March 13th, 2015

The 5 Key Skills You Won’t Learn in School: A Five Part Series

By Eric

five skills you won't learn in music school

School is great.

…but it won’t teach you everything.

Private lessons are awesome and downright necessary on your journey to becoming a better musician…yet that hour a week isn’t going to teach you every musical tidbit that you need to know.

You see a curious thing happens when you take music outside of the classroom, when you wander outside the safety of your private lessons and venture into the real world.

The moment you create music with other people and perform for an audience something subtle changes. Those notes on the page, those scales you memorized, and those fancy words that you use to describe them are suddenly transformed into something living.

No more sheet music and no more theory. What matters now is what you create with your instrument and the musicians around you – and this can be a wake up call.

But you already know this…

This time it’s for real

You’ve started a band with your friends.

You’ve sat in with some local musicians and you’ve called a tune at a jam session. You’re performing for a musical, for a church service or a wedding. You’ve found yourself on the spot and you have to play a solo without any music…

All eyes are on you, so you better not miss any notes!

In a matter of seconds you realize that performing music requires more than memorized facts. Suddenly you need to use the information you’ve learned in a creative and musical way and you don’t get any second chances.

You thought you were prepared, you diligently practiced all of your etudes and learned your scales, and you even passed the test. Yet somehow it’s not enough.

For some reason there is still a giant roadblock stopping your creative juices from flowing, a missing link that’s standing between you and your musical goals.

But the problem isn’t what you think…

This feeling is probably familiar.

It’s a question that we get all the time from readers and students, and one that I’ve often asked myself. What is the “thing” that makes great players improvise with ease and why don’t I have it?

When you hit a roadblock as you’re trying to improvise it’s incredibly frustrating, however the problem isn’t always what you think. It’s not because you’re avoiding studying and it’s not that you aren’t practicing enough or are missing some secret.

It’s because there’s a big gap between the stuff you’re practicing and the skills that you need in performance.

You see schooling and many of the musical resources available today largely focus on the external musician. Instrumental technique, mental (theory) knowledge, proficiency in reading music…

All necessary skills for any musician, yet to perform and create music in the moment you need to start focusing on the inner musician.

Musicians that are struggling to improvise are trying to use these external skills to perform a music that begins inside of you. They’re trying to create melodies out of scales, trying to tell stories with music theory rules, and trying to interact in the moment while looking at a piece of paper.

And this is where the problem starts.

5 Skills for Musical Success

Your goal is to get out there and sound great.

To play music that is connected to what you’re feeling, music that’s in sync with your life experiences and centered around the music you love. It’s not just running scales and patterns over and over again or playing music from a piece of paper.

We’re talking about creativity.

In this 5 part series we’ll explore some of the skills that will make this a reality. Skills that will open up those creative aspects of improvisation that have been elusive through the standard methods of learning music.

These were hard lessons that we’ve learned from some of the best musicians on the planet and they are lessons that we want to pass on to you. You see these master musicians didn’t talk about the technical or external aspects of music, those were a given, they talked about music in color, sound, feel, storytelling, phrasing…

The elements of music that you can’t get from a book, skills that you need to discover in the music itself.

art blakey

You’ve learned the facts of music, you’ve picked up some knowledge from teachers and friends, and you have a stack of books on music. Now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned.

Join us as we explore 5 skills that you’ll need to master to reach your potential as an improviser. Get started with Part I: How to Connect Your Ear to Your Instrument.

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