Learning Music as a Language

To help us understand this better, let’s look at learning music as a language. At a beginner’s level you are still learning the meaning of individual words- how to spell them correctly; the shape of the letters and the sounds that they make. Eventually, you would have learned enough useful words to start playing with other like minded musicians. Metaphorically, this would be akin to talking, then debating and ultimately be able to argue specific points of view in a conversation with others. But if you are stuck by shouting out single words; sometimes unrelated words, you will become ineffective as a bass player despite having acquired a large vocabulary of single words.

Language of Music

In order to bridge the gap to an intermediate bass player, you need to be able to start taking the words that you learned at the beginner’s level and start stringing them together into meaningful sentences. In time you will come to see and hear that you would use the same sentences over and over again at this stage. This is because they flow well together and seem natural to your ears. These sentences or musical statements will become the basis of your personality as a bass player- which is your personal selection of the musical concepts that you prefer. In due course, everyone’s musical personality will be slightly different and very often your personal style will develop through the process of practice and performance.  Music is just another language that can be learned by practicing perfect musical concepts such as melody, rhythm, harmony, counterpoint and form.

No single word is powerful enough to win an argument unto itself, just like no single technique is strong enough to support a meaningful musical performance. It’s all about having the right combination of words to form the right sentences to express your own personal views. These sentences give you the skill to make valid musical statements in the performance stage. Being able to make a few strong statements with a few well put together sentences is far more important that using a couple of impressive words from the dictionary. Learn to develop your musical skills on a daily basis and over time nothing will intimidate you anymore as you have heard these same ideas over and over again in different contexts. Now you are flowing because you have taken the thought out of the process in performance.

As an intermediate player you should know how to manipulate chord tones over the 6-fundemental chord types; understand approach notes, passing tones and all basic rhythmic variations, while organizing these ideas into strong musical statements that relate to the harmonic structure of the music that you are playing.

I like to help my students to move forward conceptually. No list of individual techniques will have the strength to ensure a stable musical skill level. It’s not about the individual techniques themselves- it’s about how you combine those techniques and move from one to the next that is important. Hopefully this language analogy will help you to bridge the gap between a beginner to an intermediate bass player; between words and sentences that will eventually enable you to reach the first step towards becoming an advanced bass guitarist. Learn to enjoy your journey- it’s an exciting ride!

All the Bass!

Joe

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2 Responses to Learning Music as a Language

  1. Bill Logan says:

    Thanks Joe for the free video lessons. I Found them to be very enlightening although some of the material was too advanced for me, aimed at, I think, aspiring jazz musicians. I admire those with the technical skill, commitment and intellectual ability to go there but am well aware of my limitations in that arena. Motown, blues, RnB, rock n roll, swing and New Orleans trad jazz, this is most likely my glass ceiling.
    Thanks
    Bill

  2. Bill Logan says:

    Enlightened by what you write about music as a language. Thank you.

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