Forget all the techniques, terminologies and other tools you might know for a moment. Now ask yourself: What is music? Essentially, music is nothing more than a language, just like any other language. And, what is the purpose of a language? Basically, a language is a way to communicate ideas to other individuals; it’s a way to make other people understand things that are inside your head. Once you understand this concept, you realize that the language is nothing more than a tool, but the most important thing is to actually have something to say. You can learn all languages you want, but if you don’t have anything to say, they are all useless to you. With music, it works in a similar way, but you must first have something to say.
Now, knowing that music is a language, think for a second about the first language you’ve ever learned in your life. When you were about two or three years old, you were already speaking that language, you knew how to improvise, nobody had to say the words so you could repeat them, you already had a small vocabulary and you could use it on your own. You didn’t know how to read or write before you learn how to speak, therefore you learned how to speak a whole language before you were taught how to read or write that language.
This concept is important because, in music, we go through this process backwards. In most music schools, you first learn how to write and read music, then you learn the rules of music theory, then finally you learn how to play an instrument and start to make music. It’s the equivalent of learning grammar before learning how to speak. This happens to many musicians once they start their journey and, unfortunately, it also became a standard in many music schools around the world. This fact also created a culture where the musicians themselves believe that your work is more valid if you know exactly what you’re doing. In the same sense, you’d expect a surgeon to know what he’s doing before operating on somebody’s brain. That’s very harming because music is an art form and if you start to rationalize art it becomes science. Once this happens, things like emotions and other abstract concepts have less value.
Think about this: You’ve been reading this text so far with no difficulties; you didn’t need to stop and think about the language and grammar rules that make the letters connect and turn into something that you can actually understand. You also know that you are reading a text in English, but you don’t know that because you analyzed it, you simply know it because you can understand it; therefore it’s a familiar language, in this case English. You are probably not even thinking about the instrument that I’m using to pass these ideas on, I could be speaking to you about this concepts and it would make no difference, because the message is all that matters.
Now think about the learning process that you went through when you first started to speak. I bet you didn’t lock yourself in a room and practice for years until you got to the point that you are today. You learned because you were surrounded by people speaking that language and you wanted to communicate. Think about the adult people as “idiom professionals”, whom were speaking the language for decades before you were even born, When you were just starting to learn, others were already good at for year and years. Time passed by and now you are one of the “idiom professionals”, you don’t even think to speak, and it’s all natural to you now.
There is a natural way to learn the musical language too, but it’s not through books, music theory and so forth. The natural way of learning that language is by speaking it daily, playing with the professionals, and learning from people that were speaking that language for years before you even began to learn it. Another important point is that nobody told you that you were a beginner when you were a baby learning how to speak and nobody told you that the noises you made by trying to speak were wrong. Instead, they actually thought it was cute and tried to repeat the same noises.
When you start your music journey people tell you that you are a beginner, they put you in beginner classes and you don’t have access to the professional until much later. The whole process is the reverse of what a natural learning process would be. This is a very simple concept but it has a lot of depth and can be applied to anyone. Think about that from now on, especially when you prepare your next practice session or when you learn a new song. As time passes by, you will notice yourself playing more naturally and people connect to that instinctively. Face everything you do as a learning process. When learning new information, learn everything you can, in every situation you might encounter.