Learning a musical instrument is like playing a video game. It requires skill, knowing where what buttons to push to get a result and following a map to win. In 1988, the single hardest video game I have ever personally played as a kid was released. I remember Nintendo video games in the 80’s fondly as an incredible escape that catapulted me far beyond where music could take me. It most definitely ate into my practice time on a consistent basis at the music school I was attending at the time.
Enter Ninja Gaiden. Picture myself and fellow 12 year old friends engaged in the pointless struggle that was this game. However much fun we had at eliminating enemies that hid behind barrels of explosive oil or timing our perfect jumps to somehow miss its target due to poor placement of our landing or getting through a particularly tough board and starting at the beginning only to do it again… the frustration never ended. I’d like to point out that most of the frustration of the game was in its design. The coders of Ninja Gaiden could have just as easily put in a code portion to get us past these frustrations, but alas it was not to be.
Most of what I am talking about is similar to learning say, guitar. Not that we are standing next to burning oil tanks wearing bad guy clothes while we play guitar or any other instrument. If we are learning the ins and outs of an isntrument it can feel as though we are above our heads at times, that our instructor and his/her vision may not meet ours orthat we are frustrated! Anyway, Here is why success at video games is similar to learning guitar or anything other instrument like piano, vocals, drums or really anything:
1. To win, you must pass all the levels – “Winning” in music is simply just being able to learn your scales, songs and technique. Every week there is a win and eventually a level passed.
2. A new level or skill requires patience and determination to pass it- Determination in learning a skill in music requires the most basic elements of knowledge to understand then obtain the techniques. Basic attendance to weekly music classes without practice can eventually get you skills you can use to play certain pieces, but not necessarily mastery. Daily practice, just like daily obsession in a video game, can get you to mastery quicker. Usually the determination in a video game is to pass whatever it is you are playing to get to the next stage. Determination gets you there by trying, trying, trying then finally doing it, just like music.
3. Watching others play can give you a hand in learning more- Most avid musicians or gamers watch others play to get the secrets down. Find others, jam and ask questions
4. Passion for what you are playing is mandatory . If you love a game you will play it until your hands fall off. For me, I also played guitar until the tops of my fingers ached. Play until you simply can’t physically do it.
5. Frustration at progress or lack thereof . Use your frustration as the fuel to master your level. Don’t stop until you complete what you are working on.
I am sure other parallels can be made to how playing or learning guitar is similar to mastering a video game. Luckily, when learning guitar you get to continue going until you are tired and need a break. It doesn’t require a reset button, cheat codes or a special controller. All you need is the imagination and certain skills that you work on consistently.
~Daniel Powers Jr Founder and Chief Inspirer of Real Brave & After School Rocks. Find your inner rock star at one of our studios. We’ll help you find your strengths. instagram/ twitter @danielpowersjr
I’ve played gutiar since the days where hairdo’s were business in the front and party in the back. For me personally, it was a form of expression that became a passion. Learning music became so intrinsically intertwined with who I was that it literally took over my life and became a goal-oriented obsession that made me stay up late to perfect. Prior to getting obsessed, there was a pattern that developed for me that every single person that tries to play an instrument comes up against: Practice. And practice I didn’t.
Most of my practice in the beginning had nothing to with actual “sit at home and practice” but in the actual classroom. I would go a week without physical practice but my commitment to my teacher and promise to my parents kept me going in my music lessons. Fast forward years later and in actually becoming a successful teacher in the instrument that I didn’t practice all those years earlier, here are 3 tips to guarantee progress on any instrument.
3. Listen to music One concept we teach is listening is power. The past 100 years alone there are composers of music that could literally fill the halls of the biggest libraries. Listening is an artform and will begin to give you the keys to the doors of becoming a musician. Also, be specific here. If you want to become a great guitarist, what specific music could you listen to that would help you achieve this? I know it’s a simple concept but it’s something that is taken for granted so much these days in the mist of video games, 24/7 content and Netflix video libaries that take up 98% of our free time. Listening to a great guitarist playing in a recording or song you love will start the process. Listen until you can sing the melody of a guitar part of a song you love! Imagine the melody on your guitar.
2. Think positive. Another part of the process is your mentality. Do you know how many would be guitarists that walked through my studio doors and the first words out of their mouths was “I can’t!” Don’t defeat yourself with negative talk- it’s just a way to convince yourself that something you are doing is impossible. Give yourself a fighting chance by letting the natural process of lessons just take its course. To be clear, I am not going to pretend that learning an instrument isn’t easy
1. Emulate- I’ve learned more from emulating people that I’ve played with over time than anything. In fact, just being around musicians that are better than me pushed me to learn more information and made me understand the importance of what they did. When I looked at other people that played better than me, I was improving by picking up little nuances of what they did well.
Mastering a specific skillset does require a ton of work towards goals. You can achieve your goals in any instrument with time, small steps forward every day and patience. Stay at it, it’s worth it!
Music’s long decline in sales has been well documented and it’s up to the next generation of musicians to make sure that there is still an industry to make money. Music Education is dwindling. Music is the first program to be cut after whatever other arts program was deemed unnecessary in a school’s budget. As painful as those cuts may be, they are cutting the future of music as well.
Our future depends on our children’s education and it’s up to parents and educators to find creative ways to get the arts to kids. It’s not the government’s fault, it’s not the President’s fault- it’s our own. We can collectively make a difference if we really want music lessons or music education in schools in Queens, New York or across America.
Recently, Mr Van Halen spoke to CNN about his work with Mr Hollands’s Opus, a non profit organization that funds music education through donations and sometimes through repair of musical instruments. It’s mostly to low income school disctricts that are underserved in the arts. To date, the organization has donated $20 million worth of instruments to thousands of schools. It’s a service that helps tremendously.
“My whole life has been music,” he said. “I could not imagine anything else.” he told CNN.
“Music is such a necessity. It touches people’s souls,” he told CNN . ” Music is the universal language to me. It transcends everything.”
This donation of 75 of his personal guitars is an incredible opportunity for someone to get a hold on music royalty’s actual tools of the trade. Thing is, without more of an understanding of why we need music education and even to go as far as educating people on current music trends, we will lose tomorrow’s musician to coding and “cooler” things.
As a kid growing up in the 80’s and nothing else to do besides music but TV, drawing, playing sports and movies, Music was an escape using my imagination. With the invention of video games and everything internet in addition to the iPod becoming mostly a gaming console, imagination has been put aside for easy fixes.
We need to embrace the innovations that made music more acceptable but also give children the opportunity to take part in traditions. Now more than ever, we need the music industry to invest in tomorrow so we have one in music.