was it the joy of expression and the sheer creativity some master musician emanated or did you go, "I want to fill my schedule with exercises that I dread, that are not fun and where I don't even know why I'm doing them anymore just to wear that badge of a practicing, serious musician?"
Sounds ridiculous when you put it this way, right?
Unfortunately, it's what many musicians endure - simply because they've forgotten the power of fun and play. Should you just ditch your exercises?
Of course, not. You simply need to find a balance.
"Play Your Exercises" And/Or "Exercise Playing"
What do I mean?
Practice your exercises in a way that (again) makes them fun and musical.
- Use high-quality jam tracks or always tie those exercises into musical situations as quickly as possible.
- Or schedule a jamming/improvisation/playing part as the last section of your practice schedule - something like the reward after practicing your more regimented exercises.
This will actually make your practicing more effective because you'll have something to look forward to and with the exercises still in mind they might even sneak into your fun/jam session in a playful way.
Whatever works for you, just make sure you have that playfulness/fun factor included. Because it is important.
4) Have Something To Say Instead Of Saying What You Are Supposed To Say
A scary thought, I know.
Our own ideas seem bland and unexciting initially. However, they are more authentic and come across as our truth if we embrace our current level and focus on our message and on expressing ourself instead of trying to impress our audience with licks that simply are not us.
In my experience, the playfulness and fun as covered in 3) does help with developing that personal authority. Having fun somehow lets you forget that tendency of pretending to be someone else just to sound serious or legit.
After a while, you simply don't care anymore what you are "supposed" to sound like. You simply play what feels good to you. And of course that's helpful in being authentic and real.
Now let's have some fun and express ourselves with the universal language of music.
But feel free to add your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below in a written way as well.