Core Location: Ground
I use two core ideas for teaching someone how to play a musical instrument…training beyond & limits/exhaustion. This is whether we are actively using the following language & ideas in actual sessions, or not.
Training beyond means that we practice in intelligent ways which allow us to play whatever we set out to play [our music, other folks’ music]. We train with focus and get things right, at the start. And, we always include our developing views & music within our practice. We don’t just absorb the ideas of others [including what you find on this site]; we put them to work, when we need them, and evolve our own.
Our hands are our hands. Training is a process of discovery. When we get this process right, we can find ease in playing the things we want to play. We don’t just train up to being able to do something, we train beyond it. We live it until it is natural. And, we know where our thresholds live.
A simple ‘training beyond’ benchmark: practicing something faster than you would perform it. Not all the time, just a few times to know that you have it. Once in this pocket, the slower tempo is easy.
Another application: you have a piece with a repeated fingerpicking arpeggio. Instead of playing the piece over and over, you isolate the arpeggio, giving it full focus, maybe on one chord, or open or muted strings, moving it to different string sets. You train the arpeggio until it plays you. We can train something from a piece of music, in an ‘outside the piece’ context (a created context). And, then return to the piece. At this point, we are thinking beyond. This is good.
And the big picture training beyond: we play all of the chord scales & scales for common keys (using our voice along the way to match things), and use them to figure out how songs are played. In time, we can hear a song in a key we’ve trained in, repeatedly, and the sounds we hear are self-evident (transcribing/figuring out songs).
We work with the materials of music in specific and non-specific ways, in our own way. We ‘exhaust’ the possibilities for any given set of tones [any agreed upon set is a limit]. When we explore the materials in this way, for long enough, much of it [what we hear] becomes self-evident [discover-able].
What we can never exhaust is what can be done with sound (tones, rhythms, scales, harmonies, melodies, timbres). Exhausting possibilities is experiential learning in the form of improvisation (core practice). This also assists with honoring our personal music, when writing/recording/performing enters the space.
Another piece of exhaustion is breaking things down [isolating linkages in the music], and adding them back together. This can also be called ‘linking’ or ‘breaking it down’. We work on individual links, then build the chain. As a student/teacher of guitar, learning to create breakdowns is a central piece of becoming proficient at whatever we are doing.
Give each of these ideas some thought. In a way, they are different ways of looking at the same process. They can be distinct lenses for practice.