We had a piano in my house growing up – one of those black lacquer wooden uprights that we never tuned.
And I never learned to play. My dad could play a little, and my mom didn’t at all.
Then about five years ago I joined a professional discourse in which I heard the leader say something like:
Freedom and liberty to perform come with practice and learning. If you never practiced the piano, you don’t have the freedom to play. It might as well be a nightstand you put things on, for all the freedom it offers you.
That’s my translation – I don’t remember his specific words.
Guitars in my home
Fast forward to this summer.
I bought a guitar for my daughter, who sings pretty well and is very involved in musical theater, drama and choir.
Since my wife used to play guitar, I bought two so they could play together.
I anticipated their skills would ramp quickly – Christie’s because of youth and passion and Nancy’s for her past experience.
So rather than take up guitar and fall quickly behind (and to mix things up a little), I thought I might pick up something new and I got a bass.
(Disclosure: Mine is actually a hand-me-down gift from someone at my church… my girl’s guitars were really the priority.)
Learning opportunities abound
As I’m beginning to learn the instrument, I’m re-learning examples for professional life as well:
- Learning guitar is more than performing a task: We train dogs and robots to do “tricks” and tasks… I have a choice to either “go through motions”, or I can align my education with deeper meanings and outcomes that will help me grow and be a better player
- Don’t rush through the basics: Impatience with or intolerance of fundamentals may make me a bassist who can only play one or a few tunes – leaving room for no improvisation, no adaptation, no pick-up jam sessions in my future
Listen, and perform for others: Observe what’s going on as I learn – there’s a natural feedback mechanism in music
- Am I in tune?
- Did I get the right notes?
- How about rhythm, volume and style?
- Would my “listeners” agree with me?
I should mention that fully engaging is a fourth important lesson – in some cases that means “having fun”. Meanwhile, the first three alone give us a lot to work with.
Keep in mind that I’m just starting out with the bass. To say that I’m a beginner is to say I want to learn to get over my incompetence.
Professional and competitive learning questions
How do you engage in learning something new?
Do you go to “training” and then sit by while you wait to be “trained”?
How do you assess that an instructor or coach is competent to instruct or coach you?
And how do you make solid (grounded) assessments of your progress, including looking for the expert insights of others who can help you along the way?