My journey of learning to play guitar has brought me to places of frustration and struggle. In those places, I realised that I’ve been alone, isolated with a set of wrong questions I was asking. The questions weren’t about how to play good guitar (like what chords should I play or how do I bend the strings etc) but it is how can I be more musical?
Of course being able to play chords or bend strings are important techniques but doing those doesn’t mean we become more musical but on the flip side, being musical inevitably means being able to play good guitar.
The 2 ways of playing is to #1. Use techniques and methods to play back written music. #2. To bring what is already inside of you out. The first way represent most of today’s music educators and schools. They teach you to excel in bringing out the music that is already written or recorded using very precise and delicate skill. However today I’m talking about how to bring out the music or song we already have inside.
I want to explore how we can be more musical and leaving the being technical to another time. Here are 5 ways we can be more musical.
Train Your Self To Listen
Perhaps this is unnatural to most people. People like to talk more than listen. Developing this ability makes us more anchored to our environment. It makes us present, mindful and happy to be alive. Developing our ears to listen is about being centred and ready to receive what inspiration has to tell us. It is one will discover the most natural instinct of a human being despite our inability to know how to do it.It is good to sit still for a few minutes and listen. Without being too weird to others, focus on whatever dominant what you hear. It’s likely your own breathing or it could be the constant chatter from many parallel conversations in the room. Play the game of identifying which is dominant. Then listen to it intently.
Recognise the Tonal Center In What You Hear
Develop your understanding of the 7 Tones in this world. (or 3 or 5 or 12 but I’ll be comfortable knowing the 7). These 7 tones are the tones from the Major Scale. (Ok if its 3, then its a triad, 5 it is the pentatonics and 12 its the whole chromatic scale)Then try to map that understanding to your environment with this question.” What is the tonal center of what you are hearing in your environment? “
Which one is the 1 note or the root note? Try to hum it. What I would do to make this exercise easier is to say if there’s a soundtrack to where you are and what you are hearing. What key is it? Hum that tonal center of that key. Yes, it may sound like a chant, maybe it is one that brings you back to the center of yourself as your music.
You can check out and savour that note as the home sound.
Learn To Feel The 7 Notes In the Major Scale.
There are 12 sounds in the organisation of all western music but 7 are the most important ones. I learned to identify the 7 Notes in the Major Scale from David Reed’s excellent “Improvise for Real”. He describes it as the 7 Harmonic World. I like that because the sound is really like worlds apart if you learn to recognise it. One good way to learn it is to describe how that sound makes you feel. There are 7. You can call it “Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti” or you can call it just 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. I used a known person’s name and map that to the 7 notes based on the personality they have and how closely they match with the sound of the 7 notes. You can do anything to recognise who is who in the Major Scale. Just like today if I blind fold you in the room full of the close people in your life, you will be able to identify them based on the sound they make, you can do the same for the 7 Notes in the Major Scale. It’s only 7 you need to recognise. Yes altogether there are 5 more but learning the 7 should come first and once you learn “HOW TO RECOGNISE TONE”, you’ll have little issue with the 5 more.
Listen Intently How Music Is Arranged All Around You
If you sit down and be still and close your eyes. You may find sounds around you that you normally take for granted. It maybe a background music playing, or the sound of the road or chatter from conversations in the room. It may be the sound of the fan or airconditioning. If you listen intently, you may hear an organisation. Just like instruments played in a band or an orchestra in a concert, you may hear that arrangement in daily life. After you have noticed the music arrangement around you, incorporate one last instrument. That is the sound within yourself, it maybe the sound of your footstep or the flow of blood in your heart, it may just be your heart beat. Incorporate that into your “daily orchestra”. Learning to listen like that trains your ear to listen. It makes you more musical because you are identifying ‘music’ in your environment and within yourself.
Hum That Tune That Is In You
You will find out there’s music and a song in you. Everytime, there’s one trying to come out. It may be from inspiration from above, it may be hidden within you or even a tune you heard a while back but it’s stuck in you. Whatever you have inside, hum that tune. Try to bring it out by humming. It’s not a stressful exercise to force out something that is not there. Sometimes that tune may just be a one sound thing. Master bringing out that sound even if its just that one root note as described above.
Invest In A Musical Instrument
Now that you have cultivated the music that is IN YOU. It’s time to bring it out. Yes humming and even singing is the way to bring out the music in the more musical you. But often we need the help of an instrument. Getting an instrument like the guitar or the piano and venture into learning where each of the note in the major scale is located on your instrument is the journey. That’s the greatest association you need to make when learning. Where each notes fall on your instrument. This is a journey so take your time and invest in that learning.
3 Ways To Teach Yourself To Play Guitar
Appreciate Other People’s Music
One of the most enjoyable thing you can do to be more musical is to listen to other people’s music. I don’t mean listen to it in the elevator or the mall at the background. I mean really listen to it. The art of listening to music has been lost in the advent of the internet and easy streaming of music. That is the reason why I invested in a Turntable to play Vinyl LP. This setup has made me slow down in my listening of music. It takes time to select the LP, take it out of the sleeve, ensure the surface of the LP is clean, carefully put in into the platter and then move the needle to the start of the record and press play. Not forgetting having to clean it every time it collects dust after a period of inactivity. This seemingly long process helps myself to prepare to listen. The sense of anticipation does magic to your ear, helping it appreciate the music that is coming up.
I began collecting back the titles to the music I hear as a child. And it itself is an enjoyable process, I believe will make you more musical if you choose to do the same.
That’s the 7 ways to be more musical!
When you could let what you hear touch you or connect with you. You are able to keep it inside of you and will be able to reproduce it freely. Being musical is about knowing what you are hearing in your head and then knowing how to reproduce it and bring it out (with or without your guitar).
One you are able to do that, you have succeeded to be more musical. You can continue to work out bring more music out of what is already in you. Music exists in and around us, we just need to bring it out. That’s the nature of creating music and being more musical.