Study Music Correctly : Dr. Bob Lawrence

discover.learn.play music correctly!

Study Music Correctly


Introduction : Study Music Correctly

How to study music correctly – what a topic, so let’s dig in! When I stop to think about how many fabulous musicians we (the public) miss out on hearing throughout our lifetime simply because they quit studying music soon after starting – it saddens me. Of course, there are always several reasons one gives for quitting their pursuit (and dream) of playing a musical instrument:

  1. Didn’t like my teacher (sadly, far too common of an excuse)
  2. I found out I was tone deaf! (totally impossible)
  3. I hated practicing (probably because they weren’t doing it correctly!)
  4. My parents let me (a classic!)
  5. I had no success, no feel for it, no talent (a total myth accepted as reality – so unfortunate)

The truth is simply this – these excuses, and many others, are only symptoms of the true culprit causing students young and old to throw in the towel on their dream of playing a musical instrument. What is the true culprit you ask – (drum roll please!) – students are not taught how to study music correctly! Notice I said, how to study music correctly – I did not say, how to study the piano correctly, or how to study the guitar correctly, or how to study the flute correctly, etc. It’s not the mechanics of the instrument teachers fail to teach – it’s how to study music correctly that they fail to teach.

At The Dallas School of Music, our company slogan is discover . learn . play (now you know how I got the name for my blog). When hearing or seeing these words together for the first time one might casually think – I like it, it’s catchy! But, our students quickly realize that it’s much more than a “catchy” company tagline – it actually expresses the teaching approach that we endorse and follow. Why? Because it clearly and succinctly outlines how to study music correctly!

So, lets take a closer look at how to study music correctly, let’s learn how to discover, learn, and play music to assure progress, success, a lifetime of amazing enjoyment, and the fulfillment of a dream.


Discover : Study Music Correctly

Music consists of various skills made up of various elements which are all drawn from a fixed database. Fact #1 – music is comprised of 12 notes (the same 12 Bach used, Beethoven used, Mozart used, you use, and I use). Fact #2 – those same 12 notes are arranged into keys (scales) which produce a specific (and limited) harmonic structure (chords). This is just one example that illustrates the fact that music is a fixed database – it’s mathematical! Here’s a thought (fact) to think about – something that is mathematically fixed, which music is, can not produce infinite possibilities. So, there are not countless number of notes, or chords, or even rhythms. The first order of business for any skilled teacher is to present this reality to the student so that music becomes a “manageable” and “achievable” endeavor. This is how to teach and study music correctly – beginning with the understanding that music is not mystical, magical, or consists of “endless” possibilities – it’s structured, organized, limited, and learnable!

A skilled/professional music educator helps a student discover the various elements of each skill found within the fixed database we call music. Once the discovery of a new musical skill occurs then the student can begin to learn the skill in preparation for playing the skill.


Learn : Study Music Correctly

Once a skilled music educator helps a student discover a new musical skill (and clearly illustrates how this new discovery fits into the fixed database of music) then the student is ready to begin the next step in the how to study music correctly process. The best “learning” will always be done away from the instrument. This is so important that I am going to say it again – the best “learning” will always be done away from the instrument! Yes, that is correct – away from the instrument! I like to refer to this approach to learning as “paper practice”. I encourage every student to grab a piece of paper and a pencil – find a comfy chair and begin sketching out/drawing their new discovery – the data! This type of practicing forces the student to “think” through the concept so a strong conceptual understanding is developed. I remind every one of my students (over and over) that conceptual understanding drives physical development. In other words, if it is not clear “upstairs” (mentally) then it’s not going to come out “downstairs” (on the instrument). It’s that simple! So get use to doing “paper practice” – that is, if you want to study music correctly!


Play : Study Music Correctly

Once a student has completed a sufficient amount of paper practice (enough that they can easily explain, describe, and even teach the data discovered and learned) then the student is ready to play. I strongly recommend students to use apps like iReal Pro or software like Band In A Box to play with so they can “hear” the new musical skill within a musical context. With the use of technology, students can practice playing skills using various tempos, styles, and genres. Both programs mentioned allow students to easily create custom exercises, set practice loops, control instrumentation, change keys, and so much more. Most importantly, using one of the various technology programs available today allows students to experience ensemble playing which quickly develops musical time and feel. Finally, students must quickly realize that practicing musical skills apart from any specific song is the most efficient and effective way to become a proficient musician (simply playing songs will never get the job done!).

So, there you have it – to study music correctly, one must discover, learn, and play the concepts/skills of music! For more insight regarding how to study music correctly join discover, learn, play (dlp)!


Final Thoughts : Study Music Correctly

If you wish to discover, learn, and play jazz you should consider becoming a dlp (discover.learn.play) member. You’ll have access to professional jazz instruction and guidance from a professional jazz music educator (me!). Your dlp membership gives you lifetime access to all of my instructional jazz videos (which you can access and study as often as you wish – again, for life!). Additionally, your own private Mavenlink support portal is established, hosted, and maintained allowing you to interact with me as often as needed each and every week. Likewise, you’ll receive tuition discounts if you ever choose to have private online jazz lessons with me through The Dallas School of Music.

I welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you may have regarding discover.learn.play so feel free to Email me drlawrence@dlpjazz.com or call me 972-380-8050 Ext. 211. Please take a moment and listen to a few of my recordings or follow me at SoundCloud to get a feel for how I play and approach this wonderful art form we call jazz.

I look forward to helping you discover, learn, and play jazz!

Best Wishes,
Dr. Bob Lawrence
President
The Dallas School of Music

Study Music Correctly

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