Not sure about online music education vs. traditional lessons?
While traditional music education has its place, it unfortunately fails musicians in many ways. It tends to teach theory in ways that appear inapplicable to desired music skills (such as playing by ear, improvising, and sight reading), it limits a student’s repertoire to classical music, and there is often little room for creativity or mistakes.
No one knows this better than Musical U member CarlyA2Z, who joined Musical U to take her musical journey into her own hands and make a long-term plan with us to meet her goals of being a “practical musician”. We talked to Carly about her inspirations, her favourite part of Musical U, her secret to tracking her musical progress, and how she’s doing music her way.
Q: Hi CarlyA2Z! You came to Musical U as a classically-trained musician whose musical sensibilities didn’t quite mesh with the strictness of conservatory-style teaching. Tell us more about this.
I have an undergraduate music degree with a voice concentration. The environment was much like a conservatory, however, and I never felt like I fit in there. In fact, I had such a terrible experience that I vowed to quit music and did for the next six years. Before college, I enjoyed a broad range of musical activities from choir competitions (both traditional and pop choirs), musical theatre, casual guitar playing, songwriting, church music, and more. I have since narrowed that focus to more professional guitar playing and singing and writing my own songs.
Q: It’s so heartening to hear that musically, you segued into doing what interests you. What’s your favorite music track these days?
I’ve been really into Kendrick Lamar lately. His creativity and artistry, especially in his thematic and lyrical content and the way he channels other artists, give me a standard to which to aspire. This performance/track is especially great given that self-love seems to currently be a radical act:
Q: What a beautiful, high-energy, and life-affirming track! I can see why you and so many others take inspiration from him. What are you currently working on?
Musically, I’m working on technical guitar skills, ear training, and songwriting. But all of those things also depend on my emotional work, which right now is dealing with my fear of success and assessments of my sense of worth and capability. I’ve learned that I can’t get very far in my musical progress without addressing these things often.
Q: Very true – breaking down those mental roadblocks is absolutely necessary for musical progress. Before joining Musical U, where were you stuck?
Really, I was at the beginning of my new musical journey, so I had the will but was so far removed from all the skills I’d been taught. I didn’t know how to synthesize the bits of information I did know into my new musical goals that don’t have anything to do with my classical training. I had to work on a lot of self-worth and purpose issues to even get to the point of starting music again.
Q: So you were able to overcome those self-doubts to give music a second shot. How did you become interested in Musical U? Why did you decide to try it?
I googled something like “ear training for musicians” and Musical U was one of the first results. Christopher’s story seemed similar to mine, and I liked that he saw something wrong with how music is classically taught and made a new process that focuses on ear training. I didn’t know how to bridge my classical training with a practical music pursuit, so this seemed perfect for me.
Q: What experiences – and surprises – have stood out during your journey?
I didn’t realize how quickly I could grasp the basics of ear training and begin to recognize chord inversions, intervals, etc., perhaps due to my previous music training. It is encouraging that I really do have the capability to do music in a practical way.
I also really like the interaction facilitated by Musical U staff. I’m not usually someone who gets into the “community” aspects online but I feel like I’m having genuine and helpful conversations with people on Musical U instead of talking with a robot or being patronized.
Q: Besides getting support from like-minded musicians, are there other ways in which you have benefited from Musical U so far? Why is it important to you?
My ear training has very much improved, which is important to me because I want to be a practical musician instead of relying so much on theoretical knowledge, which doesn’t motivate me and which I find difficult to implement. It will allow me eventually to play songs that I hear and collaborate more effectively.
Q: We’re so glad that Musical U has proven valuable for your journey to actually picking up your instrument and playing! How have your plans changed along the way?
As I progress, I’m almost constantly adjusting. For instance, all the training in goal-setting and planning on Musical U inspired me to make an overall vision plan for my musical journey. After a while though, I realized I was progressing very slowly, and I found myself playing the same songs over and over and trying to “solidify” aural skills I already had. It made me realize that I have a fear of success, a concern that I won’t be able to handle any higher order music skills, and that I can change my vision plan for more rapid success.
Q: How has keeping a progress journal helped your musicality?
I mainly keep a general journal, in which I try to write a few pages everyday. It helps align my musical and emotional work in one place so I can realize how those elements are working together in my musical progression. It’s hard to describe why writing about your progress is so effective; I just know that the difference has been night and day for me. Writing everything down organizes my thoughts and allows me to see and celebrate my accomplishments.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Carly. Your ability to overcome mental roadblocks and give music a second go was very inspirational to hear about, and we’re all very eager to see how you continue to progress!
Inner confidence and support from like-minded people are vastly important for a musician, regardless of whether you’re starting new, a seasoned pro, or taking a second run at music like Carly. At Musical U, not only do you become part of a supportive music community, but you get to plan out your musical roadmap according to what you want to do musically – and not what an external, cookie-cutter curriculum has in mind.
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