by Guest Author, Casey Cormier for the Rock and Pop Music Academy of Boulder
In today’s music lesson we’re going to delve into the topic of music appreciation and exploration. At any level of musicianship, it is important to always be challenging yourself, pushing yourself on your instrument. We all have our favorite styles of music, and our first goal should be to learn the songs of the composers/bands/artists that we love. For example, if listening to a Beatles album first inspired you to pick up the guitar, then you should work with your instructor towards learning those songs, even if it might take a few months of practice to really perfect that riff or chord progression. If seeing a production of “Les Miserables” on Broadway inspired you to become a singer, then the songs from that musical should be a focus as you develop good technique.
Once you’ve learned those rock songs or classical sonatas that motivated you in the first place, where should you go from here? I’m always encouraging my students to diversify their musical interests and take on genres that they might not listen to regularly. If you picked up the ukulele to learn fun pop songs, and have a number of those down solid, maybe you should try a swing song, pushing you to learn seventh chords, or a Bach Minuet, developing finger-style and note reading skills.
An example from my own experience: I studied upright bass in a primarily jazz-based format, learning the music of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and the bass styling of Ray Brown, at the university level. Moving from the east coast to Colorado only last year, I quickly became aware of the popularity of bluegrass music in this part of the country. In order to take part in some of these bluegrass jams, I took on pieces such as “Blackberry Blossom”, “Steam-Powered Aeroplane”, and “Shady Grove”, learning the nuances of rhythmic slapping and quick chord changes. In the process, I expanded my skill set as a musician, and gained an appreciation for Doc Watson, John Hartford, and various other artists that I’d never listened to before.
Every genre of music can offer something to you as a musician. Of course we all have our favorite styles, but the name of the game is becoming better at our instruments. Find your personal musical voice by pushing yourself stylistically.