Learning and writing new music is often very time-consuming but there are ways you can speed up the process immensely to make the most out of your music practice time. They are not intuitive and can seem counterproductive at first, but following these two steps will make an enormous difference in how quickly you can learn and write new music.
What?! Slow down?! I’m reading this blog post to learn how to learn faster! What do you mean, “slow down”?!
Often the reason new music is a challenge to learn quickly is because we expect ourselves to “get it” faster than we are actually able to. This can leave us frustrated and constantly failing in the practice room or rehearsal because we will not allow ourselves to slow down enough to learn something correctly. As a result, we end up not learning anything except how NOT to play the new music we are working on, and that’s wasted music practice time.
This lesson can be really hard to learn. I have found that it is something I have to remind myself of and consistently work on every time I pick up an instrument. Recognizing where I really am as a musician can feel upsetting, embarrassing and hard to face. But take heart! Honoring where you are and slowing down enough will get you learning and playing much faster. Every great musician finds the true pace at which they can learn and honors that. If you consistently practice slowing down and honoring your pace, you will find that you will progress towards learning and writing new music will appear incredibly fast to outsiders. It will only feel slow to you.
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Visualize the Structure of What You Are Learning or Writing
Once you slow down, you will have an opportunity to see the structure of the music you are trying to learn or write. This is fundamentally important because seeing where you are going makes getting there less stressful and more intentional. Take the time to think about what the form of the music you are learning or writing might be. Then start asking specific questions like: Which harmonies are used? What order do they often show up in? What motifs are being used? What rhythmic ideas do you hear complementing these harmonies and motifs? How would you like to develop these ideas?
There is no need to see all of these things at once, but you can always work towards seeing and knowing more of these structures in advance. As you learn to hear and see them, the stress and frustration of finding the right chord, the best rhythm, the right hook, etc. will become less and less because you will have recognized and developed a rich bank of musical structures that you know work from which you can create more freely.
Studying music theory can be enormously helpful in identifying the structure of what you are learning and writing, but finding a good class that contextualizes theory in today’s music can be really hard. That is why Dave Kusek and I created HITMusicTheory.com. Check it out and see if it may be right for you.
By Daniel Roberts