The Psychology of Music and Self-Perception

“Hey, great show! Love seeing your band, and I really enjoy your drumming.”

If you have ever played a show at a club, and then had someone say something like this to you after, then you know the feeling. You have to smile and say “thank you” to this person. Meanwhile, in your head you are re-playing all of the mistakes that you made during the show. Your opinion is that the show sucked.

This situation highlights the difficult psychological issues that come up for musicians. Others might view us as being great, while we have a different perspective of ourselves.

A FEW MORE EXAMPLES
When I told my band that I was taking guitar lessons, one of them had an interesting reply.

“Why would you do that? You’re already a great guitarist.”

My initial reaction to this was that maybe I should no longer trust his judgment, and that he’s lost all credibility with me. This is not because I have a judgment to pass on him, but because of judgments I pass on myself. I do not see myself in this light.

Later, I was on the other end of this transaction with my guitar mentor. I wrote him an email about where I want to go in my studies. I talked about artists whose work I wanted to investigate deeper. He was one of those artists. I said, “I really like your style and approach, which is why I’m here.”

When we had our latest lesson, he said that he’d read my email. He thanked me for the kind words, and then asked that we be “done with” the compliments. He did add that we may disagree about certain things in the future, as well.

I think that he approached it this way in order to intercept a potential issue that he may have had in the past with fans. Maybe he and the student had a disagreement, and some hard feelings resulted.

I have a respect for what he does, and do not approach anyone as if I’m a fan. Still, respect is an attribute that fans have, and expressing this can come off as if I’m a fan. I view fans as being blinded by celebrity, which is something I’ve done away with decades ago. Still, better safe than sorry.

In the end, my respect is understood, and now we’re going to move forward. I do not need to express this again.

UNDERSTANDING BOTH SIDES
If someone says they like what I do, then I take it at face value. They mean it. My perspective of myself or how my show went does not factor into their perspective of me or how their experience went.

I had to see both sides of this before I understood the dynamics of it.

A STRANGE THING THAT HAPPENS OVER TIME
When I was young, I learned, and then I did. Music came easily for me at the time. I felt that I had my genre of interest “mastered” to a degree that was sufficient for my artistic expression.

The older I got, the more  my perspective shifted. I would become unsatisfied with what I could do and what I knew. As a result, I would observe other players and try to teach myself elements of what they could do. I would also take lessons.

This resulted in a paradox, wherein the more I knew, the more I realized I did not know.

It’s like running on a football field, where you are certain that there is 300 yards of field in front of you. You start running toward to goal post on the other side, only to see it getting smaller. You keep running, and it gets bigger for a brief period, but then shrinks once again, rather quickly.

Suddenly, the other goal post appears to be many miles away. When you turn around to see your own progress, you realize that you’re only ten feet away from your original starting point.

WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW
That feeling is daunting, and can cause someone to give up. As horrible as this feeling may be, let’s make it way worse.

If there is something you do not know, and you don’t know that you do not know it, then how can you know?

When I started with my guitar lessons, I had certain goals. Some of these goals ended up being modified, while others ended up going away completely. The more I learned, the more I realized I did not know.

Learning tends to go down this path. The guitar is an infinite instrument that can never truly be mastered. However, I can get better at what I want to do and what I want to get out of the instrument by practicing accordingly.

MY VIEW ON MY OWN ABILITIES
When I was young, I was a bad ass who could play any rock song I heard, to varying degrees. But as I got older, my musical interests got more complicated. Also, I wanted to be able to play beyond where I had been before.

I have confidence that I am not a beginner. However, the goal posts have moved so far that I cannot see the end. I can gain some ground, or so I think, by learning new things and implementing them into my tool box.

But will I ever be awesome? Will I ever be the best? Will I ever be a guitar god?

No. In fact, I may not ever think that I’m all that great. Not only do I acknowledged all of the musicians in the world who are beyond my ability, but these days I end up listening to music that I know I can never play.

As a musician, I have never been so good, and have never felt so not good.

DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a form of cognitive bias, where a person who has relatively low ability holds the illusion of superiority.

Everyone has witnessed this at one time or another. A good, generic example is the person who parrots all of the talking points of their favorite talk show host. As they speak, you can tell that they believe that they are smarter than you. When you ask them to clarify their position, they tell you to “Google it.”

HOW TO TELL IF YOU SUFFER THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT
A person who believes themselves to be the best, the smartest, the fastest, etc., suffer this effect if their abilities do not match their claims.

What most of the great musicians I know have in common is that they do not assert themselves to be in some kind of category. They are constantly learning.

I may enjoy some of my own music, but I don’t see any of it as some kind of stellar accomplishment, or something that will change the world. Regardless of where one puts my current skill level, I am open to learning more, I am actively learning, and I am actively practicing what I am learning.

Will I reach a level of greatness one day? Probably not. I’m enjoying learning, and I am also enjoying the results of my hard work.

I will not be writing the next great symphony, but I will be having fun with what I do.

CLIMBING A SUMMIT AND WHAT IS AT THE TOP
Every musician has had thoughts like this at one point in their lives, most probably when they were young.

“If only I can learn how to do [insert instrument trick here], I will have finally made it.”

On the surface, this sounds silly. To a degree, it is silly. But it’s also positive.

I had this belief long ago, that if I can learn how to play something, or build up speed, then I will have “arrived.” But then something strange happens when I actually work and acquire the ability to play this desired “thing.” That is, it’s no longer special. It no longer has meaning. It becomes something that “anybody can do.”

I’ve just learned something, and I don’t feel any better about it. I don’t feel that I’ve arrived.

As I stand on the summit of that “thing,” I look around and see one million other summits that need to be climbed. I see other people standing on those summits, and I know that it took them 50 years to get there.

I’m now at the base of a new summit, ready to take the first step toward getting to the top, with the realization that I won’t feel any differently when I get there. Taking those steps suddenly gets more difficult.

IMPOSTOR SYNDROME
People who suffer Impostor Syndrome have horrible thoughts about how they’re really no good at all. They’re a fraud, and everyone is going to find out.

This is the polar opposite of Dunning-Kruger. To summarize:

  1. Dunning-Kruger: Believing you’re the best, when you’re the worst.
  2. Impostor Syndrome: Believing you’re the worst, when you have ability.

I’ve had these feelings on many occasions, especially when I’m in the presence of someone who has incredible talent. If you work with someone who is way better than you, then you’ve felt this before.

Writing down your accomplishments and then working to internalize them can help with this issue.

SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE WITH HONESTY
I have never walked off a stage and thought to myself that I’d had a perfect performance. It just does not happen. However, I have left the stage after a show and declared, “That felt great!”

Indeed, the show did feel that way. The audience was fantastic. Sure, everyone in the band screwed up here and there, but nobody seemed to notice or care. Everyone had fun, and that is the ultimate point of it all.

DO NOT TRUST YOUR SELF-PERCEPTION
Your self-perception is about as reliable and possible as your ability for your eyeball to see itself without a mirror.

If you think you can, then you are correct. If you think you cannot, then you are correct.

While you may know yourself better than anyone else, you’re also an expert on how to fool yourself.

THE DANGERS OF YOUR SELF-PERCEPTION
If you believe that you are really good, then you have no motivation to learn more or to practice. This path leads to a place where you are no longer trying. Dunning-Kruger has just been invited to your house.

But if you believe that you are really bad, then you run the risk of giving up.

Either way, your opinion of yourself is not reliable.

HABITS OF THE BEST
One’s perception of others has a better likelihood of being honest.

Pick the best players you can think of, on any instrument, in any genre. What they all have in common is that they do not rest on their laurels [accomplishments] while declaring themselves to be the best.

They’re still running toward that goal post, working to improve, trying new things, implementing new abilities, and so on.

HOW TO COPE WITH IT ALL
As you read through this, you might be thinking that all of this sounds horrible. Why try to be a musician in the first place, when you cannot be the best? Many other questions like this one will rise up.

I do have some ways to cope with these perils, which I will share.

Abolish your opinion of yourself: Don’t think of yourself as good or bad.

Take the opinions of others with a grain of salt: They might have bias. Grandma said you have a beautiful singing voice. This may not be true. They could also be jealous. You will never know the truth, so keep some perspective on it.

Know when to add weight to opinions: A drunk in the bar who says you suck is meaningless. A judge in a competition who says you need work in areas has something valuable to say. A teacher who has a critique should be taken more seriously, and their claim must be investigated.

Set SMALL goals and keep notes: Playing a riff or rudiment at 50bpm might be your baseline. Once you have that clean, then set your metronome closer to a goal. Maybe you’re trying to slow down, or speed up. Whatever your goal may be, document your work toward that goal.

Celebrate your wins: Once you hit a goal, acknowledge it. Document it. Be proud of it. Generate a feeling about it. Understand that this feeling will go away quickly and become meaningless.

Forget about reaching a destination: Remember the goal post I mentioned earlier? The one that keeps moving? The point of it all has nothing to do with a destination.

THEN WHAT IS THE POINT?
When you dance, the point is not to start on one side of the room, and end up in a specific place in the room by the end.

The point is the dance.

The point of learning music is to learn. The point of making music is to make it.

I practice every day. Then, I play music every day. Sometimes I write and record music. Other times I make music with others. Some days I make music for a future record with my band. Other days, I make music that I suspect nobody will ever hear, and nobody will like.

If you want to learn music, then learn it.

If you want to make music, then make it.

If you want to do something else, then go do it.

Should you be looking forward to your destination, then understand that you will be met with disappointment. Instead, look at the grass under your feet. Smell the fresh air. Look at the animals moving about. Take in the sunset. It’s all you’ve got.

brucelee.jpg“Just be ordinary and nothing special. Eat your food, move your bowels, pass water, and when you’re tired, go and lie down. The ignorant will laugh at me, but the wise will understand” –Bruce Lee

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Over and Over and Over [Guitar Video]

DW St VincentThe guitar that I’m playing in this video is the Ernie Ball Music Man St. Vincent, which was first released in 2016 and available only in “St. Vincent Blue.”

Thanks in advance for watching, and enjoy!

 

How to Buy Music Gear

Today, I’ll be covering a variety of fields, including traditional school orchestra instruments, standard rock instruments, electronic instruments, as well as methods of purchase, including new, used, rentals, and so on.

BEFORE YOU BUY [IMPORTANT]
Regardless of whether you are buying new or used, it is very important to know as much as possible about your instrument of choice. Know the instrument, so that you can identify potential issues. Know the NEW price, as well as the GOING USED price. Research as much as you can, so that you know what you’re buying.

Not only are there online scams, such as fake Gibson guitars, but there are also people out there selling instruments, when they have no idea what they are selling. As a result, they could have a cheap instrument set to a high price, a nice instrument set to a low price, or an instrument where they don’t even know what is wrong with it.

Strive to know more than the potential seller. This will pay off in the end, when you get the instrument you want at a price that is reasonable.

TRADITIONAL SCHOOL ORCHESTRA INSTRUMENTS
This includes instruments such as trumpet, trombone, tuba, french horn, flute, clarinet, and so on.

You can buy a USED instrument. I’ll be getting more into that later. Other options include renting and purchasing new instruments.

A rental can be more affordable, especially when trying to figure out if your school child is really going to be interested in pursuing the instrument. The risk of rentals is that you are responsible for any repairs that the instrument may need, should it be damaged.

If your child is definitely pursuing the instrument for the long haul, then buying a new instrument can be a really good thing. A person who decides to become a musician will typically take more pride in their instrument, and take care of it. This instrument can later become a family heirloom that they pass down.

My trumpet was made in Elkhart, Indiana in the 1930s. My grandfather played it, my father played it, I played it, and my brother played it. It was nice to have a piece of family history, and to be able to use it in the same way that they did.

Dan Quads Summer 1981.jpgSchools may provide drums for the marching band, for example. Be prepared to invest in sticks and drum heads.

At one point in high school, I played a set of Premier quad toms. I played them really hard, so damage was to be expected, even though I was using solid technique.

Other kids played them, but I really put them through their paces when they were mine. As a result, I had to be prepared for things to break. Sometimes a head would break, and I would have to replace it. I also used hollow aluminum sticks, which would sometimes break.

For a school drummer, the cost can add up. All of it was still cheaper, when compared to the idea of buying those drums myself AND then having to pay for all of the maintenance. There are students who do this, so you can discuss it with the school teacher. Had I purchased the quad toms myself, they would not have been a community instrument.

ELECTRONIC INSTRUMENTS
This can include drum machines, Ableton Push, MPD pads, MIDI controllers in general, or other related items.

Buying these items new can get expensive. Roland, for example, does not allow their retailers to give much of a discount, because the margin of profit is so slim. As a result, any discount would be like being a middle man who works for free.

When buying these items used, it is important to see as many photos as possible, if you are buying online. A video demo is always helpful. You do, however, run a risk, because there could be a dead jack, or some other type of damage. Maybe something isn’t working. If it has problems, then you’ll have to be ready to pay for repairs. This can end up costing more than engaging in a new purchase.

1.jpgI found this Yamaha DTX502 drum trigger module / brain at a discount on Reverb.com. This particular model was a floor model at 2017 NAMM. This means that people were touching it and messing with it, to the point that it could not be sold as a new item. There were enough photos, so I could tell that there was no physical trauma to the unit. It’s a good piece of gear.

Again, get to know the instrument that you want to buy and do some internet window browsing before you set out on your quest.

POP/ROCK INSTRUMENTS
This area includes drums, bass, guitar, and keyboard/piano. With all of these instruments, you can buy new or used. You can also go cheap, expensive, or premium.

A regulation-sized piano typically has 88 keys. You can buy synthesizers and MID controllers with fewer keys, in a variety of sizes and configurations. Think about what you want to do with this instrument, how you’ll use it, and what you want to achieve.

My IMPULSE49 MIDI controller has 49 keys. This is optimal for most uses. However, there are times when I wish that it had more keys. Also, the keys on this controller are NOT weighted. This is why I have a regular, 88-key MIDI piano that I can use, when I need more feel, and access to more range.

A bass guitar can have four, five, or six strings, or more. The standard configuration is four. They can be fretted, fretless, or even have fanned frets. It can have active pickups, passive pickups, or other features.

A guitar can be electric or acoustic. It can have six strings, seven, eight, or twelve. It can have active, passive, or piezo pickups, or any combination, as well as coil splitting/tapping capability. It can have a tremolo or a fixed tail. It can have a locking tremolo, or locking tuners. The potential features can be overwhelming.

Drums are rather basic. You can have as few or as many drums as you like. You can get into the percussion side of drumming and not even have a drum set at all. You can have two cymbals or 17 cymbals. You can have one bass drum or two. The list is endless.

Now that you have a basic understanding of these instruments, here are some tips on how to buy your instrument of choice.

PREPARATION RE-CAP
Here’s a re-cap of what you should do before you buy your instrument.

  • Figure out the instrument type you want.
  • Determine if it is acoustic or electric.
  • Identify features.
  • Find new and used prices.
  • Learn as much as possible.
  • Determine your budget.

Once you’ve done this, you are ready to start shopping. Regardless of whether you’re in a store or shopping online, you are now ready.

  • Play the instrument [if in-person].
  • Ask questions about the instrument.
  • Request a demo performance on the instrument.
  • Look for damage to the body or other elements of the instrument.
  • For online sellers, look for a good reputation, good feedback, number of sales, and location.
  • Avoid out-of-country sellers on sites like Ebay, or those who do not typically sell musical instruments. Also avoid those who will not answer questions, or who go for the hard sell.
  • Have an understanding of your possible recourse as a buyer. What is the return policy? What if something gets damaged. Understand these things before you buy.

A WORD ABOUT BUYING NEW
I typically like to purchase new instruments, although I do own a few used instruments that perform quite well.

When you purchase an instrument new in the music store, it is a lot like buying a car on a car lot. The minute you drive it off the lot, it drops significantly in value. This is because the store has a profit margin. It might be small, but it exists. So if you buy a guitar for $3,800 at the store and then later try to sell it online, you might be able to ask for $2,000 and will be waiting for a few years. My bet would be that you’d bet $1,700 for it.

That said, there are benefits to buying in a store.

You get to play the actual instrument. I have a few Les Paul guitars. They’re good guitars, really fine instruments. However, I remember playing some other Les Paul guitars that I did not like, for a variety of reasons. Maybe a volume pot was slightly bent, so the knob was crooked and wobbly. Maybe the fret job wasn’t all that good, the neck was out of whack, or something else. Getting to play THE actual instrument means that you know precisely what you are getting.

There is probably a return policy. It could be 30, 60, or 90 days. Ask about this, and the others noted here, before you buy. Is there a re-stocking fee? Ask these questions.

Is there a student discount? If you’re interested in taking in-person lessons, and the store offers them, do they give you a student discount? I once took lessons from someone who worked at a store, and I would get a 10% student discount. Every dollar helps.

Negotiation. I once saw a used Stratocaster in the store. It had a ding in the paint job. This guitar sold new for $2,000. The used price was $1,100, and I was able to talk them down a bit because of the cosmetic damage to the guitar. Today, it is one of my favorites, and I got a good deal because I pointed out the damage.

Relationship-building. When you shop in a store frequently, and you have one sales person, you get to know them, and they get to know you. As a result, they can sometimes help you out with future gear purchases. My music instrument sales person knows my gear collection very well, so he can confidently recommend something that he believes I might need. At the same time, he does not waste any of my time on things that he knows would not interest or benefit me.

BUYING CHEAP VS. EXPENSIVE
I’m putting this after the NEW section and before the USED section, because it applies to both. When I am in the music store, inevitably I’ll encounter a first-time buyer. Typically, it’s a teen or pre-teen kid with their parents.

The parents usually do not know what they’re doing or what’s available. The kid is at the mercy of what their parents will determine to be acceptable. What is difficult here is finding the proper middle ground.

Some people will not trust a sales person, especially one they don’t know who is selling something they know little or nothing about. In this real-life example, I was looking at guitars, and the sales person was helping them out, when he said he’d leave them alone to talk about it and decide.

When he leaves, they start talking to me.

They’ll ask if something is a good deal. They’ll also ask about going cheap vs. expensive.

When they ask these questions, I give them some advice, as well as a warning.

You could go expensive, and then end up with an investment in nothing. You could go cheap, and end up with junk that you don’t like. This Stratocaster is expensive, and this Squier is cheap. I do not recommend buying based on whether something is cheap or expensive, because either direction can be a mistake. And NEVER buy an instrument with the idea that you’ll trade it in for a nicer one later, because you will lose value, and end up losing money. What I recommend is setting a price range, and then playing the instruments in that price range. After you’ve done that, buy the one that inspires you. Get the instrument that encourages you to pick it up. This instrument is always the best personal investment.

You could buy a cheap guitar or an expensive guitar, and still not feel inspired to pick it up and play it. This defeats the whole purpose, and makes the whole experience boil down to spending money on nothing.

A WORD ABOUT BUYING USED
For all of the problems that come with buying a new instrument, it seems that going with a used instrument can alleviate some of those problems, but then replace them with problems of their own.

Is the seller trust-worthy? Is the instrument damaged? Playable? Any good? A knock-off? A rip-off?

I will buy some things used. For example, I bought a Roland SPD-30 Octapad used. I knew what to look for, I knew the going prices of new and used, and I also know how to take them apart and repair the Piezo pickups, which sometimes will come loose after many, many hours of play. Roland makes durable products, too, so I have confidence when I buy used Roland.

Keyboards are more difficult, because there could be a dead key, or other issue that makes it unplayable.

But with guitars, it’s a different story. I have played Epiphone Les Paul Custom guitars that out-performed Gibson Les Paul Custom guitars. This is because Gibson has hit-and-miss quality issues. I own many Gibson guitars, as well as as Gibson bass, and I bought all of them in the store. I played them, inspected them, and made sure they did not have any quality issues before buying.

As a result, I will not buy a Gibson without being able to play it first. My experience with Gibson, and with guitars in general, is why I cannot buy a mail-order guitar, or a used guitar online. I want to know what I’m getting.

I am trying to change that attitude via education. A while back, I started watching a YouTube channel called Trogly’s Guitars. He’s a guitar seller who specializes mostly in Gibson guitars. He does selling and purchasing. He also will inspect a guitar to show you how to find things like wear, sneaky repairs, and other things.

Trogly [real name is Austin] is a thorough inspector of used guitars. To me, he is a trusted seller, because he knows about the instruments he is selling, and he will disclose ALL flaws and issues up-front before you buy. He answers questions, and has built up a great reputation as a trusted guitar dealer.

I have emailed him a few times about other guitars, and he has been very responsive, even though I have yet to purchase anything from him. I might in the future. Building a relationship with a used seller is typically not something you can do online.

When you buy used online, you’re potentially inheriting someone else’s problems.

You can buy used in the stores, pawn shops, and yard sales. This is usually better, because you can inspect the instrument and negotiate a price if you think it is not worth what they’re asking. And you can walk away if you don’t like the price.

THE BOTTOM LINE
To boil all of this down, here are the bullet points to keep in mind when purchasing an instrument.

  • Consider the person using the instrument and what they will be doing with it. Are they new? Dedicated? Purchase or rent accordingly.
  • Get to know the details, features, and new/used prices of the instrument before you shop.
  • Inspect the instrument.
  • Ask questions.
  • Does the instrument inspire?
  • Does the instrument do what you want?
  • Does it have any resale value?

A WORD ABOUT RE-SALE VALUE
As I mentioned earlier, buying a new instrument can be like buying a new car, in that it loses value the minute that you leave the store with it. This is generally the case, and is the reason why I encourage people to buy the instrument that inspires them, and at the same time discourage them from the idea of buying something now, with the goal of “trading up” at a later date.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. One exception is with the marimba. When I was a Percussion Arts major at Ball State University, I was required to buy my own marimba. I do not remember the brand or precise style, but I do remember that it cost $13,000.

Two years later, when I left school, I sold it for $18,000. It went up in value because the wood used to make the “keys” was becoming more hard to find and thus more valuable. The low note in particular has to be a big size AND not have a knot in it.

Some of my guitars may have added value in the future, thanks to the new CITES rules that revolve around certain types of wood. Rosewood is being protected with new laws, which is changing how guitars are made. As a result, some of my guitars may increase in value because they have Rosewood fret boards. One of my guitars has a Rosewood fret board AND a Rosewood neck.

Beware of the idea that an expensive guitar will keep its value or increase in value. If anything, they typically lose value. You could spend $6,800 on a guitar, and then later find that it won’t sell for over $4,500.

Dan PRS 170616
Playing my PRS Artist Package Custom 24, affectionately known as “Elly May.”

I have a really nice guitar that I bought, which is a Paul Reed Smith [PRS] Artist Package Custom 24 with a black gold wrap and flamed figured maple neck and a maple fret board.

When I bought it, there were people gathering around to look at it. The PRS rep had taken it to Wild West Guitars [see link above], where they listed it, before he brought it to my music store. I happened to see it, played it for a while, and bought it on-the-spot.

If I were to try to sell it online, I would still lose money. What makes this guitar unique is that they day I bought it, three different people slipped me their phone numbers and told me to call them if I ever decide to sell it. There is no doubt in my mind that people want this guitar. I love it too much to ever consider selling it, but you never know what can happen in the future.

I bought this guitar because I love playing it, and it inspires me. Those are good reasons. Had I bought it because I’m of the belief that I’ll be making profits down the line, then this would be a really bad and misguided reason.

BONUS ENTRY: RECORDING GEAR
To some, recording gear is just as important as having an instrument. If you don’t know where to start, or have to work with a restrictive budget, then I would recommend going to YouTube and subscribing to Spectre Sound Studios. The studio owner, Glenn Fricker, is a pro who is dedicated to answering questions and helping others to get the gear that will best suit them. He does no-nonsense gear reviews from time to time, and tells you how he really feels about it.

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, suggestions, or want me to cover something that I may have missed, then please consider contacting me directly through my website, DrumWild.com. I do not use social networking, so this is the only way that I can be contacted.

01.jpg
TJS Custom Maple compact drum set

Learning and Teaching: My Music Philosophies

This is more of a deep-dive into my own approach to both learning and teaching music. If you are interested in taking entry-level music lessons, then click here to learn more about what I have to offer. Thank you for reading!

Dan Baby Drum Trash Can 2px - Spring 1966.jpg
Trash can drumming, Summer 1966

AN INTRODUCTION
My music interests began before I was two years old, while enjoying my uncle’s band rehearsals on my grandparents’ farm.

Since then I’ve taken a variety of lessons on a list of instruments, including trumpet, drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, string bass, piano, and more.

During my high school years, I was active as a drummer in marching band, pep band, jazz band [guitar], theater band, and any other band I could join.

In college, I was a Percussion Arts major during my first year in 1983. However, I changed my major after the first year, and split the second year of my education between my studies and my college band.

After two years of school, I decided to venture into “the real world” to see what things were all about.

WHY I QUIT MUSIC SCHOOL
This is a very important question to ask and answer. It is also a complicated question to answer, but I will try to keep it short.

I had gone to college to study Percussion Arts in order to please my mother. This is probably the worst reason to continue education. She saw it as my foot in the door to higher education, which it was. But the big question was: What will a music degree do for me?

st vincent.jpgI am not the first musician to ask this question. Annie Clark [pictured] of St. Vincent did the same thing, after studying music for three years at Berkelee.

A music degree will get you a few things. The assumed thing is the music knowledge, which I will discuss later. You also get the degree, which only matters if you are teaching or auditioning for an orchestra.

Also, back when I went to college, the degree one earned was used to make a living in that specific field. It was not like today, where a degree in anything holds value in anything you want to do. So at the time, a music degree held almost no value for me, for I was not interested in teaching back then, and I also held no interest in trying to gain work in an orchestra.

There were other reasons. Mr. Paul, my drum instructor throughout junior high and high school, was my marimba instructor. Due to some serious schedule conflicts, he was never present for any of my marimba one-on-one classes. I ended up teaching myself and performing at year-end recital anyway. This was not worth what it cost me, which was approximately $300 per hour, for a full year.

The music theory instructor was not a good person to be conveying information to students. She had these ideas that you “have to do” this or that in order to have a legitimate song. Back then, I viewed the concepts of music theory as being guidelines or suggestions. I also viewed them as rules that are meant to be broken in certain circumstances. Catering to her iron rule held no interest for me.

WAS QUITTING MUSIC SCHOOL A MISTAKE?
Shortly after I left college, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. While I never achieved any level of fame, I did make a living for many years. I got to be in some fun bands, got to write some cool songs, and got to record some interesting tracks.

During this time, I did just fine without a music degree. I never needed to have an understanding of music theory in order to work with other musicians.

I still have no desire to join an orchestra, so I did okay there.

These days, since I’ve dialed back my live performance situations, I do have an interest in teaching. In this regard, not having my degree does prevent me from teaching at an official facility. But it does not get in the way of me teaching private lessons.

At the time, quitting music school to pursue my dreams was not a mistake. In looking back, I wish that I could have found a way to get through school. There were too many things working against me.

Not only were there things about the school that made the education less-than-optimal, but I had gone to school for the wrong reasons. Also, being young was a very important attribute for a starting rock musician to have back in 1986. By the time I got out of school, I would be “old,” and that would not work. I had to get out and try.

I’m glad that I did.

ABSORBED VIA CULTURE IMMERSION
The music I have set out to create over the course of my life is mostly Western pop/rock and blues. Being immersed in Western culture, I picked up various things along the way that stuck with me when it was time to write a song, or collaborate with a band.

I had the ideas and the “things” in my head, as well as in what I was doing. I just did not have the names for these ideas and things, or why they have specific types of relationships.

CONTINUED LEARNING
For the past few years, I have been taking Intermediate/Advanced guitar lessons, and am also receiving music theory instruction. As a result, I have an appreciation for music theory. Even though I got by without a lasting impression from my time in college, I have come to enjoy music theory studies.

I don’t get different things out of my music theory knowledge, but I do get more of what I wanted out of it, if that makes sense.

MY PHILOSOPHY ON LEARNING
The short answer is that learning never ends. There is always something to learn. I will never reach a point where I know it all, so it’s time to stop learning.

MY PHILOSOPHY ON TEACHING
Different people learn at different speeds, and they want to learn different things. There are lots of video courses out there, as well as a wealth of information. The problem with videos is that they are offered as a one-size-fits-all solution. You cannot ask a video questions. A video does not understand where you want to go with your own music pursuits.

When I was growing up, in all of my learning situations, it was a case of the teacher dictating to me what had to be learned. This might be fine in the very early stages of a student’s studies, because you need to understand things such as technique, tuning, or even how to practice. But as one starts to grow and begins to feel an attachment to their instrument, they don’t want to be told what must be done.

And if they’re true musicians at heart, then they will have a curiosity about their instrument.

This is why I’ve worked out my approach so that the student decides what they want to learn. This does not mean that we will be skipping proper technique or other basics. What this DOES mean is that the training wheels will be pulled off earlier than one would experience in a more traditional setting.

It also means that you won’t get bored to death with an “introduction to jazz” if you have no current interest in jazz.

GOALS, AND WHY THIS APPROACH IS IMPORTANT
This approach is important because MY goal, as your entry-level music instructor, is to get you playing your instrument as quickly as possible. While you get the basics and work on building productive and essential habits, you will also get to start learning how to play that song you like.

Whether it’s practicing rudiments, patterns, and sticking on drums, or scales and chords on other instruments, this type of thing can get very boring, because it’s not really very musical. These are your tools, so you want to learn how to use them, but you also want to do more than just that.

When you can also learn a song that you like, this feeds your interest and curiosity. It gives you the feeling that you’re getting somewhere beyond the pages of the daily lesson.

Your goals are to learn more about your instrument, while practicing so that you can become a better player and be musical with your instrument.

My goal is to get you into a good place with your instrument, so that you can start being creative as soon as possible. Additionally, I can help to prepare you for more rigid training, should you wish to pursue that.

I am currently taking Intermediate/Advanced guitar instruction, and I can tell you that this can sometimes get overwhelming, and you can easily feel intimidated by it all. I got “thrown to the wolves” in an way, which is rough and can easily inspire a person to quit. I can help you step into it with more confidence, if that is where you want to go.

Remember that this is all about where YOU want to go. You’re driving this bus. I’m just giving the engine a tune-up, and filling the tank with gas.