Is it enlightenment? Or common sense?

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Growing up and even now, I sensed there was a secret within the music community that catapults intermediate players way, way, way ahead.  And whatever that secret is, I ain’t got it.  Does that make sense?  It probably sounds silly to those who’ve already surpassed the intermediate level but I cannot be the only person who feels this way.  And ya know, maybe that’s why me and others have quit instruments but return to it?  Who knows.

I hope I’m not getting ahead of myself but I feel like I’m finally bridging the gap in this journey.  The gap that I always take a starting sprint towards but never gain enough momentum to leap over.  Ya know, that “aha!” moment, light bulb, that secret.  

It’s as if everything Danny taught me (but did not stick) is now 100% clear now that Alek reexplained it in different terms.  This doesn’t mean Danny’s not a good teacher–he’s hands down, one of the best–it’s simply beneficial to hear and see a concept multiple times and in various ways.

As you may or may not already know, Alek teaches me theory in every single lesson.  Everything I’ve learned so far explains “why” for literally every teensy-weensy guitar concept that I honestly was never interested in to begin with… but it made a huge difference.  Recently, the material fell into my lap as one entity with a note,

Kristen, open your eyes and pay attention.  This is how you use everything you’ve been taught.  This, right here, is what’s been missing. Stop overlooking it. 

At the time I didn’t understand why I needed to know all those technical concepts but now it makes perfect sense.

For that reason, I am currently fixated on music theory.  I can’t get enough of it.  It’s so complex but when you place all the puzzle pieces together you get one of those, “ohhhh!” moments–it’s addicting.  And because of that, I’m thirsty to know more and more.  I wish people weren’t so afraid of theory or think it’s boring.  I suppose it’s like an acquired taste that must develop over time.

5 thoughts on “Is it enlightenment? Or common sense?

  1. Hey Kristen!

    I found your post by tag-searching “guitar” on WordPress – I’m glad I did. I love your take on the search of the aha!” music moment, the elusive music secret.

    Have you met any of your music heroes? I’ve met a couple of mine throughout the years, including John Scofield and Bobby McFerrin. When I asked them about the elusive “music secret” they both said the same thing: “keep playing, dummy!”

    Here’s my take on the elusive music secret: “Love yourself first.” Completely accept yourself when you approach your instrument (and off it). The music critic inside your head will never stop criticizing you; you have to find a deeper place from which to create music.

    Here’s a fun exercise: Imagine every note you play is the first and most beautiful sound you’ve ever heard. Become enamored with your playing (but not in an 80’s glam rock sort of way… unless you’re into that, then feel free to do so!).

    Here’s a summary of my story: I spent 2 years in music school and hated my playing the whole time. I was practicing 10 hours a day, learning and applying a TON of theory, playing better than I ever had before, and then promptly stopped playing guitar for 2 years post-graduation. I finally rekindled my passion for music and stopped comparing myself to every other person who plays music.

    My current practice routine consists of only playing notes that “my ear” hears. And I find myself singing more and more these days. What comes out through ones voice is usually a more honest representation of their ear than playing sweep arpeggios. (Not that sweep arpeggios are bad – I still listen to Children of Bodom and Steve Vai a few times a month)

    When it comes to music, and life in general, my suggestion is to take yourself lightly. Laugh when you can’t figure something out and ask for help when you need it. Oh yeah, and always TRUST YOUR EAR. I play over random Abersold changes every day to force myself to actually LISTEN. It’s quite a humbling experience.

    As far as getting multiple perspectives on a music concept – YES! Love it. Play with and get lessons from as many players as possible.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    • Thanks for reading, Ben.

      And also, thanks for sharing your story and “music secret.” Since you actually had the opportunity to study music at a University I will definitely take that to heart.

      If you don’t mind me asking, why did you stop playing when you graduated? Burnt out? Life just… “happened?”

      Anyways, thanks for sharing your perspective.

  2. Heh Kristen. Yes the intermediate player/musician. For a long time I walked around as if I was above that level, just waiting for the inevitable climb out of the deep dark depths of meritocracy to stand along side the greats of music that I have followed since I was a kid.

    Still, I find myself getting up in the morning and going to work, doing a job, I don’t like, for someone I don’t want do it for, at a place, I don’t want to be. But that little flame that flickers in the background of my subconscious keeps burning and burning and burning. I don’t know why, nor do I understand why it’s there, but it just is.

    I know one thing for certain. If I’m going to continue as an intermediate player, than I want to be the best intermediate player I can be,the rest can take care of itself. I have recently discovered on the internet the “lo-fi” recording followers. Basically, it’s people who prefer to listen to artist who haven’t made it “so to speak” in the professional world, like myself who aren’t great or as polished as studio recording artist.

    These are music listeners and musicians who have accepted there intermediate ability and have just forge ahead with there love for there music and not worried about where they are at, as far as comparing themselves to a professional recording artist.

    It has been a revelation for me. I finally don’t have to struggle to be something I’m not. intermediate is great, but being the best intermediate musician I can be, is what I know strive for. and the rest WILL take care of itself.

    keep jammin.Darryl

  3. My greatest regret is not paying closer attention when my f2f guitar teacher tried to get across music theory. I would just get glassy-eyed and wait him out, which I’m sure caused him to get impatient. But having said that, I’m finding it a lot easier to absorb the info from online sources. I can pause and rewind when something goes over my head or doesn’t make sense. I can look up a bit of theory using more than one resource and if one seems like gobbledygook maybe the next one might bring on a lightbulb moment. I can scribble notes (hard to do when you’re clutching a guitar). If I hit a tutorial that’s using terms I haven’t learned I can back up and learn them. I can make all the mistakes I need to make without being on the clock and without feeling humiliated over them.

    • Well you’re definitely not the only one who’s gotten glassy-eyed over music theory. I think it’s difficult to learn theory as a newbie because everything else is so exciting. As newbies we just wanted to learn HOW to play and never cared how WHY we play those things. I definitely did my fair share of skipping to the “fun stuff.”

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