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Thoughts on Music Education

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Ideally, I think self-taught plus school taught is better than either one alone.

Formal education doesn't make you a musician, it teaches you both the theory and how to efficiently use the tools. If you have the music in you (talent) formal education plus your talent combined makes you an accomplished musician.

That isn't to say that without formal education you cannot be a great musician.

Without the education, it's just a harder, more time-consuming climb to get where you are going.

I'd rather listen to a self-taught expressive musician than a trained musician without any talent.

In the end, I don't care about how you acquired your skills, do I like what you are playing? Or not? Is all that matters.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

 

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6 hours ago, Notes_Norton said:

Ideally, I think self-taught plus school taught is better than either one alone.

In my opinion the main advantage of attending school is probably the social environment that provides ideas, feedback and reference to realistically assess your level compared with your peers. At best the competition can motivate you to push yourself harder and get validation for your efforts, while on the flipside it could make you question your existence.

"School taught" doesn't really exist in higher education. There are self-learned people (amateurs, dilettantes) who never attended university but may be at the same level of proficiency (or higher) in a subject as someone with a Ph.D. However, being "schooled" by university isn't really a thing; to succeed you must learn to seek information and teach yourself with the mindset of the dilettante in addition to actually attending the school. The involvement of external guidance, curriculum requirements and progress tracking might help you find your "destined" path, or they might cause you to lose sight of it forever.

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I am mostly self taught too. But the problem with self taught is, you  only know what you stumbled upon on your own.  So if a gig such as, for example, doing the music for a theater musical like Carousel, comes along, and you know nothing about theater music or theater musicians, you will be out of the running. I guess it could work the other way around too..  if you are a musical theater guy and a death metal band comes along, you are out of the running.

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One thing I've found that is an awesome approach to learning (hey, I actually have a certificate in accelerated learning - lol!) is to read/see the same concepts from multiple sources.  Sometimes you just aren't "getting it" from one teacher, but absorb the same material from other teachers as well and things tend to click.

Another issue is that you need to learn at the speed that is right for you.  Because most teachers pace their material towards the bulk of their audience, it can be too slow to keep the attention of the quicker students or still too fast for the ones that might not have all the assumed background (prerequisites) for the class.  I love being able to speed up most of the tutorial videos I find to 1.5x or 2x the speed.  Most of the time it doesn't make the speaker unintelligible, and your brain actually retains the material easier at higher speeds (less time for other bits of stray information to pollute the training).  Note that this is never a constant for any student either!  Some topics will always seem easier than others.  Remember, the vast majority of everything you gather is subconscious and there's only a small amount that can be kept in your short-term memory.  One interesting technique (which, unfortunately, is rarely possible in today's world) is to take breaks and find a way to prevent new information from writing over your short-term memory long enough for all of what you learned to soak into your long-term memory.  One study using students learning a new language then sitting in isolation chambers showed a HUGE increase in what they could remember and recall.  Needless to say, this is one of the main reasons for repetition (which also alerts the brain that what its hearing is important, unlike the MILLIONS of bits that are irrelevant).  This is also why actually doing what you're learning is important.  It adds further importance, but also introduces additional avenues like touch.  Involving as many senses as possible is very helpful.

There is SOOOO much more to this!

Take the state of mind you're in when you're learning versus when you're trying to recall what you've learned.  I'm sure most of us have gone through a class in school where we thought we knew everything required for an examine only to not be able to access the answers during the test!  The reason this happens is that we learned the material while in a relaxed alpha brain state, but then tried to recall things while in a stressed-out beta brain state.  This is why it's important to learn things in the same state that they will need to be recalled (and exactly why militaries train cadets under extreme conditions; it's amazing how your thinking shuts down when you're cold, tired, sore and people are shooting at you!).  This is also why people get stage fright.

While some things can be learned rapidly, if it's not done on a solid foundation it's just like a house of cards.  Maybe you can tap with two hands like Eddie on guitar, but if you don't know WHY or can only do it for a few seconds, what's the use?  Also, you are far more likely (as explained above) to completely forget how to do anything except soil yourself when everyone is now staring at you. 😁

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Formal education and private lessons are very dependent on the particular teacher and how he/she works with the particular student. When a good teacher instructs in a way a compatible good student learns, the student learns well, and at a fast pace.

I had one private lesson teacher I 'fired' after one 'lesson'. I've had a couple of students I referred to other teachers because they didn't work for me. I had one student who ended up playing in New Orleans Jazz Fest after only a few years. She learned quickly and wanted more and more. She was well on her way when she moved to New Orleans, and a year later, sent me a tape of her performing in the Rocky Charles band.

Like you Craig, I was a quick learner. When in school, I was not only first tenor in the all-state band, every year I was eligible to compete. I was also section leader. Section leader goes to the first alto player by default, and is rarely given to a tenor player.

I had formal lessons, I took the Berklee Correspondence course in the late 1970s, so I could learn and continue gigging in south Florida, and throughout my career, my bandmates who played guitar, bass, and keyboards taught me a lot.

My first instrument was drums, so I had that down already. I doubled on drums, bass, and rhythm guitar in bands I was in.

Add to that theory and music arranging studies, got me to the point that as a multi-instrumentalist, I could write drum, bass, and other comp instruments in a way to make Band-in-a-Box aftermarket styles and sell them to musicians in over 100 countries on this planet. The theory started in school, mostly basic, the advanced theory and arranging was self-taught through books on the subjects.

I also make my own backing tracks for my duo, from scratch. They sound more live than the karaoke tracks my competitors use, and the audience responds to that. Thanks to arranging and experience.

If I had been only self-taught, I would not be at this point at all, because discovery takes too long, and the input of other minds exposed me to things I wouldn't have thought of on my own.

If I had been only school taught, I wouldn't have the experience I had to express my own individuality.

In the end, for me, a variety of different learning methods is better than only one.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

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1 hour ago, Notes_Norton said:

Formal education and private lessons are very dependent on the particular teacher and how he/she works with the particular student. When a good teacher instructs in a way a compatible good student learns, the student learns well, and at a fast pace.

Yes, but the second statement is a tautology. There are also compatible bad students (slow learners) and incompatible good students (fast learners), worst case being incompatible+slow and best case being compatible+fast. A good student would also likely learn more from a bad teacher, than a bad student would. I'm not sure what we can infer from this.

The problem with group teaching is that no matter how good the teacher is, they're a limited resource distributed among the whole group and thus have to compromise their teaching style and pace on some presumed average. Ultimately the student's most important teacher is themself - that's the one you find everywhere you go, and the one that will make or break you in academia at the latest.

 

1 hour ago, Notes_Norton said:

If I had been only self-taught, I would not be at this point at all, because discovery takes too long, and the input of other minds exposed me to things I wouldn't have thought of on my own.

I think some positives of autodidacticism are precisely that you do discover things and form perspectives that might never have been introduced in school, and that creative crossing of boundaries leading to multidisciplinary thinking is far more likely to emerge when you're not digging deep with blinders on into that infinitesimally narrow sector of reality that academia wants you to know intimately. The converse is of course also true (the autodidact may have blind spots and miss obvious things), but I don't think this works in favor of formal education, especially in creative fields. However, there isn't a real substitute for school as a social environment and a melting pot of ideas where ideas can also be products of the interaction happening right there and then, and where cross-pollination occurs (even jamming with your band isn't functionally the same, let alone virtual contacts).

While the point about exposure may be true in your case, the barriers to discovery that were in place 50 years ago are mostly irrelevant now. For all practical purposes, in this day and age the entire world is open to you. You no longer have to hunt rare and obscure recordings on physical media, tour libraries or bookstores to find in-depth information, or call or arrange to meet that one person who's an expert in the field to ask them a difficult question. The Internet is oozing information that would've been considered highly esoteric back in the day, and when you do arrive at the edge and need to take your excursion further to find an obscure book/paper/article/recording, the Internet will also help in locating the stuff that ain't on the Internet.

The downside is that there's so much stuff that it's easy to go 100mph in every direction only to find it amounts to nothing, whereas attending school has the advantage that the institution has designed for you a curriculum and provides a plan to advance through it in manageable steps, and you can focus on fulfilling their requirements instead of being pulled toward various attractors and absorbing what you happen to stumble upon. Then, when you have fulfilled some requirement (e.g. passed a course) you get another clear target to aim for, and the hierarchical design guarantees that you'll be leveling up while every challenge is manageable (or at least tips the odds in your favor). In this setting you get a clear view on your progress.

Ideally, that is. In reality, the curricula may as well be contrived garbage arrived at by an unvisionary, conformist committee, either because they truly are stupid or because funding is held for ransom by people whose interests are less than visionary.

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Good points, but if you find the right teacher, you can learn many things that it would take you longer to discover on your own.

At least that has been the case for me.

Example: YouTube can show you how to play the piano, but a good teacher will fine tune exactly how to curl your particular fingers to be able to play your best.

Example: In my early days of playing sax, my teacher fine-tuned how I breathe for maximum breath support, exactly how close to the tip of the mouthpiece to put the reed for my particular embouchure, and how to shape my personal oral cavity to get the fullest tone. From that, I discovered how to change the shape of my oral cavity to get different tones.

These are things particular to me, and not exactly like everyone else. Thankfully, I had a good teacher when I was young.

I suppose if there was one best way for everybody, there would only need to be one way.

Notes ♫

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6 hours ago, Notes_Norton said:

Good points, but if you find the right teacher, you can learn many things that it would take you longer to discover on your own.

Definitely true, and I think the autodidact path is more challenging precisely because of the lack of direction from somebody or something that embodies the accumulated experience in the field. After all, that's why we have education, so that everyone doesn't have to discover everything on their own and solve problems that have been solved. It also makes sense to tell our kids to look left, right, then left again (if their cars drive on the right) before they cross the road, and not to walk on ice during transitional seasons - they don't need to "self-learn" through getting hit by a car or plummeting into freezing water.

Same goes for the technical side of playing an instrument; there are principles and practices already known that not only are convenient, but may prevent permanent injury. When @Tim Smith remarked about his unorthodox technique (presumably excessive curl of the fingers), I meant to write about this and what the technical challenge means for the autodidact and what they (or a teacher of adult students in particular) should know, but while "gathering the material" I found myself on yet another rabbit trail. Because the thread seems aptly titled and technique has been brought up again, I'll try to follow up - in sha'Allah and all.

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Of course, if you are serious about music, you never quit learning.

I've been playing music for a long, long time, and there is still a lot of things yet to be discovered.

Notes ♫

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Wait...  I thought this was all you needed to know, ya? 😁

Chord-TAB_Am.png

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40 minutes ago, craigb said:

Wait...  I thought this was all you needed to know, ya? 😁

Chord-TAB_Am.png

Oh thanks craigb for bringing in the minor. Now we all have to be careful what we post 😆

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20 hours ago, craigb said:

Wait...  I thought this was all you needed to know, ya? 😁

Chord-TAB_Am.png

That's only 1/4 of what you need to know, next C, F and G major. they you have it all.

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2 hours ago, RobertWS said:

A Miner.

image.png.b78894f56236d7dd0125d60048f6e2a8.png

Got it!

You can't make a gold record without gold, ya?

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On 3/24/2022 at 8:55 AM, Notes_Norton said:

That's only 1/16 of what you need to know, next C, F and G major. they you have it all.

That is more for me because I'm more then a little slow learning and retaining this musical stuff :D

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I learned C# and I made good money programming computers.  That seems apropos for someone who wanted to be a musician.  But C# is losing it's market share as a language and it would not be my recommendation for someone starting out today, although I like it a lot.

As for going to college to study Music, I was in a garage band in high school, but I gave it up and got a college degree in Business.  But I did it without any loans and little help from parents.  I guess it wasn't so expensive in the 70s. 

If your child is a good book student, college can be worth the money, but a lot of kids just really aren't good students and college is too expensive today  to waste the money on a child who is not a good student.  Some just want a 4 year vacation.

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Posted (edited)

  

4 hours ago, DallasSteve said:

I learned C# and I made good money programming computers.  That seems apropos for someone who wanted to be a musician.  But C# is losing it's market share as a language and it would not be my recommendation for someone starting out today, although I like it a lot.

As for going to college to study Music, I was in a garage band in high school, but I gave it up and got a college degree in Business.  But I did it without any loans and little help from parents.  I guess it wasn't so expensive in the 70s. 

If your child is a good book student, college can be worth the money, but a lot of kids just really aren't good students and college is too expensive today  to waste the money on a child who is not a good student.  Some just want a 4 year vacation.

 

@DallasSteve - As someone currently creating a couple C#/WPF/SQL Server DB programs for data analysis (solely for use by myself and my business partner), I'm curious.  What language(s) would you recommend to learn next?

I've programmed for over 50 years now, but have fallen behind the curve and am already tired of trying to keep up with everything (in just the last two years, even the choice of what MVVM protocol to use has changed more than once!).  

Feel free to message me if you'd like to keep this thread relatively on-topic! 😁

Edited by craigb

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Craigb

There are a lot of musicians who also program, so I'll post one response here, and if anyone else has a comment they can add to it.  I've looked at this link below in the past and I see in their list that Python has jumped to number 1 in popularity (that doesn't mean it's the best).  I've seen it more in job requirements recently.  C is listed as number 2 and I think specifically that Objective-C may be the hot version of C now.  Java is similar to C and C# and it is still very popular.  I like C#, but it's just not as hot as it once was.  C++ is always in demand, and pays well, but I was never hard core enough to want to learn that.  I'm pretty smart, but C++ hurts my brain.

https://www.tiobe.com/tiobe-index/

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