I shared a great conversation the other day with a fellow teacher I work with. There is a balance between limiting and learning. On one hand, removing limitations is a goal in achieving success, while on the other not having identifiable boundaries to work within also provides more opportunities to fail. Believe it or not, limitations are not all bad. In fact they can provide us with a sense of direction and practicality necessary for learning.
For students moving beyond the structure of simple note-reading and into something more free form such as improvisation, there are basic starting points that unlock creative skills necessary for such playing. Pentatonic scales are a common beginning, add a flat 5th and it creates a blues scale, both of which fit a variety of situations calling for improvisation. Moving forward, patterns become more complex and technically challenging. Before any of this though, a student has to learn how to control three notes before five, one octave before two, and make their instrument speak in a coherent musical manner. If I throw a bunch of modes and formulas in front of a student who's never improvised before, they generally aren't going to get very far. Actually the few occasions I have, that's when the music stops and they just stare! Things have to be broken down, little by little, piece by piece, setting limitations along the way. Getting a student to create a melody on three notes or even two for that matter can be a huge success! When they've generated a few ideas with those two or three notes then we'll add a couple more, at some point a new position, more notes, scale shapes, ideas, etc, and eventually they've now unlocked a new skill set on their instrument, and a very powerful one at that.
Too much information can be overwhelming. Additionally, sometimes having too much of something, even if it's good, can be destructive, especially if it's something we're not ready for. Many times we're eager for more, be it experiences, success, a career, finances, opportunities, or whatever else. Life has a way of providing us all of these things to varying degrees, what's truly important is how we handle them. Managing whatever we're aiming for, in smaller capacities allows us to adequately handle our goals in higher doses. Without these limitations, we'd never learn how to grow.
Studio: Vocal / Piano / Guitar
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