Thursday, October 22, 2015

Music is Process AND Product

No product can come into being without the processes that create it. Certainly, in music the process becomes the product. One cannot exist without the other. Effective instruction in music maintains a balanced representation of both product and process.

I, for one, was glad to get some good chord work done at my annual week-long group-lesson with my teacher, Ken Kolodner (Sandbridge Dulcimer Retreats). We spent a significant amount of time working on chords ... reviewing the map of the dulcimer and working through chord progressions, both listening for chord changes in real tunes AND intellectually analyzing where more interesting chord substitutions come from. Definitely my working edge.

Now, like most people, I love learning interesting new tunes and getting creative arranging ideas from players I admire, including my teacher. Copying the ideas of someone else is a good way to improve ones own playing. But sometimes you have to do the hard work that leads to true understanding of the music and your instrument. How does one approach the deep work?

Well, it's always good to go back to basics. Proficiency in playing scales and arpeggios is essential to mastery of the instrument. I've been pushing my students to pay attention to these things, giving them exercises that get them playing lots of different patterns all over the instrument. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. These exercises will make them apparent!

So, we work through the processes in a thorough and thoughtful way. We come to understand our instrument and the structure of music. We are enlightened and free to create our own music. It takes only about 10,000 hours!


  1. Just a beginner with the HD. I have been playing for about 18 months and just can't get enough. I am very happy with my progress so far and will really enjoy your insights and blog.

    1. Sounds like you've got the bug, Jay! Welcome to TotT, and keep on hammering!