Skip to main content

Approaching Music like an Athlete

Music is an intellectual pastime. Though any full-time musician will tell you that there is definitely a physical element, I don't think anyone would necessarily qualify it as a "sport." Now, we could go back and forth arguing about this, but it isn't really the point of this particular post. The point I wanted to make is that those that don't play an instrument already will immediately categorize music as a "study" rather than "training."

I think this lack of awareness of the physicality of instrument playing is the cause of 99% of all frustrations for beginning students regardless of age. As soon as they know how to do something they should be able to do that something, right? Well, if you were memorizing history dates, I would say yes. But playing an instrument requires muscles.

Yes, muscles. Those poor finger and back muscles are so easy to forget. Playing an exercise once on your instrument is like running once around a track and saying you're in shape. It doesn't work like that. Olympic runners run around the same track over and over and over again. They know that they have to condition their muscles if they want to expect peak performance from them. They have to establish muscle memory.

It's true that you probably won't get winded playing an instrument. And you're not trying to reach your optimum heart rate. But the muscles in your hands work exactly the same as any other muscle in your body. Response time and strength must be trained, not just thought. Thinking about having nice biceps won't make any develop. Unfortunately.

Therefore, the mastery of difficult techniques must be approached like an athlete. Endless, tireless repetitions are the only way cure screeches or awkward fingers. That's part of the reason why learning to play any instrument takes so long. Our muscles are slow learners.


Popular posts from this blog

The Private Teaching Business Model

Over my years of teaching I've come across a wide variety of interpretations about the private teaching business model.  I feel that this is a natural result of the type of society we live in.  Many services these days are either "subscriptions" or "appointments."  For example, a gym membership is a subscription.  You pay a monthly fee to use the facility at any time during their hours of operation.  A doctor's visit or a haircut is an "appointment."  You call ahead to set up a time, you show up and then pay after the services have concluded.

With most services falling into one of these two categories, most people try to rationalize music lessons as one or the other.  However, music lessons are neither subscriptions or appointments.  They are actually a combination of both if the business entity is going to be successful.

The reasons why this hybrid business model occurs are:

1)  The service itself is centered around personal attention (appointmen…

Music as a Language: Victor Wooten at TEDxGabriolaIsland

Victor Wooten is an innovator, composer, arranger, producer, vocalist, and multiinstrumentalist. He has been called the greatest bass player in the world. He is a skilled naturalist and teacher, a published author, a magician, husband and father of four, and a five-time Grammy award winner.

Performance Anxiety Part 1

My husband and I both love disc golf.  It's something that we both started together as beginners together so it became "our" thing to do as a couple.  We eventually got to the point after playing for a few years that I wanted to attempt playing in a disc golf tournament.  He was a bit more hesitant than me but I insisted, arguing that it would be a fun way to really test our skills.

I've written a few posts before about how playing disc golf taught me the value of muscle memory.  But during our first few tournaments we both quickly discovered a whole new category of unexplored skills: performing under pressure.  To be blunt, we both stunk.

As a musician, I was no stranger to performing.  I've lost count of how many solo/orchestra/chamber performances I've done.  Before that first tournament I had assumed that performance anxiety wouldn't affect me because of said experience.  I was just going out there to have fun, right?

Well, I was.  But the thing I had…