Mastering Musical Techniques
The Art of Mastering Musical Techniques
Mastering Musical Techniques is something I’m asked about frequently from students. I thought I would shed some light on this subject because it is a question that I’m asked a lot. Although I’ll be mostly related related this to music I think the conclusions I come up with could be applied to any discipline.
Something I notice when surfing around the internet is that there are all kinds of people offering advice on techniques, but very few actually tell you what to do to master any of them. I was fortunate to study with great teachers like Charlie Banacos, Jerry Bergonzi and Mick Goodrick. Of course, they had plenty of advice about techniques, but more importantly they told me how to practice and how much to practice a technique to make it musical. Usually this level of info is way above the common advice you get on the internet.
I think one of the first questions you want to ask yourself is: can this person who is teaching you actually play the technique they teach. Sometimes that is hard to discern because musicians might learn something in one setting but be unable to apply it in another one. I always go to the source, i.e. the CDs that they have recorded and specifically the live Videos or CDs. This will tell you volumes about the advice you are getting and whether it is something to emulate.
How your Background effects Mastering Musical Techniques
That said, there is an art to learning and mastering musical technique. One of the biggest factors is how much do you need to practice a technique until you will remember it and can play it in any key. This will vary drastically based on the instrument you play. Charlie Banacos used to tell me that he thought guitar was the hardest instrument to learn because of all the possible ways and places to play anything. I would agree that any stringed instrument player has to practice much more that any other instrument because the same note appears in different places on multiple strings. So that tells you that the amount of time needed to master a technique depends on your instrument.
Next you have the variable of your overall musicianship. Simple things like:
- Do you know music theory like a language? in other words, can you instantly name the notes in any chord in any key? If not, that will affect your learning.
- How is your technique? Some techniques require speed, and all techniques require a lightness of touch.
- Can you read? Sometimes techniques are presented as written material. Can you read it?
- How is your aural comprehension? If you need work in this part of your musicianship, it can seriously affect your ability to utilize a technique musically.
- How is your time? If the technique has a “time” component, are your skills in this area functioning enough to apply an idea based on where it happens in time?
- Is your rhythm comprehension and playing weak?
- Is your articulation developed enough in a specific idiom so that you can make the technique sound musical?
This is just a short list, and does not cover everything, but you get the idea. If you are weak at any area that is required to musically apply a technique, then obviously background work is needed.
It is great to have goals but you need to be honest with yourself about your core skills. If your core is weak, then anything you try to build on top of it will be weak.
What Does Mastering Musical Techniques Mean?
By the way, “Mastering Musical Techniques” what does that actually mean? At this point I should say that no one truly masters a technique; they just get really good at it. I don’t think you will find any musician who will tell you they have mastered any technique. (But that doesn’t mean you don’t try!)
Taking all that into consideration, you need to find teachers who have taught many decades because only through experience will anyone who teaches understand how much time is needed for a specific student to incorporate a technique into their playing, so that they express themselves naturally with it. The teacher takes into account how much time a student practices each day, and if they are using the right technique on their instrument so that they will come out the other end with an ability to play without hurting themselves in the process or in the future. It takes a lot of time and experience to know these things and then pass them on.
When I put together a course I usually try to include all the information that any level of student will need to express a technique naturally in their playing. Typically a student doesn’t need all the information I’ve included, but I want to cover as many situations as possible. One of the reasons I give free email support with my courses is because I want a student to keep in touch, so that I can guide them with the course they are working on.
So What is the Bottom Line of Mastering Musical Techniques?
Finally, when mastering musical techniques most students tend to think they will take much less time than it will actually take to learn a technique and use it musically. Most this is from lack of experience. As you tackle techniques such as scales, approach notes, 23rd chords, pitch class set improvisation, you start to realize that each new technique you take on will have its own set of parameters that will be demanded of you. So how long will it take to master a technique? Probably a lifetime, but it’s a lifetime of playing and creativity so why complain?
The Historic Precedents Of This Kind Of Music Education
You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!