Music Teacher's Helper Blog

If you are interested or involved in music in any way, chances are you’ve had to deal with others, whether it’s composing or just playing, teamwork is a very important part of music, even more so when many young musicians want to start bands and make great music together. This part of music is almost essential to learn how to play and facilitate a way to achieve chemistry with other musicians should be a priority.

Playing alone vs Playing with someone

Of course, playing by yourself also has a lot of merit since most of the practice will be alone, and a part of the musical growth can only be gained in an introspective kind of way, but there is also a huge amount of experience that can only come from playing with someone else, let’s review each pros and cons.

Alone

The beginning has to be by yourself, there is no way you can really make a deep bond with the instrument that your playing or your voice if you try with someone else, in the end music is all about expressing something, and if that connection is not made before playing with other people, chances are, playing will be very difficult and you’ll feel insecure about what you want to play.

In short, a beginner’s way is a bit lonely, because it’s as simple as having a relationship, you don’t get married if you yourself don’t have a defined personality and desires, and the same way works for playing with others.

The bad part about playing alone, is not so much about the fact of just playing or practicing by yourself, the problem comes when you as a musician become isolated, this can have consequences such as running out of ideas or getting stuck in a loop of inspiration. It can also make you a bit rusty when it comes to improvisation and playing long sets non stop.

With Others or in Band

As for playing with others, there are many advantages, starting with, learning from others.

No one is the same, everyone has its own tree of music influences and tastes.

The beautiful part of sharing this, is that you discover new ideas for yourself as well as get a good feedback on your play-style.

Of course this can be counter productive if your partners have personal issues or differ too much from your style.

The right people with the right chemistry will help you achieve a new level of musical prowess, and even affect the way you compose your own music. For example, in an improvisation, you exercise a lot of the tools you have on the fly, which is a form of creating and composing, just unpolished and fast, this can later be noticed in how fast ideas will pop in your head.

Playing with others can also bring satisfaction as a musician, because it’s not easy to perform synchronized with other people in harmony and following the same tempo. This happens on a great scale with orchestras where a great amount of people work together to achieve a perfect sound; although of course, there is a path to follow and more guidance than to say for example Jazz, or Rock bands, where improvisation takes the stage many times. In the end there has to be a balance in order to get the best of both worlds, and appreciate both ways of playing by what they are.

In music education, this should be a priority because while orchestras essentially become big bands,every member feels isolated from each other in a way.

This sentiment of sharing and playing with others is not quite present, and it should.

 

 

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It’s very hard to get into music without finding a link, something that attaches you sentimentally and technically as something to improve and use to express yourself. Unless learning how music works, this is reading, writing, and all of the structure of music, is just a hobby, there are always instruments, and or voice, but how do we know which in instrument is the one? Well it’s all about trying out every instrument you can get your hands on. Here are a few tips on how to approach some of the most played instruments in order to make the experience more entertaining and appealing.

Singing

While singing could be seen as something else rather than an instrument, this is the first mistake one can make. The voice is an instrument, and just like any other one has to learn how to use it, a good voice won’t come from a few days of practice, and because we use our voices everyday it’s easier to become insecure, listening to ourselves doing something different than speaking because it doesn’t sound like the usual speaking voice, but that is ok, because it’s not, it’s something else, it’s an instrument, so make sure to switch to instrument mode, and don’t pretend to have your everyday recognizable voice an expert singer so fast, find your instrument voice.

Guitar

One of the most common issues when starting to play guitar, is that the strings don’t sound as well as they should because they are not being pressed correctly. This is a very early stage but it can be quite frustrating because when trying to play chords or go a little faster it doesn’t sound good. The best thing to do is to let your fingers adjust to the pressure that has to be put, and be patient to try and play some scales in between chords as a warm up. But most importantly, experiment and have fun, because it’s one of the easiest instruments to get creative with.

Piano

Playing piano is one of the most precise experiences in music, that’s why it’s one of the “go to” instruments for teaching music. When approaching to a piano it won’t be very hard to pick up a few notes, memorize and play a tune and that is what you should do first, because it’s very welcoming in that way. The complicated part comes when using both hands, where usually one acts as the bass and the other does all the complicated melodies. The easiest way to use both hands at first is to start with one note on the bass in harmony with the melody, and after that play with octaves in the bass to give a real full sound while practicing with both hands.

 Bass

While it’s also a string-based instrument like the guitar, it doesn’t mean that the approach is the same, every string-based instrument has its own set of rules if you will, and a certain feel to it. When it comes to bass it’s less about fast mobility and more about precision, due to the sound and size of its strings. The best thing to do is to know when and where to play a certain note, since the bass gives a lot of what the body and rhythm is in a composition.

Drums/Percussion

Here all the attention goes to rhythm, although of course percussion requires tuning, and precision in its notes, the first approach should be to keep a good rhythm, and as you get more comfortable, add more layers to the overall body of it. Of course, it depends on the type of percussion being played, but the best most complete example are drums, since it’s a package of percussion types all being played by one person, that’s why developing limb independence while keeping track of the rhythm is the most important thing here. So, if planning on playing drums, work on that rhythm with your foot on the kick, and the hi hat, everything else has to fall into place after that.

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In an age of tight schedules and fast paced days of work, many people have learnt to see the world as a giant machine made of cogs and levers, even when it comes to music with specialists operating it, if you are not a specialist you will be seen as the one that is not doing what you are supposed to. Now this may seem over the top, however this has some truth to it. This machine changes, with each passing year every person has to apply to a different set of skills and mindset which will determine the standard or desired usefulness, to play the role that is, above anything else, safe.

There was a time when musicians filled this role, and it offered a certain stability and status, with time this has become more complex, one of this complexities come from a series of cultural movements and events which defined the way some people express themselves, but also disturbed the status as specialists in the giant machine.

Rupture

There was a rupture, academic music became its own thing and every other genre another, to put it in another way a man wore a suit and tie, and another ripped jean and a big t-shirt. This could just mean that everyone is different and there are different ways to express yourself, but there is more to it than that. While some genres like Jazz and in some degree Blues, still manage to stay in between these two forms of music, other such as rock, pop, hip hop and techno are all part of a movement that established some prejudices and labels that don’t necessarily go with them.

To know how these came to be it would be helpful to explore the origins of these genres and what is the difference between the man with the suit and tie and the man with ripped jeans and big t-shirt.

Most of these big changes occurred in the late 20th century, as people embraced the modern world, which paved the way for incredible technological advancement, and social rights, but also gave birth to large scale wars and conflicts involving those same rights.

Throughout all these changes music played a very important role. In the late 19th century and the 20th century this rupture occurred with Jazz, this became a very important moment in history not only because of the music itself as a new genre, but all it implied.

Jazz

For starters Jazz was very much black music, by black Americans that not only invented a genre, it took the best of European music and African rhythms, which made it a place of reconciliation and to be free.

While it still retained many of the complicated techniques that made classical academic music such an incredible experience, it’s as if the man with a suit and a tie, took of the tie, threw his jacket and rolled up its sleeves to just let go and improvise. This is also the boom of musical improvisation, where while there is a structure, feelings don’t, and Jazz follows this sort of mantra which would otherwise be inconceivable on an academic environment.

Rock became a thing in the 50s, going through Psychedelic music in the 70s, Punk and electronica in the 80s, and the world just blew up, leaving behind a trail of beautiful disasters, and capturing the feeling became the most important thing thus, connecting with others.

Education

This is often taken for granted in music education, as if the individual inspirations don’t matter inside of the classroom or session, once the class starts, everyone trains to be an academic music interpreter.

This may not always be the case, but it is uncommon to find an approach that inspires a student to student connection through their different points of view of music while still incorporating the theory and knowledge that forms discipline and improves the way we structure music in our heads, to perform better and compose with better understanding of music overall. It shouldn’t feel like teachers are ignoring a part of history, music is music and everyone has its own alignments and freedom to use their knowledge as they see fit, and a music class should encourage that whether it is in a classroom or online.

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