Should there be a division in the music we learn?
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
At the early stages and in the UK there are different boards that teach different genres of music. This divides music learning into different streams. Mainly, Classical, Jazz and Rock and Pop.
But should we really be separating out our learning of music especially at the beginning stages? What are the benefits of the divide? What could we gain from a more holistic approach?
I first started thinking about this issue when I completed my grade 8 piano. I had been training classically for years and thought this was a sort of peak in my musical journey. I thought it meant I was ready to start making a living doing what I love. I went to some open mics and started sharing my music and trying to jam with other musicians. To my frustration I found that the skills I had learnt from classical music did not bridge so easily and seamlessly as I thought they would to the pop and jazz worlds.
Of course having any knowledge from one genre helps learning the other. But it is essentially new and difficult. And somewhat annoying to have to kind of start from the beginning in another branch of music.
Classical training is fantastic. The wealth of knowledge behind it's teaching is incredibly vast and technique wise it is a great way to go. If you want to achieve the fastest speeds and great tones on your instrument it is also fantastic.
However, there are limits to only studying one genre. At the moment, in classical music there is not much(if any) focus on improvisation mostly at the early stages of learning but also sometimes never. And arguably, this is one of the most entertaining and engaging aspects of music. To play around with your instrument and to engage in pieces in a new way can be thrilling.And for many new students especially children who are wanting to engage with their instrument it is more fun and has more scope for 'play' and turning into a game then the finesse classical music requires.
It did not also used to be so rigid as it seems to have become. In the past there used to be passages and reams of music that were improvised. It is only since about 1840 that there seems to have been a shift to playing everything note for note perfect.
But the top musicians in their field can cross genres. For instance, take Dave Weckl one of the top 25 drummers of all time, a staggeringly incredible player and musician. His techniques are sublime, making the drum kit sound like it's own orchestra but he can also play in every genre effortlessly. Knowing what will make the drum part feel more like a bossa nova or more like a rock band or any genre really. Why are we closing down doors so early on in our music education? We need a wider approach. If we limit our minds early on we are creating a slight internal bias with different genres that shouldn't be there.
We are limiting our potential and the paths that we can take. We need to create a balance with all the areas of music that encompass becoming an incredible musician and this includes improvising and technique. We need both to truly become a master of our craft as a musician.
Wishing you luck on your journey
Lots of Love
p.s. I'm curious to know your thoughts on this matter. Please let me know in the comments.