Playing Music is about Succeeding in Preparation


in Methods

Normally we teach and learn from a technical standpoint such as in do this, do that. It’s a logical progression and a time tested way of learning and teaching.

A Different Prospective

I read a different prospective that we actually succeed, not by making disconnected moves, but by creating a context for success.

Let’s use sports as an example. Any professional basketball or football player doesn’t just show up one day and collect a check for $10 million dollars. You don’t just one day pick up the guitar or sit at a piano and play for a paying audience.

He doesn’t just watch a tutorial or read a few books on how to toss the ball or shoot a hoop. He first has to have the context of an athlete, and that is in working on strength, speed, flexibility and agility. As a musician you must do the same work on fundamentals, endurance, flexibility, agility, and rhythm.

Only after the context is achieved can you start talking to him about what moves he might want to make in a game. That player’s success comes in preparation. Even when it seems like that player makes an interception or a “lucky shot”, it was his preparation and practice that put him in a position to make that lucky catch or basket.

This is the same for the musician. How can you begin to add 7ths, 9ths, and create hip sound and flow if you don’t have a foundational context of basic chord structure, scales, and harmonic system knowledge? Being able to improvise (make a move) is about knowing the context in which you can play.

Thinking Straight First

You need to learn how to think straight first, and then what specific moves to make inside of the game. This is why I’m so big on learning music theory. This base gives you the context.

Practicing by spelling and playing scales and chords provides the context. Putting the basics to rhythm whether it be straight eighths or swing provides context. These are items that provide success in preparation.

Instead of trying to find the next great tactic or lick or motif for instant success, why not focus more on succeeding with preparation. You can easily accomplish this by practicing fundamentals. Sure just playing a scale 10 times can be tough; unless you focus on what you can improve over the last time you played it. Refer back to the magic of 10 post.

You could take this to a new step by pushing the concept. Try this:

  • Pick a key which you haven’t done a lot with say E Major
  • Pick a simple progression such as I – IV – I – ii7 – V7 – I .
  • Write out the Chords
  • Play each chord and a scale that will go with them. (maybe choose a pentatonic scale or mode that fits)
  • After that starts working start mixing up the scale tones with each new repetition of the progression. This is where you can start working on those motifs.

Now as you are learning and preparing there is one thing you must learn to do. That is patiently examining any music you are playing and studying such as chord structures or progressions when things don’t sound like you think they should. Take an attitude of interest, that instead of getting frustrated or angry and maybe running off in another direction allows you to dig deeper.

Succeeding in preparation, is how you get to enjoy success.

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