Working Smart in Music Is a Myth – Only Hard Work Exists and Counts
I see a lot of advice on various sites for becoming successful in any area of life talk about “working smarter, “getting an edge” and “saving years of effort” with this or that technique. I agree with looking for easier ways that are available in order to accomplish a task. If something can take less time done one way then why choose the more labourious method?
However, I think it’s important to realise there won’t always be quicker fixes to challenges you encounter and that you just have to go through the long, arduous but necessary process of doing the hard work for as long as it takes.
An old friend of mine who used to play guitar recalled how he wanted to learn Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ ‘Under the Bridge’ and looked for a technique that would allow him to play the notes (especially the opening riff) without bridging. He spoke to a few people including a neighbour who used to teach him and they all said it would take as long as he intends to practice it thoroughly. Undeterred, he searched online for fast ways to play the tune. The thing was, there were sites with video tutorials about this – just not ones giving him the shortcut he wanted. After two months of slow progress he got impatient and gave up.
None of this would have mattered except his reason for learning ‘Under the Bridge’ was for a gig his band had been rehearsing for. In the end, he fell back on some Smashing Pumping songs he’d learned years before (partially by simplifying some of the riffs and other complex areas). The other band members were OK with this but I know they were hoping to perform new material and ‘UTB’ was one everyone was looking forward to. All this because my friend wanted the quick fix or nothing. A shame.
I have experience of this learning the piano piece ‘Islamey.’
It was once considered the hardest piece ever written for piano. Each morning I would get up and work on the difficult passages like the fast-moving chords on the second page that requires rapid hand movement up and down the keyboard.
Little progress was made and I considered ‘cheating by getting my left hand to do some of the work of the right hand. I found this to be awkward and soon realised that the areas I was working on, left little room to ‘cut corners’ I resigned myself to methodically going one/two bars at a time, painstakingly monitoring my technique and progress. If I noticed an easier way to do things, only then would I incorporate that into my learning. What I didn’t do was waste practice time searching for short cuts that might not have existed.
Just be careful you don’t confuse smart work for ‘easy way’ and get caught up looking for shortcuts all the time. This is important is because when it comes to learning your instrument, you will either be ready to put the effort in for as long as it takes or you’ll cultivate a mindset of “where’s the quick fix/short cut?” If there isn’t one, you might get frustrated and give up instead of knuckling down and practicing for a sustained period of time (as all great musicians do).
What do you think? Is smart work falling out of fashion?
Ugo Onwutalu is a musician and piano teacher, also playing the guitar and organ. He is the founder of http://www.grademusicworld.com a music and entertainment site focused on everything music-related, from audio and video tutorials and preparing for exams, to gadget and instrument reviews and getting a job in the music industry.
Flash mob at Copenhagen Central Station. Copenhagen Phil playing Ravel’s Bolero.
As one of the first professional symphony orchestras ever Copenhagen Phil (Sjællands Symfoniorkester) did a flash mob at Copenhagen Central Station on May 2nd 2011 playing Ravel’s Bolero. Conductor is Jesper Nordin. Check out our NEW flash mob here www.youtube.com copenhagenphil.dk www.facebook.com Produced by Makropol: makropol.dk
classical music Video Rating: 4 / 5