That’s what we’re talking about this week and what you’re going to be hearing in a minute is the recording of the first of these three sessions. Now, if you’re listening to this episode as it comes out, you can join us for parts two and three. I would love to see you there. You’ll find all the details in the show notes for this episode at musicalitynow.com or head to facebook.com/musicalu and you’ll find them there.
A couple of things to mention about the recording of part one that you’re about to hear. The first is that this was taken from the live stream, so unfortunately the audio is not quite as high quality as you’re hopefully used to on this show, but it’s still utterly listenable, we hope. And the second thing to mention is this is a bit long. It’s quite different in style to what you’re probably used to on this show. This is not a punchy 10-minute summary of the topic. This is me hanging out live for an hour with a bunch of MusicalU members and foundations course students and people from our email list talking about this topic of ease and joy, finding ways to relate it to your musical life and setting you up for transforming your experience of learning music with more ease and joy. So I hope you’ll enjoy it, this very different kind of an episode. And if you’re listening to this as it comes out, please do join us for parts two and three this week. We’d love to see you there.
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Christopher: Hello. I think we are live. My apologies for being a couple of minutes late in starting. I’m going to be totally honest with you. It’s because my coffee machine decided, inexplicably, to go really slowly. I don’t know a lot about doing Facebook lives, but I do know that I need coffee for them, so here is my coffee. We are up and running, and without further delay, we’ll get the ball rolling.
Christopher: I say without further delay. I’m going to introduce myself. I’m going to talk for a few minutes, give people a chance to tune in, and then we’ll get into the meat of the content.
Christopher: So, if you haven’t met me before online, my name is Christopher. I’m the founder and director of Musical U. We’re here today to talk about ease and joy in music learning, and how pursuing ease and joy can actually be the key to more success and fulfillment in your musical life.
Christopher: If you’re tuned in live, please just give a shout in the comments, so that I know my video and my audio are coming through okay. If I sit here and talk to no one in silence for however long, I’m going to be frustrated afterwords. So, if you’re seeing me, if you’re hearing me, please pop a comment and let me know that you’re here.
Christopher: So, this will be a live and interactive session. I really wanted to do this in a way that let you guys participate, and ask questions, and make comments along the way. So, as soon as you tune in, please do post your name, tell me a bit about yourself, and don’t be shy. If you have any questions or comments along the way, do go ahead and post those in the chat.
Christopher: You’ve probably already noticed my eyes darting about. That’s because I’m trying to keep an eye on making sure things are working, and look at the chat, too, to see any comments. Thank you, Adam from the team, who’s confirmed that I am coming through loud and clear. That’s great, reassuring.
Christopher: I can see we are accumulating people live. Like I said, I’m going to ramble for a minute or two, just to give people a chance to tune in. We did send out an e-mail with the time, but I know that time zones are the bane of my existence. So, I know some people may just be realizing at the last minute that this is going on now. If you’re anything like me, you also encountered last minute technical problems getting Facebook live to work.
Christopher: I’m a devoted podcast listener. I know a lot of people that are going to be tuning in today, or watching the replay of this are as well, because a lot of people find us now through the Musicality Now show. Podcasts hosts often ramble for a bit at the beginning of their episodes. They tell you a bit about themselves, and their life, and what’s been going on lately. I never do that. I just get into the nitty gritty of it.
Christopher: I figure your time is valuable. I want to respect that. You don’t really care if I went to the supermarket this morning, or whatever’s going on in my life. But for the sake of giving people a chance to tune in, I will just tell you a bit about what’s going on.
Christopher: I’m here in sunny Valencia, in Spain, where I live with my wife and my two daughters. My work is pretty much … Sorry, my life … That’s a Freudian slip. My life is pretty much work and family. A lot of time is spent with my family in the parks and beach. We went to the Bioparc this weekend, which is the big zoo here in Valencia. That was super fun.
Christopher: Apart from family time, it’s work time for me. We’ve just been immersed in re-launching the Foundations course. I’m going to be talking a bit about that later on in the session. But it’s been going fantastic, as well as launching our part two course to follow on. It’s super exciting, but also tons of work involved.
Christopher: So, shout out to the Musical U team, particularly Adam and Andrew, who’ve been helping behind the scenes to get that up and running, to get into your hands. I can see we have SplashWellyKid from Musical U. Fantastic, thanks for joining us. Good to see a Musical U member and hear from you.
Christopher: Having to log on via a strange route.
Christopher: I think I’ve said this before, but there is no ideal technology for this kind of thing. We’ve tried a whole bunch, and everything causes some problems for some people. So, official apology here, if you got our e-mail and you were like, “I don’t want to go on Facebook. I hate Facebook.” I totally understand. Or if you’re a Facebook fan, but you’ve had trouble finding your way here today, to join on time, totally understand that, too.
Christopher: But I can see we are gradually accumulating people, so I’ll just say it again. Please give a shout out and let me know who’s here, because I don’t have an attendee list or anything. I’ve just got a number, and it’s really lovely to see some names, see some faces and ideally, tell me a bit about your musical life and what’s going on.
Christopher: So, a very warm welcome to you, whatever stripe of musician you might be. This is going to be a session that’s useful, hopefully, whether you’re new to Musical U, or you’re already a member, or you’re a foundation student, even. I’m going to be talking about ease and joy, and hopefully in a way that’s going to be useful in whatever stage you’re at.
Christopher: So, I think that’s enough rambling, and we’ll get into the meat of the thing. Hopefully, Facebook will give you the option, if you’re tuning in a bit late, to start a bit earlier and catch up. But I’ll be recapping as we go, anyway.
Christopher: So, I’ll just say it one more time. Don’t be shy. Please shout in the comments, and let me know who’s here, and if you have any questions or comments along the way. We’ll make this as interactive as possible, and I think that will make it as useful as possible for you guys.
Christopher: So, today, the topic is ease and joy, all this week, really. The three sessions I’m going to be doing. We’re going to be talking about what does enjoyment look like in music, why you might want to focus on it, and how to do that. That’s today. We’re going to be talking about the what, the why, and the how of this ease and joy thing that I e-mailed about.
Christopher: Then, in the next session, we’re going to be wading into all of the head game. This is a huge thing that I probably wouldn’t have realized ten years ago, when I was starting Easy Ear Training. I was so immersed in the practical how-to of it all. I had no idea that, actually, the mental game, and getting rid of negative self-talk, all the mental blocks that can hold you back, is at least as important as all that nitty-gritty.
Christopher: So, in the next session, we’re going to be talking about that stuff; the mental head trash and negative chatter that might actually be holding you back from ease and joy, whether you realize it or not. That’s going to set you up to intellectually understand this ease and joy idea, and equip you with some ways to overcome any mental blocks or barriers you might have.
Christopher: I know you guys well, particularly the members who are coming along today. I know you’re like me, and intellectually understanding something is what you think you need. Actually, there’s often a whole other thing you need to get you going, to get you to take action. That’s what we’re going to talk about in the third session, is building on that intellectual understanding in a way that’s actually going to get you moving towards the transformation that leads to more ease and joy in your life.
Christopher: So, that’s what’s in store for the three sessions. But you might be wondering, where did this opportunity even come from? Why is Christopher jibber jabbering about ease and joy? If you’re tuning in live, if you’re watching the recording, clearly something about that caught your attention. You were like, “Oh, I would like my music learning to be easy, or to have a bit more fun to it.”
Christopher: There’s something to it, but why did I decide that, that’s what we’d be talking about this week? Well, I’ve spent the last few days really thinking about how I can help you get more ease and joy in your music learning in these sessions. I’ve been trying to put together some good material. Like I said, I want this to be interactive, so totally open to taking off on a tangent, or a different direction, depending on what you guys say.
Christopher: But what I planned out is really, I think, going to be useful to you, whether you’re totally new to music, or you’re a member of Musical U, or you’re here as a Foundations graduate. Foundations of a Musical Mind, the course I mentioned earlier.
Christopher: A shout out to anyone who’s come over from Blues Guitar Master. I know Tom over there sent an e-mail out about these live training sessions. You are very, very welcome. Particularly if you’ve never encountered Musical U before, I hope this will make a great first impression.
Christopher: I know, from my own experience, that ease and joy is often missing from guitar learning, for better or worse. As we’ll be talking about today, this is not a guitar specific thing. This is a universal learning music challenge, but also a huge opportunity for us. So, a shout out to you Blues Guitar Master folks. Thank you for coming along.
Christopher: As I said, I was immersed in launching the Foundations course again. I was just really struck by how … When I looked at the successful students, the people who came to the end of the course and absolutely loved the experience, they tended to talk about it in terms of making things easy, and making things fun.
Christopher: That was a bit surprising to me, because this is a really practical course. This is a musicality training course, that equips you with very practical skills to do things. Even more so than a lot of the ear training we’ve done in the past, it’s all very well recognizing intervals. But often, the way people fall down is applying that to improvise, or play by ear, or do whatever they want to do.
Christopher: This Foundations course is not that. It’s very practical, and hands-on, and doing music, as it were, as a way of learning it. So, I was kind of surprised that a lot of the most positive comments were about it being simple, and easy, and it being fun, and enjoyable, and a delight, rather than, “I learned these three skills and that was good.”
Christopher: You may have seen this in the e-mail I sent out today. I kind of jotted down the phrases that kept coming up and they were things like, joy and magic, straightforward, building blocks, affirming, hope. As I go through these, just take a second and ask yourself, is this something you would say about your own music learning at the moment?
Christopher: Pop in the chat any reactions. If one of these words really hits home and you’re like, “That’s been missing for me.” Or, “Actually, I’m pretty good on that one.” Pop it in the chat. I’d love to know how you guys respond to these words that people were saying about their learning, after the Foundations course.
Christopher: They were saying, “joy and magic,” “straightforward and affirming”, “hope”, “without any pressure.” I think that’s probably a big one. I know that I felt a lot of pressure in my own musical life, over the years. “Easy”, talking about the kid inside me, being like a child again, illuminating, elegant, simple, intuitive, capable, things clicked. That is a big one, and we’re going to talk a bit more about that idea later on in the session, is things clicking. That’s often what we’re reaching for, I think, and not always there. So, that was a funny one that jumped out to me.
Christopher: People were talking about a new language or a paradigm shift, and it giving them inner strength and confidence. These words were jumping out at me. To be clear, I’m not saying this to blow on and on, and to make a fuss about how great Foundations is. I’m just presenting this as an example where, with the right kind of musical training, these are the kinds of words that people associate with their musical life and the process of learning.
Christopher: They jumped out at me because I know, for so many of you, and for me in the past, these were words so far removed from my own experience of learning music. I could basically take any one of these words, flip it around in the opposite, and that would describe my musical life.
Christopher: I think I’m going to try to do that. Joy; it was often a misery. Magic; it often felt like just pure, strict, rule-based, nitty-gritty, factual stuff. Straightforward; nope. Music always felt complex to me. Building blocks; I would have loved to have some building blocks. Hope; no, I often felt really hopeless. Without any pressure; I already said no, I always really felt like there was this intense pressure to be a good musician, and to learn the things I was trying to learn. Easy, no. Elegant, no. Simple, no.
Christopher: I won’t go on, but just pop in the chat. I can see Andrew from the Musical U team chiming in about pressure. Yeah, I think at whatever stage we’re at, we often feel that pressure. Shout out, Tony. Great to see you, Tony, here from Anytune. If anyone’s looking for an amazing app to help them slow down music and really dig into the details. Anytune, top recommendation, super great.
Christopher: Also, Jamil is saying, “Musical U member.” Welcome, Jamil. Great to have another member in the audience. Looking for some inspiration to make practice more … Oh, to make yourself like practice more. Fantastic. So, later in the session, I’m going to be sharing a cheat sheet that has really practical tips, some fun ways to make music practice more enjoyable. We’re also going to be talking about one big concept that can totally flip the whole thing on its head.
Christopher: Eve says that those all sound good, and there’s never enough time to do everything. Oh, that’s a good one. Let’s talk about that later on, Eve. Is just going from what ease and joy in music mean adding stuff to your musical life? Or maybe does it mean removing things? We’ll definitely talk about that.
Christopher: John saying, “Is there any teaching in this session?” Yeah. We’re going to be teaching about ease and joy in music, John. Like I said, we’re going to be sharing some practical tips, as well as some mindset stuff in the next session. To be clear, though, if you’re asking that because you’re expecting to arrive and see me with an instrument in my hands, telling you particular exercises to do, that’s not what this is about. This is about transforming your experience of learning music, by maybe fixing some things that have been wrong, and equipping you with some new ways of looking at things.
Christopher: To me, that’s much more powerful and fundamental than a new set of exercises. But I know that, sometimes, if you hear live, online music training, people expect a certain thing. So, just to be clear, that’s not what we’re doing here today. I hope that means it will be a lot more powerful for you, rather than less. But in any case, I’m glad to have cleared that up, up front.
Christopher: Like I said, in my own journey, any of those words you could have flipped on their head, and that would describe my experience. Over the last ten years, I’ve talked to literally thousands of you, of musicians, of typical passionate hobbyist musicians; some pros, some teachers, some very high level musicians, and I know that this is a big thing for all of you. That’s why I picked this as the theme this week, once that jumped out at me. Looking at the Foundations stuff, I was like, “That is something we have not addressed head-on before, and we really should.”
Christopher: From working on that course, and from the podcast interviews I’ve done over the last couple of years, I’ve kind of gathered all of these quite powerful, I think, insights, and tips, and ways of approaching music learning that can flip it around, so that instead of one of drudgery, and hard work, and hustle, and grind, it becomes a thing of ease and joy. The kicker is, it actually delivers better results, too.
Christopher: So, those tips I mentioned from podcast guests; we’re talking about Grammy award winning musicians. We’re talking about people who run the biggest music education websites in the world. I’ve had the honor to interview some really incredible people on our show, over the last couple of years. I’ll talk a bit more later on, but there is a really clear common message that music learning does not have to be dry drudge work and a hard grind. If you approach it in the right way, the best music learning can be easy and joyful.
Christopher: So, I’m really excited to try and share that with you guys today, in a clear and concise way. Like I said, though, very open to any questions, any feedback along the way. I’ve got some talking points here that we’ll go through, but we’d love to hear from you guys what would be most useful, as well.
Christopher: I think, just to reiterate that, what I just said in passing, which is, we’re not here to talk about ease and joy for the sake of having a nice, easy life. We’re here because this is the route to the best results, the most effective music training, as well as the most enjoyable. It’s really a win-win. It’s not a trade off between enjoying your musical life and achieving things. We’ll talk more in a moment about that.
Christopher: Just a very quick recap, if anyone’s tuning in live. I can see the numbers are creeping up. So, if you’re coming in live and you’re wondering what this is all about, very warm welcome to you. Please say hello in the comments so I know who’s here. We want to make this interactive, so please do feel free to ask questions. So far, I’ve just introduced this topic of ease and joy, and made the point that this can be the route to the fastest results, and the best results. It’s not either or. This is the route to getting the results you’ve been looking for.
Christopher: I’m probably late in giving a disclaimer, but I’ve already mentioned the Foundations course a few times. I don’t want you to think I’m here to pitch the course. This is not a sales presentation. I mention it for a couple of reasons. The first is that we are opening it up later this week, and I believe it is the best training for the inner musicality skills that we specialize in at Musical U. So, it would be crazy for me not to try and serve you by letting you know a bit about it, and to give you a bit more information, and talk about how it relates to this main theme of the week, just so that you know if it’s a good match for you. But also because, as we see in the comments, we have members here from Musical U. I’m sure we have some Foundations graduates, too. Give a shout out in the comments if you’re a Foundations grad. I want to make sure that I relate everything we’re talking about to how things are approached in that course, to make it as useful as possible for everyone.
Christopher: So, if you are totally allergic to marketing, if you hate the idea of a company talking about it’s products, or mentioning that something might be for sale, please tune out now. But I am here to serve you. My goal is to make these sessions as useful as possible. Like I said, a ton of people attending live and watching the replay are going to be people who already bought, so I’m not incentivized to try and pitch everyone hard. I’m here to talk about ease and joy because I want to equip you with that in your musical life. Enough of the disclaimer.
Christopher: I want to give a very nutshell summary of where I’m coming from on all this. I already said, my musical life was not a thing of joy and ease, by any stretch. I know that if you’ve been tuned in to us for a while, you’ll know little bits of my background. But in particular, I want to talk about why ease and joy was not in my musical life, because I think probably a lot of people who’ve come along today can relate to this.
Christopher: I am a very academic type person. I’m an A type, overachiever, straight As in school, went off to Cambridge, did a master’s, passed my grade exams on the instruments. Music learning was about passing exams and getting accomplishment. I say all of that not to boast about how great I am at passing exams, but so that you know that when I talk about ease and joy, it’s not coming from a perspective of, let’s all kick back and relax. I said this before, this is not an either/or. I do want you to enjoy music, obviously. I’m here to try and get more ease and joy into your musical life.
Christopher: But I 100% appreciate that you probably also care about improving. You care about getting results. You care about your practice paying off, learning new skills, and accomplishing what you’ve set out to, in music. To put that another way, I’m guess, and give a shout in the comments if this resonates with you. I’m guessing, for a lot of you, learning music, if you had to pick one word, it might be frustrating. I think, a lot of us, the payoff is enjoyable, and we love music, so we stick with it. But often, that learning process can be really frustrating. I get that.
Christopher: It’s really what got me excited about presenting about this, this week, and getting into a discussion with you guys about ease and joy, because if music learning doesn’t have to be frustrating, this is kind of the most important thing to fix. We could sit here and talk about modes, and scales, and fingering patterns, and ear training intervals, and all kinds of different things. But if your musical life is really frustrating, and tiring, and boring at times, and we can transform it into something that’s easy and fun every time you sit down to practice, we should fix that first.
Christopher: So, I want to say up front, and hopefully it’s already been clear by the way I talk about this kind of stuff. I am not perfect. In particular, because I’m from this very academic, intellectual mindset, I’ve had to really work at this, in music and beyond that, too. So, these live sessions this week are a great case in point. Normally, I like to script everything out and get the wording just right. I would have some pretty slides on my screen and I’d be doing a screen share, and probably pre-record everything, so I can make sure I nailed it. I told myself I was doing it because I really wanted to make it as valuable as possible for the audience and so on. But actually what I was doing was putting up a big barrier between myself and you guys, and trying to make out like I knew exactly what I was talking about. Essentially, I was blocking any kind of ease and any kind of joy from the process.
Christopher: So, I figured for this week, it would only be fitting to get together live with you, invite you into the discussion, and be like, “Let’s just talk about this stuff.” Obviously, so far, it’s mostly me talking. I would love for some more people to chime in, in the comments. I can see we have Adam from the Musical U team here, as well as Andrew. Welcome, guys. It’s good to have you here. I think in a future session, we might get you guys on the video, too. I know that the podcast episodes where we have the whole team on are always a popular one.
Christopher: Just to say, I’m a little bit nervous right now, because I have not fully scripted this out. I don’t have any slides to wow you with. I don’t have any B roll clips to engage you visually. I’m just going to have to try and be really interesting. So far, it looks like people are sticking around, so hopefully, that’s okay. I realize that so far, we’ve been doing a lot of preamble, but we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty in just a moment.
Christopher: Why am I doing that? I’m doing it because I’m trusting that the same thing is going to be true here, as it is in music. Which is, if you look for that easy and joyful route, it actually gives much better results. So, I’m trusting that doing it this way, this week, is going to be fun for everyone. It’s going to feel easy, for me and for you. It’s actually going to make sure that you come away much better equipped to apply all this stuff in your life, than if I was just like, “Here are three 20 minute videos I recorded for you last week.” Which, let’s be clear, I have done. I am guilty of that.
Christopher: I think we’re fully all on the same page. I think you understand where we’re coming from, that learning music generally doesn’t feel easy, and it doesn’t feel joyful. We find moments of joy, to be clear. I’m not pretending music is always dull, hard work. We have those moments. It might be a concert, or it might be finally nailing a certain technique, or it might be where something clicks in your head and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, I get that thing now.” But often, it’s a little gleam of light along the way. We kind of see the hard slog of learning as something that will one day pay off.
Christopher: So, I’m here today to say, “What if we’ve been missing the point?” What I want to do … As I said, I’m going to share some practical tips and so on. I will, but I also want to share one simple idea that can flip how you think about learning music on its head. If you’ve been with us at Musical U, if you’re a member, or you’ve taken the Foundations course, what I’m going to share isn’t going to be totally new to you, but I would like to challenge you not to tune out. Instead, take this opportunity to ask yourself if you’re really being true to this in your musical learning. Because like I said earlier, the most successful members of Musical U and Foundations students are the ones who have really taken this on board, and have really internalized what I’m going to be sharing later, about how to approach things.
Christopher: I’m guessing you’ve kept going because you’re reaching for that moment where you crack it, when music is finally effortless, and easy, and you can do whatever you want to. But you might have also worried that you might never get there. What’s worse is, if you’re anything like me, it kind of starts to feel worse and worse, like you’re accumulating baggage. The more years you go without cracking it, without feeling like you’ve made it, the heavier things can feel. The longer you do that, in a sense, the worse it gets.
Christopher: We’ll be talking more about this in the next session, is the head talk. But I know that it made me feel less and less like a real musician. Even though on paper, I was accumulating better skills. As I got away from ease and joy, and I got buried in the nitty-gritty, I just felt worse and worse about who I was as a musician, and why I didn’t have all of the stuff I’d been dreaming of when I first picked up an instrument.
Christopher: What I want to share today is that there is absolutely a way to crack it, but it’s not some distant far off thing, and finally you’ll get that reward. Cracking it, feeling like you’ve got it, can be yours today, if you’re willing to shift how you approach learning music. So, that’s what I want to send you away with today.
Christopher: To recap, we’re going to be talking about what is ease and joy. What do I mean by that? We’re going to be talking about why this is so important, and I have a little bit already, but I want to get into the nitty-gritty of the learning process, and also how to do it, which I’m sure is what everyone is eager to hear about.
Christopher: So, if you have any questions so far, any comments so far, if any of this is hitting home with you, please do shout in the comments while I take a drink.
Christopher: Then we will continue on. If you’re joining us late, I can see we still have people tuning in. So if you’re joining us late, you’re very welcome. Please don’t be shy. Jump into the comments, and ask any questions you have, make any comments you have. I do want this to be a back and forth, in a discussion. We’ve clearly, from the numbers I can see we’ve got some members from Musical U, and also some Foundations people in the room, as well as a lot of people who I think are probably new to Musical U, either from my e-mail list, or the podcast, or maybe Blues Guitar Master. You’re all very welcome.
Christopher: What is ease and joy? What am I talking about? I think we all, instinctively, get the basic idea. Like I said earlier, if you’ve come along today, something about that resonated with you. You’re like, “I would like music learning to be easy. That sounds pretty good.” Or, “I don’t really feel any joy, except once in a blue moon when something goes right.”
Christopher: So, what do those two words mean? Why is it those two words? I have to confess, the last few days, as I’ve been thinking about this a lot, it’s meant I had … God Rest You Merry Gentlemen in my head for three days going, comfort and joy. “Tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.” Not comfort and joy, ease and joy. But I also had Indian Jones talking about honor and glory. There’s something about that A and B that just sticks in your head.
Christopher: Anyway, the two words in particular we’re here to talk about are not comfort and joy, or honor and glory, though all those things are good. They are ease and joy. So, what exactly am I talking about? I’m not just saying, “Let’s make music good. Let’s make it fun.”
Christopher: Ease, to get technical for a minute. I’m talking about the experience where things are flowing. There’s no inner resistance. There’s no striving. There’s no straining. There’s no tension. As I talk about this, I want you to ask yourself, “When have I felt like that?” So, I know that we’ve all had moments, whether it’s during music practice, or during a big concert performance. Or maybe even outside of your musical life, if you have another skill you’re advanced in, or maybe in your career. Whenever you have those moments of pure ease, where it didn’t feel like you were forcing your way forward. It felt like, “This is just how it works.”
Christopher: Now, there is a very particular scientific definition that’s relevant here, which is flow. You may have heard this word a lot in the last few years. There’s a, I think Polish researcher … I’m going to say it wrong, sorry, but I need to work on my Polish. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I think is his name. I certainly can’t spell it, and I apologize for that.
Christopher: But he’s done a lot of research into what’s actually happening in our brains, and what creates those moments of flow, where everything comes so easily, you lose yourself. That’s another good word to have in mind is, losing yourself. What if I tend to have to be so conscious that I am sitting here doing my scales, and drills, and exercises? What if, when you sat down to play music, half an hour zipped by, and you’d worked on all the things you were meant to work on, but it was such an easy experience. It was such a pleasure, the time just flew by.
Christopher: What is super interesting about flow is that it is not daydreaming. It is not the half hour zips by because you’re just dabbling and having fun. The half hour zips by because you are right at, what they found out, is the limit of your comfort zone. When you’re doing something that’s really challenging, but not too challenging. Where it’s using your skills, but not pushing you too far beyond them.
Christopher: Anyway, there are particular criteria that go into what defines flow and what leads to it. But I wanted to share the nugget, which is, the flow state is what all peak performers get into. So, when you look at Olympians, when you look at top performers in any field, like medicine, surgeons, or indeed, performing musicians, that state of flow is key to how they are as good as they are, both in practice and in performance.
Christopher: So, this is something we should be reaching for. I love that, in the last few years, the science has backed this up. I think if I was talking about this ten years ago, or 20 years ago, I would have had to really make a case that things could be easy and effective. But we know from the research on flow, that it is absolutely possible. It’s not either/or. It’s not that, to be really effective, you need to work really hard and strain. That’s not the case at all. The most efficient practice is when you are just challenged enough. When things keep you engaged, but they don’t frustrate you.
Christopher: So, this is what we’re talking about. When I say ease, I’m talking about this very specific kind of ease. It’s also deeply about having a connection to what you’re doing. So, we’ll definitely be unpacking this a bit, later on. But when in your music practice have you felt like the music was part of you? When have you felt like I am expressing something that’s inside me through the music?
Christopher: That’s something that, in my experience, is often missing. We know that it should be there, maybe, or it could be there. I think we’ve all had moments where it was there. But for the most part, I think unfortunately, our music practice is very separate from that. We might feel like that’s something you get when you’re up on stage with a band, or that’s something that you get when you finally nail the perfect technical performance of a piece.
Christopher: But what if all of your music practice felt connected in that way, that the music was a part of you, and you were just expressing that part of you? That’s also deeply tied to this idea of ease that we’re talking about, is that I am not straining for something that’s outside of myself, and trying to bolt it on. I’m just letting it go. I’m letting it flow. I’m letting it come out of me.
Christopher: I know that, for me, it was genuinely only in recent years, even after I started doing ear training and that kind of thing. It was another few years before I had that kind of experience, where I was like, “Oh, this isn’t some weird, arcane skill set I’m trying to graft onto who I am. This could just be a part of me, and I’m just equipping myself with ways to let that out.” That was really exciting for me. If you haven’t had that kind of epiphany, or insight, or moment of clarity in your musical life, I hope that what we’re talking about today is going to help get you there. Because it is absolutely possible for all of us to feel that connection to music. It’s not something reserved for the gifted few, or something that you either have in the first few years of your life, or you never do. This is something that’s accessible to all of us, if we reach for it in the right way. So, that’s ease. That flow, that effortless accomplishment, the connection to the music, so it feels a part of you, not something separate.
Christopher: What about joy? Well, I was thinking about this, and what brings us joy in music. Obviously, we’re talking about how to suffuse joy into everything you do, all of your music practice. But I know that, for a lot of us, at the moment at least, joy is something that’s here and there. I’ve said several times, we have these moments of seeing, that’s how it could be. Imagine if it was always like that.
Christopher: So, one that came immediately to mind was, new instrument syndrome. You may have come across this thing online, people talking about gear acquisition syndrome. Which is the idea that a lot of musicians, particularly amateur musicians, will get so immersed in the technology, and the instrument models, and the dialing in the gear, and acquiring new gear, that they kind of forget to learn how to play it, or do anything with it.
Christopher: I know that this is a particular joke in the guitar community, but people get so obsessed with getting their new guitar, and getting it all set up right, and all of their effects, pedals and everything. You have to wonder, do they ever actually play the thing. So, it’s this joke online. Obviously, it’s a stereotype, and it’s unfair to make fun of people just for that. It’s something I want to talk about more in a future episode of Musicality Now, because there are definitely pros and cons to it.
Christopher: But there’s a particular part of it that I wanted to pick up on here, with this topic of joy. Which is, gear acquisition syndrome …
Christopher: Oh! Sorry. I am really sorry. I just realized the chat does not scroll automatically. I’m sorry, guys. You probably thought I was just ignoring you all, but no. It was because my chat got stuck about ten minutes ago, and I had no idea you were talking. I’m sorry.
Christopher: Nancy, fantastic to see you with us, Nancy K. from Musical U. Stewart from the Musical U team. We’ve got almost a full house, fantastic. And Zac, too, fantastic. We’re winning. And Andrew … Well, I’ll share that comment. Andrew says, “The thing about joy is that it’s our fundamental nature. Looking at children, that’s easy to see. So, when we access joy, we’re accessing our inner intelligence and side-stepping all the baggage.” 100%, Andrew. You should be hosting this thing. That was a beautiful way of putting it.
Christopher: I love that. I’ve heard it described, too, as joy is our default state. How many of us really feel that way, particularly in our musical life? How many of us wake up joyful, until something happens? I think it tends to be the exact opposite. We’re looking for something to make us happy, make us joyful. As we’ll be unpacking in this session, joy is something we uncover. It’s something we can get to. It’s not something we have to create or fabricate.
Christopher: So, very warm welcome, Nancy and everyone else who’s been joining us over the last five or ten minutes. I apologize that I wasn’t paying careful attention to the chat. Andrew helpfully shared the correct spelling of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I’m going to have so many angry e-mails from Polish people.
Christopher: Anyway, gear acquisition syndrome. The one thing I really want to pick up on, and I’m sure you guys can relate to this is, new instrument syndrome. Which I think is almost a purely positive thing, because think about it. When you got a new instrument that you had been so eager to buy; it might be a new version of the instrument you already played, or it might be the first time you got an instrument of a certain type, like your first guitar or your first piano.
Christopher: Think about that experience, how much joy it brought you in the moment. But then, the next few days, the next few weeks, even, I bet you could barely keep your hands off it. I bet you were picking it up and playing something just to play. You weren’t thinking about music practice. You were just thinking, “Ooh, I really want to play that guitar again.” Or whatever the case may be.
Christopher: I have gone through this so many times myself, and it’s taken me a while to really learn to value that. Because it’s not a distraction from your music learning. That pure joy of playing is what we’re talking about when they say joy. In the context of this training, it’s that pure excitement to be playing music and be part of music.
Christopher: For me, the most recent was … I missed this, myself, in my life recently. I got an electronic drum kit, because I was learning drums for the first time. I was really enjoying it for the first month or two. I would just sit down and play, because it was right there in my office, and that was wonderful. Then over time, I was taking weekly lessons, and that joy kind of diminished. I loved my weekly lessons, and I loved my teacher, and the stuff we were working on was good, but I found I wasn’t practicing. I was like, “Why am I finding it hard to get myself to sit down and practice? I have clear stuff to work on. I enjoy the instrument. I should be finding the time.”
Christopher: I wasn’t and it’s because the joy was missing. It took me a while to realize that. What I did when that clicked in my head was, I thought about it. I was like, “I want to be a punk rock drummer. That means I should be drumming punk music, and my lessons are not. My lessons are rock music, and obviously great for learning the technique, and that will equip me to be a punk drummer, but I should be playing some punk songs.”
Christopher: So, what I did was, I started every morning, just playing through one song. Not worry about improving, not worrying about the details of what I was meant to be working on, just drumming through a song for the joy of it. Do you know what? I started practicing. Even if I hadn’t started practicing again, just that exercise of playing something I was enjoying, and playing every day, was improving my drumming.
Christopher: So, often, like Andrew pointed out, the joy is there. It’s within reach. It’s waiting for us, and it’s not a distraction, but we need to allow ourselves to grab it. That’s something I’m going to come back to for sure, in the next session, is that mental game of, am I letting myself enjoy this.
Christopher: So, what is it for you? Can you think about your own musical life? What is it … The Marie Kondo way of saying it is, “What sparks joy? What is it that gives you that moment of, I love this?” Think about that and think about where you could double down on that. Is that something you could lean into?
Christopher: I had another example to share, but I want to keep moving and get into the nitty-gritty that I’m sure a lot of you are interested in, is the how to make this all happen. So, the why of all this, I think we’ve covered it a fair bit already. But just to reiterate and add a couple of things, if you’re wondering why you should make this the top priority, and I said that early. If you’re not experiencing ease and joy in your musical life, that is the first thing to fix.
Christopher: One big stand-out point is motivation. Like I just talked about with my drumming, I was not finding the time to practice, even though intellectually, I knew I should, and I was willing to. It just wasn’t happening. It’s because I did not have that motivation, and it’s because the joy was missing.
Christopher: So, when we tap into that ease and joy, and we transform our music learning into a thing of ease and joy, motivation goes through the roof. Your follow-through goes through the roof. All of those goals you’ve been setting suddenly become attainable because you’ve got this momentum, and you’ve got this energy driving you forward. It doesn’t have to be a kind of hard slog, forcing yourself to do it.
Christopher: So, that is huge. That is such a big thing. I remember Brent Vaartstra from Learn Jazz Standards. When we did our 100th episode roundup for the Musicality podcast, now Musicality Now. That was his big piece of advice for people wanting to become more musical. He was like, “You really need to manage your motivation and you need to focus on the things that give you motivation, and get you excited, because that is what’s going to give you the long term success.” So, a shout out to Brent for being right on the money with that. I think, again, we’ll talk about this in the next session, but if you allow yourself to do that, it’s huge.
Christopher: So, that’s one thing, is motivation. The second is, like we’ve already touched on, in terms of flow, it’s just more effective. This is not coping out. This is not avoiding the hard work. This is about finding the way of learning music that is the most effective. That’s to do with flow. It’s to do with deliberate practice. It’s also about adapting the practice to suit you, and we’ll talk more in the why … Sorry, in the how, about that stuff.
Christopher: It is the most effective form of learning. That alone, should be enough of a motivator to get you excited about ease and joy. Excuse me a second.
Christopher: Turns out, Facebook lives in hot Valencia weather are quite thirst inducing.
Christopher: The third thing I want to say about why you would pursue this, is that, I mentioned a connection, and I mentioned feeling like it was a part of you, and I mentioned feeling like it’s just flowing, and it’s easy, and whatever you want to do in music, you can do. That comes from taking a really holistic view on things. We’ll be talking more in a moment about that.
Christopher: But holistic, meaning you can do everything, is so empowering. It’s just so crucial. I think I can explain why, in a way that makes sense. I don’t often … I don’t always love language analogies for music, but this is one where I think it’s really powerful. Which is, let me ask you. In music, when was the last time you played some music? Shout in the comments. I’d love to hear your actual answers to these.
Christopher: But let me phrase it a different way. I’m going to say a bunch of stuff to do with music learning. For each of them, I want you to give it a score out of ten: how much did you do that in the last week? So, these are the things. Give each of them a score out of ten. Give it ten if you did this all day, every day this week. Give it a one if you didn’t do it at all.
Christopher: When was the last time you played some music? When was the last time you read some music, like sheet music? When was the last time you wrote down some music? You heard some music, you wrote down what it was. When was the last time you sang some music? When was the last time you improvised some music? When was the last time you composed, created, song-wrote some music? When was the last time you imagined music, really vividly, in your head?
Christopher: I don’t know what I just listed off. But it was playing, reading, writing, improvising, song writing and composing, singing, “audiating”, imagining. Give each of those a score out of ten. We’re not going to jump up, and total up your score, and say you are a good musician or bad musician. That’s not where I’m going with this, but I would love to hear what the balance is for people in this audience.
Christopher: I think what you’re going to see is, the scores are across the board. Your immediate reaction might be, “So? I’m not interested in composing, so I don’t need composing to be a 10.” Or, “I’m not a good singer, so I’m not going to worry about the fact that I didn’t sing any music this week.” I’m guessing that’s what was in your head, because that was 100% what was in my head, for very many years.
Christopher: I wouldn’t have understood why it mattered to be an all around musician. Sure, that sounds great. I’ll be an all-arounder. I’ll be able to do everything. Sounds lovely, but I’d rather learn to read the music really well, and then play the pieces I like. I get that, but I think …
Christopher: This is where the language analogy is useful. Imagine … I’m assuming English is your first language. I know that with our audience, that’s not necessarily the case. But if you want to swap English for whatever language you speak. Ask those same kinds of questions for language. So, thinking back over the last week, how much did you speak English? How much did you hear and understand English? How much did you hear thoughts in your head, imagine English being said in your head? How much did you read English? How much did you write, or type, English? How much did you come up with ideas and express them in English?
Christopher: I’m guessing everyone’s pretty much a ten for all of those. Because if you were just stuck in a room reading books, and never talking to anyone, we’d say that was a pretty lopsided life. If you were always talking to people, but you never read any books, you never typed anything or communicated in written word, and if you didn’t really come up with any ideas of your own, you were just jibber-jabbering all day long, we might also say, that’s not really the description of a fulfilled and happy life. That’s not a recipe for success and enjoyment.
Christopher: It’s so obvious to us when we talk about it in terms of spoken language? Why do we not take that same approach to music? Can you see how that transforms the whole experience, and your relationship to that? We treat our language, our first language like English, as such a core part of ourselves. We don’t hesitate to feel like we own that language, like that’s just a part of who we are. Yeah, I’m an English speaker, so what?
Christopher: That’s how we should feel about music, and that’s how we can feel about music. A big part of it is this holistic idea that, if you’re lopsided, if you’re missing some of these areas, it really does matter, because it transforms your whole relationship. Whether or not you want to spend all day doing those, you need to know that you can. You need to relate them all to each other.
Christopher: So, sorry, I’m sounding a bit rant-y. I don’t mean to preach, but just to say, this is the heart of why this can transform your musical life. Yes, ease and joy gets you results faster. Yes, it’s a lot of fun, but it also rounds you out. It’s part of rounding you out that just gives you that deep connection, and understanding, and ownership of music.
Christopher: I can see that even the chat is getting scores. Played and sang every day, fantastic. Reading a couple of days, listened intently every day. Fantastic, that’s great. Oh, that’s SplashWellyKid, so maybe doing the musician’s ear course might be helping with that, I think. That would be great.
Christopher: Improvised a couple of days, very good, and composed none. So, it scores from zero, to two, to ten there. A great case in point of how someone who clearly is working hard in their musical life. Maybe as I talk that through, you could see how there’s maybe a couple of areas to think about there. Maybe you’re not doing them because you’ve mastered them and you’ve moved on. But I know that, for a lot of people watching this, if you give it a low score, it’s because you don’t think you can do that. Or, you don’t understand the point, rather than just, you were busy this week.
Christopher: So, if that’s you, if you’re feeling suddenly like you’re a bit lopsided, and maybe you’re like the person that just sits in a room reading books all day, and never talks to anyone, or whatever the analogy might be to language. I hope this is hitting home, and showing you what kind of transformation is possible for you, if you adopt this idea that ease and joy is the route to being that holistic musician.
Christopher: So, let’s get into the how. I think everyone, hopefully at this point, is motivated to know about the how. Do shout in the comments and questions, any feedback on what we’ve been covering so far. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve been sitting here being like, “Okay, I’m convinced enough for now to pay attention to you a bit longer. Tell me about the how.”
Christopher: So, I want to talk about this on a couple of levels. One of them, I’m just going to cover really quickly, and the other, I’m going to dig into.
Christopher: So, how do we experience more ease and joy in our musical life? The crux of it, I think, is clearest if we approach it from the opposite direction. What has been preventing us from experiencing ease and joy? A bit of this is psychological, and we’re going to get into that in the next session.
Christopher: But a bit of it is practical. It’s that we’ve been doing the wrong stuff. The most succinct way I’ve come up with of explaining it is, we can’t see the forest for the trees. I’m sure you’ve all heard that expression. It means you’re lost in the details. You can’t see the big picture. You can’t appreciate the thing around you, because you’re so fixated on the specifics.
Christopher: I know that, immediately, there are going to be light bulbs going off for people watching this, because we are so quick to jump on the specifics. Whatever instrument you play, whatever style of music, there’s a thousand YouTube tutorials for you, telling you exactly how to do this particular technique. There’s a thousand method books telling you these exercises to do. There’s a thousand gurus, telling you to follow their 68 step plan, and you will transform your technical abilities on the instrument. That’s what we think we should be doing when we learn music.
Christopher: I want to share with you that, that is missing the forest for the trees. I said there were two bits to this, two scales. One is the big scale. So, in the big picture, how this comes out is, we get so lingered on a certain route, we get so fixated on the technique, or a skill, or a piece of repertoire, or a specific … I don’t know, series of tutorials on YouTube, we think that is what we’re doing and that is all we need to do. We completely forget why we were doing it in the first place.
Christopher: I said I’m going to cover this one quickly, and it’s because we have talked a lot at Musical U, and on Musicality Now, about goals, and planning, and having a big picture vision. So, I’m just going to acknowledge this and move on. Which is, if you don’t have a very clear, big picture vision for your musical life, if you’re not using that to set your goals, and if you’re not feeding that back into what you’re doing each month, each week, each day. If you’re not regularly checking, okay, is the thing I’ve suddenly got blinkered about actually related to my goal, and my vision, and who I want to become in music.
Christopher: If you’re not doing that stuff, think very carefully about that. I forgot to prepare a link for this, but Adam is very smart and capable. So, Adam, maybe you can find the big picture vision episode of Musicality Now. I think it’s called, Hey, Where Are You Going? And pop a link in the comments for people, if they want to know what I’m talking about there, and how to get that into their musical life, do that. Because if you can’t see the forest for the trees, there’s a good chance it’s because you don’t know what forest you’re trying to be in.
Christopher: So, do that first. But then the other bit of this, and what I do want to talk more about, because it relates to this ease and joy very clearly is that, what you’re probably missing, in practical terms is, making it musical. This comes back to a big take-away from my lessons with Steve Lawson. He’s a fantastic improvisational base player. I included him in a recent episode of the show talking about big lessons from base players. The lesson from Steve was that music practice, music lessons even, should be music. If you want to learn a certain skill, don’t go off completely separate from playing music and try to master that skill, and then graft it into your musical life.
Christopher: Every experience of learning music can be musical. I’m going to mention Kodaly in a little bit. One of the huge stand-out points from Kodaly, for me, was the lesson just feels like playing music, from start to finish. It feels like expressing yourself in music, rather than doing exercises so that you can then go and play music.
Christopher: So, this is a huge thing. If you’re not feeling that ease, and you’re not feeling that joy, I’d wager that what you’re doing in your music practice, in your music learning, is not very musical. It’s probably a lot more abstract, and a lot more theoretical, and a lot more … I don’t know, just swamped in should, and obligation, and this is what I’m meant to do, than it needs to be.
Christopher: This comes back to flow, as well, because when you’re feeling musical, when you’re expressing music, that helps you tap into that feeling of just being in the moment, going with it, and kind of not letting go, but letting go just enough to really move fast. It also wakes up both sides of the brain. If you’re just purely analytic, purely doing drills, purely intellectually approaching the task in your music practice, that’s only half your brain.
Christopher: I know that if you’re anything like me, you maybe don’t identify as being a creative person. You might hold back from thinking, I should wake up the creative part of my brain. But music is creative. Music is art, whether we like it or not, whether we feel ownership of that yet, or not. So, bringing that creativity and that expression into your music learning is going to wake up both parts of your brain. I think it goes without saying, that’s going to help you learn faster.
Christopher: It can also be multimodal. This, again, comes back to the Kodaly, but when I say make it more musical, look at the epitome of music making. It’s not someone in a room, writing with a pencil. It’s not someone very rigidly going through the wrong fingering for something. It’s a whole body experience. It’s both sides of your brain. It’s your hands. It’s your arms. You can’t help but move to the beat.
Christopher: It’s the whole of you. That’s a bit the holistic thing, but it’s more this multimodal where it’s your eyes, and it’s your ears, and it’s your feeling. Not your taste maybe, except in an abstract way, your musical taste. But that multimodal approach can often unlock things, too. So, if you’re suddenly realizing, I’m just using my tactile, or I’m just listening to the music, but am I tapping along?
Christopher: That can often unlock how to make it more musical. I’ve kind of sprinkled a few specific ideas, there. I know that there are going to be people who are hungry for me. So, what I’m going to do is, share the cheat sheet we put together for an episode of the show, all about how to make practice more enjoyable. So, we’ll pop that link in the comments, and that is going to give you a whole recipe for what you could introduce to your practice sessions, that spark that musicality, that wake up the creative side and make it enjoyable. That’s going to help you make it easy, too. So, that’s going to give you the nitty-gritty practical, for those who are eager for that.
Christopher: I want to step back, though, because there’s a really bigger, deeper point here. That is the one thing. If there was one thing I wanted to send everyone away with today, that would empower you and help you have this transformation, it’s that when we talk about reading, and writing, and improvising, and singing, and so on, and being holistic, and having it all be ease and joy, and being connected. I know that, that might sound overwhelming at first. It might sound like a lot of extra stuff to do.
Christopher: But the reason it’s at the heart of ease and joy is that, it is the heart of music. It’s the same common core. I know that you’ve probably had moments of understanding, that music can be simple. There is something, there’s an essence of what music is, that’s somehow shared. So, you might have heard a piece of classical music. You hear some Beethoven, and somehow, something in it makes you think of Pink Floyd. If you stop and wonder, you’re like, those are completely different styles of music. But it’s all music, and somehow, your brain made that connection.
Christopher: I know an experience I’ve had a lot is, when you’re playing a piece, and you fumble a note or two, but then that kind of sounds like something else, and you go with it for a minute. I think I’m playing a clarinet or a saxophone here. Apparently, that’s what my subconscious thinks I play, still.
Christopher: You fumble a note or two, you realize you’re playing something else, and it kind of works. You’re like, oh, this could kind of work, too. You realize there’s something tying those together.
Christopher: One thing I love, and it comes up a lot in Musical U is, where you’re working away at one particular skill, you’re mastering a particular fingering, or you’re trying to nail certain ear training drills. Then you stop, and you turn your attention to something completely different, and you realize, you’re much better at that other thing now. You can’t quite explain why, but somehow, somewhere in your brain, it was all the same. Somehow, there was a common core between what you were doing and what you’re doing now. Even though you can’t explain why A made you better at B, somehow A made you a better musician in your inner being. That made you better at B. That’s the best way I can explain it in words.
Christopher: I give all these illustrations just to put you in touch with, I think is for all of us, an instinctive understanding, a deep sense that music is universal. That’s kind of a cliché, but music is, in a way, all the same. To be clear, music is incredibly complex at times. Music can be hugely varied. There’s an enormous variety of music in the world.
Christopher: I’m not pretending that all music is the same. I’m saying, at the heart of all of that, there is the same thing, that essence, that core. Here’s what’s cool, and here’s why I’ve gone on this little, rambling diatribe about music being universal, and having a common core.
Christopher: That core, it’s really not all that complicated. Yes, you can get deep into the quagmire of instrument technique, and all of the specifics of learning this, that, and the other. But the core of music, the stuff that joins it all together, and the stuff that is always there, front and center with whatever you’re learning, it’s not that complicated.
Christopher: But when we’re immersed in the nitty-gritty, when we’re worrying about the technique, when we’re worried about the repertoire, when we’re trying to nail the fingering, or memorize something, or master the ear training drills, we’re missing the forest for the trees. We think everything has to be super complicated, everything has to be super hard. I have to work really hard to accomplish this, because music is so complicated. No, we’re missing the forest through the trees. We’re overlooking the power in the fact that music has this common core.
Christopher: So, I’m not pretending there’s a magic, overnight trick that’s going to make you a virtuoso in all of those amazing specifics. I’m not saying, overnight, you’ll be an incredible slap guitar, sorry, slap base, or blues guitar player, or jazz saxophone improvisor. But what if the key to unlocking that ease and joy, and the key to unlocking the most effective learning for all of those specifics was to come back to this common core, and connect with what is always there at the heart of it.
Christopher: You’ve probably encountered musicians, I’m sure you have, who it just seems to come easily to them. We often talk about being a natural, or having talent. There’s a whole conversation around that we won’t go into. But you look at them, and it just seems to come easily. What if you could just make an inner shift, that would let it all come easily to you, like that?
Christopher: Again, I’m very conscious. I’m talking not just to people who are new to Musical U and might have never heard this stuff before, but also people who are members, or who are Foundations students, who’ve come across some of these ideas. I really want you to ask yourself, have you been true to that.
Christopher: We’re going to come back in the next session, to the psychological stuff that’s going on, that might have stopped you from being true to that, and often makes us stop in our progress, or makes us, in some cases, never begin, right at the beginning. Ask yourself, “Am I acknowledging the fact that music is, fundamentally, really simple? It really connects with us in a really deep way. Whenever I’m doing something to learn music, I should be connecting with that.”
Christopher: You might have heard us talk about mental models, at Musical U. Some of what I’m talking about now is about that mental models thing. It’s, can you train your brain to understand what’s going on in that common core. When I say that common core, it’s not all that complex. The mental models don’t need to be that complex. You just need the right ones.
Christopher: That’s all absolutely true. But it’s a very scientific way of looking at things, and that’s probably at least partly because I’m a scientific type of person. So, I came at this from quite a scientific angle. But it neglects the fact that this is also about the feeling. When I talk about that common core, that connection with music, that ease and joy, we’re talking about something much deeper.
Christopher: That ownership, and that confidence, and that capability, it comes from the feeling. I kind of paused this week, and I was like, “We called our course Foundations of a Musical Mind. Maybe it should have been Foundations of a Musical Heart.” Because to come full circle, those quotes from the beginning, from Foundations students. They weren’t saying, “I am intellectually more capable.” Or, “I have mastered skill X, Y, Z.” They were saying things like, “I love this now.” Or, “This was so much fun.” Or, “I have a confidence I never had before.” That was coming from addressing this idea of a common core, bringing things back to really making music learning musical.
Christopher: I don’t want to turn it into a sales pitch. I’m not saying that to say Foundations is amazing. It is, but that’s not the point. I’m saying it because it’s a really clear example of how, when you put those fundamental skills, that common core, right at the center of things, learning music, all the learning you do becomes a thing of ease and joy. You get to that real transformation.
Christopher: I’m going to tell a super quick story, because I realize we’re running a bit long, just to illustrate that a bit further, and make sure we’re clear that, this is not something that’s unique to the Foundations course. The Foundations course, I think, is fantastic.
Christopher: But stepping back one notch, the Kodaly approach that it’s based on is all about this holistic. It’s all about this connection to music. It’s all about making sure that you can understand by ear, that you can hear music in your head, that you can sing music, that you can express rhythm with your body, all of that stuff.
Christopher: My first Kodaly lesson was a perfect example of the transformation that’s possible, because I had acquired all of these skills. Like I was talking about earlier, I kind of grafted them onto who I was, and I felt virtuous for doing so. It did empower me, to some degree. I could do things like play by ear and improvise.
Christopher: But honestly, my first Kodaly lesson was the first time I really felt like it was part of me. It was because I turned up, and the whole hour long lesson was a musical experience. When I was doing the scale degree recognition, figuring out sulfur notes by ear, and that kind of thing, yeah, it looked like a scientific skill acquisition thing. But actually, in the experience, it was a really joyful, fun, expressive, creative thing. That was so new to me, and so different.
Christopher: So, I just want to share that little story as an illustration, to say, you might think you’ve come at this because you’ve tried learning to play by ear, or you’ve tried to improvise, or you’ve tried sulfur, or whatever you might have tried. I just want to really hammer home that point, that it’s really about the mindset. It’s about how you approach those things, and the experience of learning them, as much as it’s about, have you put in place these specific skills.
Christopher: I think that’s often something that trips people up. We’re going to talk more about what trips people up in the next session, which I’m going to do my very best to keep shorter than this one. I’m not going to say how long I intended this one to be, because it’s deeply embarrassing, but clearly it’s longer than I intended. Hopefully, it was useful, interesting. I can see from the viewer numbers that I’ve kept your attention, to some degree anyway.
Christopher: I’ll leave you with a couple of questions, because I’ve given some practical stuff. We’ve given you that cheat sheet to try in your practicing. But I know that some of you are still thinking, okay, I kind of get it. This ease and joy thing might be the key for me. What do I do now?
Christopher: So, I want to give you these questions to go away with, and make the point that ease and joy isn’t … Don’t think of it as a perk. Don’t think of it as something I could pursue. This is the route to best results, best enjoyment, best fulfillment, best skill acquisition. It can be your North Star in all the music learning you do.
Christopher: So, ease and joy should be your watch word. Meaning, anytime you find yourself frustrated, you find yourself disappointed, you find yourself not looking forward to sitting down with your instrument, chances are, this is where things have gone off track.
Christopher: So, ask yourself this question I’m borrowing from Tim Ferris. Some of you may know, he has this great question. Which is, what would this look like if it was easy? Whatever you’re learning, just pause for a moment, cast aside your assumption that it needs to be done in a certain way, and ask yourself, “What would this look like if it was easy?”
Christopher: The second question goes hand in hand with that one. It is, how could this be more fun. A little hint on that one. Ask yourself, too, how could it be more musical. Because the chances are, you’ve got pigeonholed into some dry, abstract stuff you feel obliged to do. We’ll talk about obligation in the next session. You’ve lost sight of making it musical.
Christopher: One last killer question, could I let myself have more ease and joy learning this? That’s where we’re going to pick up on in the next session is, maybe you’re just not letting yourself do this.
Christopher: I’ll wrap things up there. Huge thank you to everyone for coming. I’m so delighted to see how many came live, and I know a lot of you will be watching the recording, too. Thank you very much. Shout out to the Musical U team, who came out in great numbers; Adam, Andrew, Zack, and Stewart. I don’t think we had Anastasia, but that might be a time zone thing.
Christopher: A huge thank you to everyone. Thank you for everyone who did make a comment. I didn’t read them all out. I didn’t read out all the questions. I apologize. Gosh, I can see those likes and loves coming. Yeah, thank you. That’s a lovely feature of Facebook.
Christopher: Wonderful. I hope that’s been super useful for you. We’ll be picking it up in the next session, because there’s probably some mental stuff. It’s probably already kicking in as you’ve heard me talk about this. There’s going to be some doubt. There’s going to be some uncertainty. There’s going to be some skepticism, I’m sure. So if you’re not yet convinced this is possible for you, we’ll be picking up on that in the next session. I hope to see you there tomorrow. Cheers.
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