Hello, hello…tough one.
I get this question quite a bit. “Should I get training in music?” Answer…….Yes, yes, yes. Music is a kind of a funny profession when it comes to contemporary music. With classical music, lots of training is what is expected. Most professional musicians in classical have masters and doctorates in their instrument. Pop music and jazz because are a bit different. There are two schools of thought. The old school thought is that if you have training you aren’t a “natural” musician. The new school of thought is that if you want to make music your profession, you better have skills. When I first starting co-writing in Nashville, it was mostly with old white men. Most of them never studied music, they just kind of picked up a guitar and started writing when they were young, maybe took some guitar lessons. They became professional musicians when frankly there weren’t school for music and music wasn’t seen as a real profession. But those times are no longer. Now, there are hundreds of schools that teach contemporary music and audio production.
Through the years I’ve been told by people in the music industry (a&r, publishers, other songwriters) that the smarter you are the worse you are at writing songs. Also that the more trained you are, the less emotionally you communicating music. Also that the more trained you are, the less you can connect with your audience. The more trained you are the more calculated your music will be. The more trained you are the worse of a musician you are according to people who learn by ear. Bullshit. In every other profession, education and training is valued. Personally, I think these comments come from a lack of knowledge or fear. Either it’s worthless for them because they didn’t have it and found success anyway or they are embarrassed because it’s hard and they never learned. I often meet singers who have a lot of natural talent, but they don’t have as much control as they want. I ask if they’ve taken voice lessons. “No,” They say. “I don’t want to lose my own style.” That is fear as well. Lessons won’t ruin your style. It will however make your current style more in your control and probably better. It will make you work to get rid of bad habits and challenge you to be more flexible. On this to remember is that you can always go back to the way you sounded or sang before. The hard part is going forward.
I am trained. I went to music school. I studied classical voice, jazz voice, and never formally studied pop. For the record, I don’t think you have to go to music school to be trained or pay thousands of dollars for training/lessons. Training is anything from lessons from you mom, being in choirs, studying music carefully while listening on you ipod and trying to figure it out by playing sections over and over again, learning a song by ear, learning from YouTube videos, and just spending years figuring out your instrument. There’s a book by Malcolm Gladwell called the “Outliers.” It’s about success and his theory is that if you spend 10,000 hours doing anything you’ll be come an expert at it. That’s about 2 hours a every day for 14 years. Most professional musicians have at least spent that much time by the time they are 3o.
That said, I love playing by ear as well and there is just as much value to that as learning to read music. Let me say, you don’t have to be able to read music to be a musician, but I would never want someone to be scared of learning more. Or, think it’s worthless. Once you start learning about how it’s put together, it’s literally amazing. You will appreciate music on a whole new level.
Training not only helps you master your instrument, but all makes you really hire-able. I’ve been hired for all sorts of gigs (pop, jazz, blues, classical, opera, musical theater) because I am able to be versatile. If you are someone who can make a living using one instrument in one style, more power to you. But most career musicians are not only masters of their instrument, but also have other skills. Recording, arranging, a 2nd instrument, teaching all are ways to make extra money and make yourself as valuable as possible. Example: I have a friend who play keys. She’s a great piano player, but she gets the gig over other pianists because she can sing backup.
Okay. So how do you get training? If you are lucky enough to have a supporting parent or spouse, there are hundreds of teachers out there. Internet searches will start you in the right direction. Lessons can be expensive but where there’s a will there’s a way. Trading skills is a great way to get music lessons. Most musicians love the barter system. The Internet is great for learning….just go with your gut on whether you think the teacher knows what they are talking about (especially with the voice).
So bottom line: Get as much training as you can and experiment with your instrument as much as possible. Don’t give up!!!!