Is there a big mental barrier that might be holding you back from ease and joy in learning music?

What you’re about to hear in this episode is the recording of a Facebook live session we did this week. We explained a bit more in yesterday’s episode of the podcast. If you didn’t hear that one yet, we do recommend listening to that one first, and we’re talking all about ease and joy in music learning.

So without further ado, please enjoy the recording of the second live session from this week. It is informal. It is unscripted. We’re just hanging out and talking about this topic with some Musical U members, with Foundation students, with our email audience, and with you, the podcast listener. Enjoy.

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Christopher: Hello, we are back live again for our second session this week, focusing on ease and joy in learning. My name’s Christopher. I’m the founder and director of Musical U, and I am going to fill a couple of minutes to let people tune in live. We’ve sent out emails about this, but I know that, often, we have people tuning in at the last minute, so I won’t dive straight into things, but don’t worry. I will not ramble for too long. In fact, I’m going to serenade you.

Christopher: Stewart, from the Musical U team joking that we had this photo of me at the piano as part of how we were promoting this, and letting you know about it, and he was like, “I tuned in expecting to hear Christopher singing at the piano.” I don’t have a piano, unfortunately, but, what was I singing to my daughters earlier? How about this? I’ll sing a song if you are tuned in live, or watching the recording of this. If you recognize the song, put the name in the comments, and first one to get it gets ten points? I don’t know. I don’t really have prizes, but name the song, and if you’re a Musical U member, or a Foundations student, bonus points for giving the sol-fa for the first line or two. Can you tell me the sol-fa of this song. And, what was I singing? Okay.

Christopher: (singing)

Christopher: Name that song. Can you? I can see we have people starting to tune in live. I’m not just singing to myself. That’s good to know. Name the song, if you know it, and if you know sol-fa, if you know relative movable do sol-fa, relative pitch, and put the sol-fa in the chat, and I’ll give you a minute to do that, and then I will give the answer.

Christopher: Before we dive into the content, and before I give that answer, some quick thank yous, an apology, a half apology, and a quick request. Thank you, first, to everyone who came along to the live session we did yesterday. That was a lot of fun, and we had, I think, yeah, over a hundred watch during the session, and six or seven hundred since we posted the recording, have watched that recording. That’s amazing, in the first 24 hours. So thank you to everyone for tuning in, and a special shout-out to Jameel, Nancy, Eve, and Tony, who came and posted comments. We had a lot more watching than were commenting, so it was a bit quiet, but really appreciate you coming, and particularly those who commented or asked questions along the way. Appreciate that.

Christopher: So that’s the thank you. Apology, I have to say sorry to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who I mangled his name yesterday and got the wrong nationality. I should have known, really, he is Hungarian, just like Zoltán Kodály, who I’ll be referring to later on. Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, the main researcher on the topic of flow, and that relates to the ease we’re talking about today. I said he was Polish. I’m sorry. He’s Hungarian. So apologies Mihaly, and anyone Polish or Hungarian that I offended. I have been to both countries. I realize they’re not the same, but I’m afraid I did not know which of the two he was from.

Christopher: And another apology, or half apology, really. Yesterday we ran super long, and I was about to apologize for that, and then I caught myself, because I’m only half sorry. I’m sorry if it interfered with your scheduling, or anything. Of course, I would hate to inconvenience you, but I will just say, I acknowledged yesterday, we’re kind of making this up this week. This isn’t how we normally present things, and it’s really just in an effort to get together with you guys in a much more informal way, and talk through some of this stuff, rather than me delivering a formal presentation with slides. But, that means we are kind of figuring it out as we go along. So, like yesterday, I have talking points, like bullet points, of what I have in mind to cover today. But, it’s totally flexible, if people want to shout about what they want me to focus on, or clarification of anything, and I’m going to do my very best to keep it a lot shorter today. It’s only a half apology, though, because everything we covered yesterday is really impactful, and I think I didn’t ramble too much. It just ran really long. So please do, if you haven’t already, watch the replay of part one, because what we were talking about was that kind of what, why and how of ease and joy in music, and I’ll give a quick recap in a moment.

Christopher: But, there was a lot packed in there, and I know from our experience with members of Musical U, that anyone of those concepts I was sharing could be that kind of light bulb, or the aha moment, or the breakthrough, in terms of mindset, that some of you have been looking for. So it is long, but I promise it’s worth it. So that’s my half apology. I’m sort of sorry yesterday was long, but I think it was good.

Christopher: Before I dive in, what did I say? I said thanks, apology, half apology, and a request. Yes. Request is please comment and ask questions. I can see Andrew giving a shout-out in the comments. Awesome. That’s Andrew Bishko from the Musical U team. We have SplashWellyKid, Eve, back again today. Fantastic. Great to have you here. If you’re watching this live, please do just pop a comment in. I can’t see who’s watching. I just get a number, and that’s a bit, it feels very inhuman, and, really, part of the point of doing this live is to get a bit of back and forth, and to hear who’s in the audience, so that I can tailor this to you. So please do just say “hi.” Maybe share a bit about your musical life, or whatever you’re comfortable sharing, and don’t be shy during the session. Please post comments, ask for clarification, ask questions, let me know what’s up. I’m going to try to do a better job of keeping an eye on the chat, and it didn’t scroll for me yesterday, so I’m remembering to scroll it manually.

Christopher: So, yeah. In a moment, I’ll give a recap. What did I sing? I sang a song and said “Can you name the song?” Or, if you’re a member of Musical U or Foundations student, or you happen to know movable do sol-fa, can you give the sol-fa for the first line? We have a bunch of students, and now I’ll sing the song again and see if you can name it and give the sol-fa, and I apologize if I’m changing key here. I don’t have a reference pitch, we’ll try it.

Christopher: (singing)

Christopher: Is that one familiar to you? That goes out to Stewart from the Musical U team who was asking for a serenade. I think he’s mowing the lawn, or something really important today, so he can’t be here live this time. Name the song, and name the sol-fa. And I’ll give you a moment, because people were tuning in late.

Christopher: Hello, Adam, hello Tempest, aesedai40, from Musical U. Another Musical U member. Fantastic. Welcome, great to have you here with us. And I’ll say it now. I was going to say it in a moment, but I’ll say now, you’re going to hear me referencing the Foundations course today, because it relates to a lot of what we’re talking about. I’m not here to pitch it. We’ll be opening the doors in a few days, and I hope that these sessions will maybe give some of you a chance to know a bit more about it, but I’m not here to pitch you. Frankly, we expect to sell out regardless, so I’m really here to serve you, and that goes doubly, because we’ve got Musical U members here, we’ve got Foundations graduates in the audience, I know. So I’m doing my best to make sure everything I say is as valuable for all of you as possible. So please don’t be put off if you hear me referencing Foundations. It’s not because I’m here to pitch it, or because it’s obligatory that you take. It’s just very relevant.

Christopher: So I’m not seeing any answers. Disappointing. Maybe my singing is terrible, but I’ll give the sol-fa, and people watching the replay I’m sure will have been bashing away at their keyboard, trying to let me know.

Christopher: (singing)

Christopher: Sorry for the pause, brain freeze. Need more coffee. That’s the sol-fa. Cockles and Mussels, Andrew, fantastic. I call it by another name, but you got it. I’m glad my singing wasn’t that far off. Cool. That is all the chitchat. I can see we have a bunch tuned in live. That’s great. Thank you for coming along for the live session.

Christopher: Without further ado, what are we here to talk about? We’re here to talk about ease and joy. I’m going to stop clapping my hands, because that’s really going to confuse people listening on the podcast. Sorry. We’re here to talk about ease and joy, and, oh, for the podcast listeners, sorry again for the audio not being amazing. I’m recording locally this time. I’ve been trying to figure this out, because it’s a bit different from how I record podcast interviews, so my local recording did not work yesterday, and I had glitchy audio, which drives me nuts, so I apologize if it drives you nuts. I think it wasn’t too bad, but apologies. I’ve got it today, I’ve got my lapel mic, I’ve got my Yeti, I should be fine.

Christopher: Yesterday, just a quick recap, if you haven’t watched it, or to remind you, we were talking about ease and joy, and specifically what, why and how. So what is “ease?” What are we talking about when I say “ease.” I’m sure have an instinctive understanding that you would love your musical life to easier. Wouldn’t we all? But, we’re talking specifically about that kind of flow, that things coming easily, naturally, smoothly, not straining, not striving, not having to work really hard to accomplish things. Just, things work. Things come. They happen. It’s great. That’s the kind of ease we’re talking about. I mentioned the word “flow” there. There is a technical scientific meaning of flow. I’ll talk a bit more about that later on, but that is very closely related to this, so if you’re familiar with that idea, the Hungarian researcher I mentioned, his idea of flow, totally what we’re talking about. But, we’re also talking in a more informal sense, when things are going swimmingly in your music making.

Christopher: And joy, again, I’m sure we all understand instinctively, yes, I’d love to enjoy my music learning more, and I’d love to have more fun. But, we’re talking specifically about that, it’s kind of that peaceful joy, that delight, in music, and one example I gave yesterday to get you in touch with what I’m talking about is new instrument syndrome. When you buy a new guitar, or you get a new piano, or you start a new instrument for the first time, that first month or so where you just can’t keep your hands off it, and you love to pick it up, and you pick it up just to play anything. You don’t pick it up thinking “I should run through some scales.” You just play it for the delight of playing it. That’s the kind of joy we’re talking about. And the question really is, could we bring that kind of ease and that kind of joy to all of our music learning? Not just performances, not just the one time in a blue moon that things go right. Could everything be like that?

Christopher: Why would we want to do this? This is worth touching on, because everything I just said sounds wonderful, right? But, I know that there are some people in the audience, yesterday and today, who are like myself, and immediately think, “Oh, but I won’t accomplish anything. That sounds nice, but I’d rather just hammer on and get the results I’m looking for.” So why ease and joy? Because they are actually the key to the fastest results, the best results, and that comes back again to that, excuse me, the scientific angle is flow, and that’s one way of showing yourself that this is possible. But, it’s also just in the big picture. It keeps you motivated. It keeps you engaged in practice sessions. There’s a whole bunch of different ways I can show you how ease and joy are the secret to better results. They’re not a cop out, they’re not a distraction. So we talked a lot about that.

Christopher: And then, after the why, we talked about the how, and there were two things on this. One is, get clear on your bigg picture vision and your goals. I won’t belabor that point. If you’re not familiar with that, please check the link in yesterday’s session for more on big picture vision, because if you’re not headed in the right direction, none of your practice is going to be easy and joyful.

Christopher: The second thing, though, and this is the deeper point, is the ease and joy isn’t something that we have to fabricate, and it isn’t something that we have to always be really creative with. I shared a cheat sheet that had some clever, not clever, but some cool exercises you can introduce to your practice sessions that just immediately make it a bit more fun. That’s one way to approach this, but actually, there’s a much deeper point, which is, if your whole mindset on music is one of “Music is inside me. I need to tap into that. I need to unlock this ease and joy,” everything shifts. And that’s really the kind of magic bullet, as much as there is one, is that one thing can make all the difference. It’s not all about having a hundred different types of way to practice your scales to make it fun. It’s about this mindset.

Christopher: That’s what we talked about yesterday, and I left you with the provocative question, it felt provocative to me, of saying “Could you let yourself have more ease and joy?” So we talked about what it was, why you’d want to do it, and what it looked like. But then, if you’re not already doing that, I left you with the question of “Is it because you don’t know it’s possible, or you don’t know how, or, actually, is it that you’re holding yourself back from doing it?” And that’s what we’re going to be picking up on today, because our experience with members of Musical U, with students over the years, is the mental stuff. That is almost as much, if not more so, than the physical “How can I move my fingers at the right time to do the right things?” There’s the mental game that goes on, and excuse me a moment while I cough, and I’ll try and cough…

Christopher: Cool. If I’ve gone suddenly gone silent, please do shout in the comments. My mic may not come back on. Hello, Valerie. How can I print out the cheat sheet? Valerie’s asking from yesterday. Love the podcast. Thank you, Valerie. Thank you for being a podcast listener. Really appreciate that, and I think I will reply to your comment in full, in the Facebook comments after the session, if that’s all right. But, thank you very much for posting, and I’m glad there was a big takeaway for you. The three questions, as you put it, that great to recap, actually. You phrase it as “How can it be easier? How can it be more fun, and how can it be more musical?” Right. I threw in there that, if you’re asking yourself “What would this look like if it was easy?” And you’re asking yourself “Is there a way to bring more joy to this?” Actually, what can unlock that joy is often “Could I make this more musical? Is that what’s missing?” Thank you. That’s a good point to remind people of. Don’t get stuck in the mud with all the details. Absolutely.

Christopher: How can you print the cheat sheet? There’s a link in yesterday’s session in the comments, and do shout again if you can’t find that, but if you open that in your web browser, you can print it from there. That should work fine. If you a save as, it’s a PDF, and then you can print it from there. Oh, yeah. That’s a super cool thing to keep in practice case, or your instrument case, by the way, that cheat sheet, to inspire more ease and joy.

Christopher: So that’s the recap from yesterday, and I think I already covered the next thing I had jotted down, which was just to explain I’m going to be mentioning Foundations. It’s not to pitch it. We have members in the audience, we have Foundations grads in the audience. It’s because it’s just very deeply tied to all of this stuff I’m talking about, and it was really opening the doors to Foundations on Friday, is what inspired me to put on these live sessions this week.

Christopher: I do want to say, though, if you are a member, or you’re a Foundations student or graduate, please don’t tune out if some of this is familiar. Some of it will be familiar, because, like I said, they’re deeply tied together, but everything I’m sharing today is something that I genuinely, continually remind myself of, and everything from yesterday, too. This is not stuff where you hear it once and you’re done, then you know it. This is stuff that we’re continually trying to get our mindset right, and continually need to be asking “What am I doing in my musical life, and does it match up with that thing I know I should be doing?” And I didn’t want to want to phrase it like that, but “that thing I’m aiming to do” is maybe a better way to put it. So, if you’re a member, if you’re a Foundations student, if you’re a Foundations graduate, please listen like everyone with an open mind, and constantly ask yourself “How does this tie into my musical life?” And, if you do that, you’re going to get a ton out of this session.

Christopher: So the overview of today, like I said, we’re going to be talking about the mental game, the psychological. If ease and joy is possible, what is holding us back? Why are we not getting ease and joy? And there are some internal things in your head, and there are some external things. We’re going to talk a bit more about the external tomorrow. Today, we’re going to focus on what’s going on inside you that might be holding you back from ease and joy. I’m going to share the symptoms, as it were, things you can look out for in your musical life that will tip you off you’ve got this going on. And then, I’m going to present the cure as suits the symptoms. Not to over-state it, but I’ll talk about how to spot this going on, and then what you can do about it.

Christopher: So I’ll just double-check. I’m scrolling the comments. Okay. Oh, I’m not? Sorry. Thanks, Andrew, for sharing the cheat sheet again. That’s the overview for today. The psychological, the symptoms and the cure. And I left you with a question, “Could I let myself have more ease and joy?” And I’m going to be a bit blunt for moment. I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m going to give you the straight talk, which is, you might be the problem, and if you come along yesterday, you know now that ease and joy are possible, and you’re hopefully beginning to believe that this could be the fastest route to success. If you’re not doing it, if you haven’t been doing it, and if yesterday wasn’t new to you and you haven’t felt like your musical life was easy and light and joyful and delightful, why not?

Christopher: It might be something in your head. It might be a mental block you have. It’s not your fault. I wouldn’t be presenting this if it wasn’t a really, really common situation. So you’re not alone. But, it is a big mental block, and hopefully today, I’m going help you break past that, and get it to stop holding you back from ease and joy, get access to the ease and joy you deserve.

Christopher: So let’s talk a little bit about the symptoms. And I’m trying to judge this. I’m zipping through things a bit, because I want to keep it quicker than yesterday, and denser, for you guys, in terms of getting the information across, but please do shout if I’m talking too fast. I know we often have English as a second language people in our audience, and you may not understand when I talk fast. Or, if you don’t quite follow something I’ve said, because I’ve zipped through it too fast, please shout in the comments, and I’ll do my best to cycle back and explain.

Christopher: The symptoms. Here are some signs that you may have this mental barrier that’s going on, a mental barrier that’s holding you back from ease and joy that would otherwise just be natural. And remember, we’re not talking about fabricating ease and joy. Yes, you can do that, and that cheat sheet, for example, is a way to, not artificially, but very actively, very conscientiously introduce more joy and keep things interesting. But, we’re talking about tapping into that inner ease and joy, making that your default, recognizing that it can be your default, and this is why we talk more and more here at Musical U about unlocking your inner natural, rather than becoming a natural, or turning into a natural, or acquiring the skills that make you a natural.

Christopher: We talk a lot now about unlocking your inner natural, and it’s because you genuinely have one in there waiting to come out, and this ease and joy is one great lens for looking at that and saying “If I’m not experiencing ease and joy, something is blocking that. It’s not that I need to create it, it’s that I need to remove a block and let it out.” And let’s see what that looks like in practice. I shared one example in yesterday’s session, a story from my own life, and I’ll give the very brief nutshell summary, if you haven’t yet watched that session, which is I’ve been learning drums, and I had that new instrument syndrome. I had a lot of joy for the first month, or two. I’d sit down and play, and the drum set is in my office, so I could barely help myself all day long, and I was having a lot of fun, I was enjoying it. And I was practicing every day, several times.

Christopher: And, over time, that new instrument syndrome wore off, the novelty wore off, and I found that, actually, I wasn’t practicing, and I was having my weekly lessons, and I enjoyed them, and I was learning, but I wasn’t doing my day-to-day practice, and I feel guilty saying that. I’m the head of a music education company. I shouldn’t really admit that I don’t always practice, but I am just like you, in that sense. I struggle with the same kind of mental issues, and what helped me was what I’m sharing today, which is getting back to that ease and joy.

Christopher: And so, I shared this yesterday as an example of how I needed to reconnect with the joy, with what brought me joy. And, for me, that was punk rock drumming. I was picking a pop, punk song that I really enjoyed, a Jimmy Eat World track. I’m just sitting down every morning, I just drum through that song. I wouldn’t worry too much about technique. I was improving along the way, but I just drummed for the fun of it. And it unlocked that joy again, and, of course, once I sat down for the three minutes, I did another 10 minutes to figure out how to do something or to improve my technique. And, over time, that built up, and it just got me back into the swing of it and reminded me why I was doing all of it in the first place, because it’s not like I’m, well, not yet, setting out to be career punk rock drummer. I might make that my second career. That would be awesome.

Christopher: So, reconnecting with joy, that’s an example how it can help you with the motivation, but if you’re not consistently practicing, that’s a sign that something is blocking that ease and joy, and yes, you can do something, not artificial, but something, I’m reaching for a word here and not placing it, but something… fabricated. Something… Okay, sorry. Can’t think of right word, but you can do something artificial to bolt on that joy, or not bolt on, but to give you immediate access, and kind of get you going again. That’s great, and that’s what I did with the drumming.

Christopher: But, you can also return to what we’re talking about today, which is the inner ease and joy, and any barriers that’s stopping that from coming out. And there was another story for that drumming that’s kind of the part two, but I won’t tell it today, for the sake of time. So, if you’re not practicing consistently, and I know, even as I say that, I know some of you immediately feel guilt, because you didn’t practice yesterday, or you set out to practice every day when you set your New Year’s resolutions, and you’ve fallen off the wagon. Or travel came up, or family commitments, or work. Things have been busy. You just haven’t been getting it done, and I think we all know we’re all grown ups here. There’s always going to be an excuse, there’s always going to be a good reason why you didn’t do your practice, but we all know that, with the new instruments, and drums, for example, you just can’t help yourself.

Christopher: It gets done because it’s a priority, and because you’ve got that ease and joy with it, and you want to. So if you’re not practicing consistently, that’s a big sign that you’ve got this mental block that’s preventing you from ease and joy. Another symptom, a different symptom, is if you feel like you’re not making progress. We hear this a lot at Musical U, in terms of instrument technique, is people feeling like they’ve got stuck, or they’ve plateaued. They maybe had that beginner phase where they were getting better and better and better, and then things tailed off, or they’ve been playing for years, and it feels like, over the last year, they just haven’t really improved that much. That’s another sign that you’ve got this mental barrier that’s blocking your natural ease and joy in learning music.

Christopher: Another symptom you can look out for is, if you actually are improving, if you’re making progress in an objective sense, but your heart just isn’t in it. If you feel disappointed in yourself, or you feel frustrated, that’s another sign that something is blocking that ease and joy.

Christopher: A lot of these boil down to “shoulds.” I should practice, I should be better by now, I should be able to play this piece without mistakes. And one big thing I wanted to share today is, if ease and joy of what we’re aiming for, if they had an arch-nemesis, like a super villain, it might be “should.” All of these shoulds, all of these obligations, duties, pressures from yourself or from outside, that is the exact opposite of what we’re going for, and it is really the crux of what, in practical terms, this looks like for people. The way it manifests in the world, in your musical life, is a feel of pressure, a feeling of stress, a feeling of obligation, a feeling of disappointing people, or yourself. I should, I should, I should. If you hearing yourself saying “I should,” pause for a minute and be like, “That’s blocking my ease and joy.” And it’s not quite as simple as that.

Christopher: Those are some symptoms, and that’s one thing to help you set your mindset straight, but there’s more kind of psychological head trash that goes on here, more negative baggage that we’ve got that blocking the ease and joy. And big one is, I don’t know exactly where this name comes from, and I hesitate to use it, in case it has weird implications I don’t know of, it’s called the “Protestant work ethic,” and I think there are religious roots to that. I’m not sure. But, I just use it to mean that sense that you should work hard. You’re only a good person if you are working hard and suffering, really, is I’m suffering, sacrificing myself for accomplishing something. A lot of us, as adult musicians, get into that mentality, and particularly, when we encounter the difficulties in learning, and we have to put in a bit of extra effort, that just turns into a feedback loop where then if we’re not putting in that effort, we feel like we’re going easy on ourselves, and you get onto this hamster wheel of “No pain, no gain. I must work diligently and work hard, and if I’m not resenting my music practice, I’m not doing it right.”

Christopher: I expect a lot of people can relate to that. Please shout in the comments if that’s resonating with you, or, indeed, if you have any questions or comments so far, I will keep an eye on that. If you felt like you’re on a hamster wheel of obligation, if you’re feeling that should, I should be working hard, if you’re feeling like the practicing music is a sacrifice I make in order to accomplish something, or because that’s what good musicians do, you’re going to get stuck in a rut of obligation that is the exact opposite of ease and joy. And I want to bring you back to that point from yesterday, that the science of flow shows us that this is not true. There is a moral, Protestant work ethic that says “Good people work hard and suffer.” But, actually, if you look at what it takes to achieve results, that’s not true. That’s not the reality. And the science research on flow states and the highest achievers, the people who achieve the most in any given field, really, is that it should feel easy, it should feel like flow, it should be something you enjoy so much you get lost in it.

Christopher: And it’s not the same as tuning out and daydreaming. It is a particular kind of ease and flow, and that’s why I started out by saying “What do we mean by ease and flow,” sorry, “ease and joy,” “ease and joy,” the particular meaning of those two words. But, the point is, that produces results, and the science shows that. So I don’t want you to get stuck on the specifics of flow. I could go into a whole thing on how to get into that flow state, and what are the criteria, and that’s cool, but it’s not really the point here. The point is, it’s a counter example of what you may have going on in your head, which is if I’m not suffering, I won’t achieve. And that is a big mental block. That is probably the mental block, is I can’t allow myself to experience ease and joy, because that means I won’t get the results. That is the big barrier I wanted to talk about today, and, hopefully, the way I have approached this, it’s connected with you, it’s clicked in your head.

Christopher: You’ve been able to identify some of these common sayings you’ve got in your head, like “No pain, no gain,” or “Results require sacrifice,” or whatever it may be, you’ve probably got that voice in your head. We all do, to some degree or another, in the society we’ve grown up in, anywhere in the Western world, and probably elsewhere, we inherit that idea. But the science shows it’s not true, and the results we see with Musical U members, with Foundations students, shows vividly it’s not true. And so, I wanted you to use that flow idea as a clear counter example to say “That’s not true. No, we know that’s not true. So I don’t need to listen to that voice. I don’t need to listen to that voice that says ‘Feel guilty if you’re not suffering.’ I don’t need to listen to that voice saying ‘That was a fun music practice session, so I better work harder tomorrow.'” You don’t need to pay attention to that voice that says “Don’t start with the piece you love, because then you use up all your best energy on the stuff that isn’t challenging.”

Christopher: Allow yourself to experience ease and joy, and trust that it will lead to results. If you approach it in the right way, and I’ll talk more about that in a moment, it will produce results. That’s the barrier, that’s how I recommend thinking about this. That’s how to spot what’s going on, and how to start talking yourself out of those assumptions, and if you’re with me so far, that music learning can be easy and joyful and more effective, if you’re not experiencing that, it’s probably because there’s doubt in your mind, or fear, or skepticism that this kind of ease and joy could be possible, could be effective for you personally, and you might immediately think you’re cheating, or you’re skipping school, you should do this. I think I’ve made the point enough. That is a false mental barrier.

Christopher: But, I get it. I totally get why some of you, even as I say this, might be like, “I don’t know. I’m not sure. It sounds nice, but it’s probably safer to stick to what I know, gets me some results, even if it’s not getting me ease and joy.” If you’re having that reaction right now, totally get it. It’s scary to try something different, and especially when it goes against the status quo. The status quo in music education and in having music as a hobby, learning it as an adult, unfortunately is not ease and joy. It is hard, painful slog, boredom, frustration, and giving up. The statistics on how long people play an instrument for, when they pick it up as an adult before giving up, is disheartening, to say the least, and that’s really what drives me to offer this training this week, is because, even inside Musical U, where we are focused a lot on this stuff, we’re still working with members all the time, every day, on these kinds of things, of reminding them to reconnect with that ease and joy, and reminding them it’s okay to enjoy music, and reminding them that there is this different way of approaching things, and that way we’ll deliver results, too.

Christopher: I wanted to share an analogy one of my coaches gave me one time, not in the world of music, but outside of that, when talking about allowing yourself to experience ease and joy, and that was, you know when you are trying to open the drawer in the kitchen to get some cutlery. You’re trying to open the door and it’s stuck, and you’re pulling at the drawer, and you’re pulling, and it’s stuck, and you’re pulling harder, and harder, and you’re pulling harder and harder, and it’s because there’s a spoon stuck in there, right? There’s a spoon jammed diagonally, and you can’t get the drawer open, and you can try harder and harder, and you can try and force it, but actually, if you reach in and you just kind of shift the spoon a little, oh, the drawer opens. Very little effort required.

Christopher: What if taking the right approach could make music learning easy and joyful just like that? What if it was about removing that barrier, flipping something around, and suddenly everything is just a lot more pleasant? I wanted to share a little bit more of the story I touched on yesterday, which was my first Kodály lesson, and for anyone not familiar, Kodály was a Hungarian composer in the 20th century, came up with this phenomenal method of teaching in a musicianship, in a skills of music, like playing by ear, improvising, feeling free and creative, singing, understanding music by ear. All that good stuff. But, for historical reasons, and because it was pre-internet, this just didn’t take off around the world, and it’s kind of been pigeon holed and locked away. Our Foundations course is Kodály-based. That’s why I mention it.

Christopher: But, a few years ago, I came across this for the first time, and I took lessons with one of the top instructors in the UK, in person, for a while. And my first lesson was a bit mind-blowing, and it was a lot like that spoon stuck a drawer, because I’d been doing ear training, and I touched on this yesterday. It was like I was trying to bolt on something from outside me onto me, and I was trying to grab this musician thing and put it onto me, and because I was not a musician, I was not a real musician, I was not a natural musician, I needed to get this musical skill stuff and graft it onto me. That was, in retrospect, where I was coming from, and maybe some of you can relate to that, but you’re trying to learn the skills because you want to add them on to who you naturally are.

Christopher: And what happened for me in that first lesson was a bit mind-blowing, because what we did was not that advanced. We were doing some basic exercises with some simple songs, but there were a couple of really powerful things, and one was the whole lesson felt like making music. This wasn’t a bit of theoretical explanation, and then some drills, and then a test. This was me and another person just kind of going back and forth with musical ideas, and through it, I was learning the skills. That was amazing. That was not something I had experienced in ear training before. But, more than that, for the first time I was using these skills I had developed over the years in a way that felt like it was coming from me. This was not me doing this skill over here that I have tried to learn. This was bringing something out from inside me that was there already and just needed to be let out, and that was never part of who I was as a musician.

Christopher: And it was very much that spoon stuck in a drawer thing, where I suddenly realized, “Oh, if I approach music learning, if I approach ear training in a different way, everything kind of fits together. Everything’s more pleasant, and I feel like it’s coming from inside me, not something I’m trying to acquire artificially.” And I share that story because it’s the kind of thing we hear all the time now from Foundations students, so we’ve tried to give that same experience online, and teach people from the very basics these kinds of expressive skills, and in the Kodály methodology, philosophy, however you wan to phrase it. And we hear these kinds of comments. I shared some of them in the first session, was “It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable. It’s just flows, it comes. I feel like this is part of me now.” And you can hear in the words, and we’ve done some calls with Foundations students, as well as communicating online, and there’s just such a fresh enthusiasm and excitement, and they feel empowered, and they’ve got agency. That’s not a word that’s used very much, but I use it a lot in this context, because agency means “I am deciding what to do.”

Christopher: And, in music, often, we don’t feel like that. We feel like we play the notes we’re told, but a lot of what we’re talking about here is about having agency, feeling that, if you want something to happen musically, you can make it happen. Letting that from inside, out. I’m not pretending this is totally effortless. This is still learning, but if you come at it from a different mindset, and you think in terms of the process more than the goals, if you expect the process to be musical and easy and joyful, everything changes. And I wanted to pose that question to you. What if your music learning could feel easy and natural, and bring you that child-like sense of joy and wonder. I don’t think I shared it yesterday, I meant to, but we had a great interview with Scott Devine on the podcasts, a few weeks ago, the guy behind Scott’s Bass Lessons, the biggest bass education website in the world.

Christopher: He has talked to some of the most amazing musicians, not just bassists, but musicians of all stripes. And I asked him, “What do they all have in common? Is it talent? Do they have a gift? Why are they the best?” And he said, “It really seems to boil down to taking a child-like sense of wonder and curiosity and a genuine enthusiasm to the learning process.” And that was just magic for me to hear, because it aligns so exactly with what we talk about here at Musical U, and what I’ve just described is the best learning, the most effective learning, and the most enjoyable learning, is when you really feel genuinely enthusiastic and interested and passionate about becoming better.

Christopher: What’s in front of you here, whether you are new to Musical U, or you’re already a member, or you are a Foundations student, what I’m trying to put in front of you today is the opportunity to take a moment and reflect on whether you have been allowing yourself enough to feel ease and joy, and if not, is it because you don’t believe it’s possible? Is it because you think it’s a cop out? Is it because you think you should do this? You should do that? Or is it really just you haven’t yet tried it? You haven’t yet tried this approach? And I did wan to mention what I said, which is it’s scary. It’s scary to do something new, particularly if it’s not the norm, if it’s not the status quo, but I think it’s worth it, right? To take that little leap of faith, to say goodbye to all of that struggle and straining and striving and suffering and that Protestant work ethic of “I must suffer, or it’s not real work.”

Christopher: What if you can say goodbye to all of that, and, instead of grafting on musical skills by force, you just kind of tapped into something that was naturally inside of you? Takes a leap of faith. I know you’re music practice time is valuable, and we don’t want to go down a path that isn’t going to serve us, but if you try this, whatever stage you’re at, if you try this and if you renew this, if you’ve tried it before and you’ve fallen off the wagon, as it were, and fallen back onto that hamster wheel, if you try this, I guarantee you will get better results. And I don’t use that word lightly. I didn’t say “promise,” I said “guaranteed.” That’s for a reason. I’ll talk more about that in the next session, but I guarantee you will not only have more ease, you’ll not only have more joy, you will actually achieve more, too.

Christopher: So that’s what I wanted to share with you today, that mental barrier, I can’t let myself have ease and joy because it won’t be real learning, because I should do this, because you’re meant to do it this way. If you’ve got that barrier going on, all it takes is to drop it. You can do that right now, is to let go of that, and be like, “I’ll try it a different way.” If you do that, I guarantee you’re going to like what happens.

Christopher: That’s all for today. I’m going to try, look at me go. I’m doing it much, much more concisely that yesterday. Well done, me. And I see some nice comments appreciating it in the chat. Tempest in the chat says “I think was used to hard, difficult musical work, that if done well and for long enough, might finally provide amazing results on-stage.” Yeah. I get it, Tempest, and I’ll reiterate what I said a little earlier, which is I’m not pretending that you flip a switch and you are a virtuoso instrument player. The physicality of playing an instrument, and the new brain pathways you need to develop to do something like play by ear, or improvise, they don’t happen over night. I’m not pretending they do, but changing your mindset and changing your beliefs so that the experience of getting to that moment on-stage where you’re the incredible virtuoso, that can happen immediately.

Christopher: You can flip that switch in your head right now, transform that process to one of ease and joy, and if you approach it in the right way, if you approach it from the kind of holistic musician, letting the exercises be musical, letting the inner musician out a little bit, rather than trying to graft something on from outside. If you approach things in that way, it will deliver better results, and it will get you to that moment on-stage faster, and in a so much more enjoyable way. Thank you for sharing that, Tempest. It’s great to hear where you’re coming from on that one.

Christopher: I’m having a quick look in the chat in case there were any big questions, and I apologize if I’m missing any. I see there’s a lot of discussion back and forth. That’s great. I won’t read it all out for everyone, but you can flip through the chat yourself. I’ll wrap up just by saying a big thank you for joining us live. We had a great opportunity, and again, today, for the live session, and I know I meant to apologize at the start, actually. I had one more apology, which is scheduling. We had, I think I said six or seven hundred people watch the replay, compared with 100, 150 tune in live, and I get very clearly that’s because I’m doing it at a time that’s morning in the US, and not everyone’s available at their computer to watch musical training live, at that time.

Christopher: We talked about it in the team. I considered doing them at midnight to be in the evening US, and we decided on balance that was not going to work out best for everyone, so I apologize. If you aren’t able to attend live, and it’s because it’s an inconvenient time, and particularly we always let down the folks in Australia. I’m sorry. And New Zealand. But, hopefully you’ve watched the replay. If you have any questions, send them in after the fact. I’ll be more than happy to help, even if you’re watching the replay, rather than the live.

Christopher: Thank you for coming live. Please come back again for the third session, where we will be picking up on the external. Like what might actually be out there stopping you from getting this ease and joy, and some of the, what I’ll be talking about is probably what’s already on your mind, and already making you think “It’s not just about the inside. I’m not convinced this will actually work.” So if that’s what’s going on in your head, don’t miss tomorrow’s session, and I’ll also explain what I meant by that cryptic mention of guarantee, not promise. I’ll explain that in full, and just to say I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Foundations is opening up in just a couple of days, Friday of this week, if you’re watching live, or you’re watching the replay in the week that it happened. About to open the doors again. Do expect it to sell out, and quite quickly, the last couple of times.

Christopher: So, if you’re interested, study up on our website. I’ll be sharing a little bit more tomorrow, but make sure you’re primed to get in there on Friday or Saturday, because if spots fill up, I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do. That’s it for me. Thanks again for coming, and I give myself 10 bonus points for finishing a bit quicker than yesterday. I’ll do my best to keep things concise again tomorrow. And, yeah, big thank you again to everyone who’s joined us. Cheers. Bye bye.

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