This episode is part of the Musicality Unleashed series. Learn more and get a bonus “cheat sheet” at In this episode, we discuss the importance of having a solid foundation in music – and how neglecting to build this foundation can be detrimental to your musical understanding and autonomy later in your journey.

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Learning music is hard. But it doesn’t have to be…

Has music felt like a struggle for you? I know what that’s like. Sometimes it feels like every practice session is a slog and every step forwards is followed by a step or two backwards. There’s so much to juggle and not enough time to fit it all in!

But music itself, when we listen to it and love it – it seems so natural!

So if music is so natural and wonderful, why is learning music such a struggle?

Part of the reason is that most of us only get taught one of the three essential components – see the link alongside this video to another in the Musicality Unleashed series to learn more about that.

But the main cause is actually that you’ve skipped a fundamental stage of learning music.

Imagine setting out to build a house – and focusing all your efforts on painting an elaborate mural on the walls. You skip the step of putting a solid foundation in place and just start laying bricks and painting on top of them.

Things will start off okay – but the higher you build the more unstable things become and the harder it is to keep making progress.

At a certain point the house actually starts to collapse faster than you can build it up!

If you follow the traditional path for learning an instrument, this is exactly what you’ve been doing.

By focusing on instrument skills we leap forwards in the complexity of the music we can reproduce – which at first seems good – but we’re totally missing out on developing the corresponding musical understanding and autonomy – the ability to do what we want in music rather than just painstakingly reproducing what we’ve been told to play.

You don’t have the “mental models” which empower you to feel like you know what you’re doing in music.

As a result of this missing foundation of mental models when you do decide to study some music theory, or composition, or improvising, or ear training, you’ll find it really difficult to wrap your musical mind around.

That’s not because the material is inherently super complicated.
It’s because you’re not just missing some mental models – you’re actually missing the most fundamental of them.

You’re missing the foundation of mental models which can set you up to easily understand whatever you choose to study in music.

Any time you encounter something in music that seems really hard to wrap your brain around or develop a musical instinct for, the chances are it’s because you weren’t given the first few steps of developing the most fundamental and important mental models you need to “think like a musician”.

The good news is: It’s never too late to put that missing foundation in place – and once you do, everything else in music follows on dramatically more easily and enjoyably.

Learn more about what goes into a foundation that will truly empower you in the Musicality Unleashed series.

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