In the world of music education, we love to talk about musical foundations – the knowledge and skills that serve as the basis on which your future musical learning will be built.
It goes without saying that a house is only as strong as its foundation, as mastering basics leads to smoother sailing down the road, whereas skipping the rudiments can cause confusion, frustration, and roadblocks when you go on to the more advanced concepts and techniques.
Jenny has really made the most out of Musical U in the seven months she has been a member, using the SingTrue app to improve her singing, learning music theory from the ground up, and using community support and feedback to maintain her learning momentum.
Musical U interviewed Jenny on her musical background and trajectory, how Musical U has fit into her journey, and how her plans have changed along the way.
Q: Hi Jenny, and welcome to Musical U! Tell us about your musical background.
I had none until age 45, at which point I began vaguely daydreaming about trying banjo. A friend suggested I try a banjo uke for simple, cheap learning. I was hooked! I practiced on my own and participated in a weekly strumalong. About a year later, I joined a singalong group, and that helped develop my ear, voice, and confidence. Then, last February I did a workshop in bluegrass jam skills; that launched me a good ways forward. And then I found Musical U!
Q: What’s your favorite music track these days? What are you currently working on?
I have no favourite… but also hundreds of favourites! I listen to blues, folk, gospel, bluegrass, zydeco, and stuff that has elements of those.
At the moment, I’m building a repertoire of memorized songs, so that I can play paperless anywhere, anytime. I’m also working on developing impromptu soloing (lead break) skills – I may have officially given up on picking melodies!
Q: Before joining Musical U, where were you stuck? Why did you become interested in Musical U, and decide to try it?
I had learned bits of theory, and saw how helpful each detail was for progressing rapidly. But I was missing a lot of foundational pieces. I was frustrated with piecemeal learning – having to wait for one person after another to share a key bit of information with me. I wanted to have all the pieces, from the ground up.
”My musical development is very organic, and is balanced between practice at home and online, and what I can do live with others.”
The other big part was just general conversation and encouragement – I was very isolated, not just in learning but in having anyone to share with, wonder with, explore with.
I was desperate to learn music theory from the foundation up. I kept looking for an online school, preferably an accredited one. I never found that, but eventually Musical U popped up in my Google searches and seemed to speak to that desire. I thought I’d give it a go. Soon after, I bought a lifetime membership!
Interestingly, I was months into Musical U when I realized that the SingTrue App I’d previously tried was created by Musical U! I’d given the app a go without ever realizing there was a whole music education resource and community behind it.
Q: What experiences – and surprises – have stood out during your journey?
That I could do music at all! I’d always wanted to be able to sing. On the one hand, I sensed that I might be able to. On the other hand, everything that came out sounded ”wrong”, and I didn’t know why.
In my mid-40s, I started being around more people who made music. It was amazing to me that they could create a musical backdrop and inspire singing, or that they could work out harmonies so quickly. I craved to be able to do things like that.
And now, I’m blown away that within two years of starting, I can!
Q: So being surrounded by other musicians with these incredible skills inspired you to hone your own! How have you benefited from Musical U and its community so far? Why is it important to you?
The number one thing has been the support of the admin staff. I post in my journal, and it seems like at least two staff members read each post and at least one comments on each. When I post a question anywhere on the site, someone takes the time to answer it. So interestingly, it hasn’t just been the program itself; it’s been having people who support me in my forward movement, who pay attention and seem interested and say encouraging things. That resolves the isolation. That was something I really needed. If I have genuine human support, I am able to accomplish a lot. (Thank you, Weehauktaw and GtrStu777!!)
The program itself is also excellent! The quizzes and games help me to know where I’m at currently, and help me fill in the gaps in my learning. Information presented in writing or video is broken up clearly and progressively for easy understanding. It doesn’t assume prior knowledge, instead letting me start at the very beginning of any topic or skill.
I also really appreciate that Musical U refers us to other resources we might benefit from. This is professionalism at its best: to supply a top-notch program and then still link its participants to other excellent resources. That tells me that Musical U really cares about us having optimal results.
Q: We’re so glad that you’re able to use all those tools to maintain your learning momentum! How have your plans changed along the way?
How? Oh, “constantly!” ;)
I started out with a training plan, completed a chunk of that, then focused again on what I’m doing ”in real life”, relying on the support of the journal. For me, it makes sense to keep it changing. My musical development is very organic, and is balanced between practice at home and online, and what I can do live with others. I like knowing that whenever my live scene is less busy, I’ve got endless resources here to delve back into.
Q: Sounds like a great balance!
You make great use of the progress journal, bringing other members along for the ride by sharing your practice routines and revelations. How has keeping a progress journal helped your musicality?
It has really helped me identify my goals – both long term and short term – and to focus on them. It has also let me see where I’ve achieved a dream and to set out my next vision.
Putting the Pieces Together
A frustrating experience in learning music is falling victim to that “piecemeal learning” that Jenny describes above – where you are fed bits of information at a time, making it difficult to put it all together into a single, integrated body of knowledge.
The solution? Take matters into your own hands, and find a learning plan that will give you each piece of the learning puzzle right from the get-go – just like Jenny did.
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