Anyone who's been around me for any length of time has inevitably heard me speak of music in terms of a "language." It's an easy enough analogy to arrive at, and I've regularly made specific references during the course of instruction, some-times prefacing the word language with an adjective like "blues" or "jazz" to stylistically paint a more detailed picture. In this edition of "Coach's Corner," I'd like to elaborate on some of the many benefits of considering your musical experience from this point of view.
First of all, the sheer essence of musical expression, whether it be in the form of performing an instrumental composition, singing a favorite cover song, or composing the world's next monster hit, hinges on your command of the language involved. And if your vocabulary is pretty noteworthy, the logical conclusion is that your ability to express yourself in an interesting manner will be enhanced as well. But there are some important points to be made about these key ingredients.
In a sense, the command factor is probably a little more significant than the size of your vocabulary. After all, great words have been spoken, great songs have been written, and great solos improvised with often a minimum of ideas. It's the inherent strength and confidence of the person speaking that many times is enough to get the "message" across in a convincing manner. Actually, the lack of a broad vocabulary might only materialize over a longer period of time, when it becomes increasingly more important to maintain the listener's interest, and keep them guessing just a little bit about what you might "say" next. And don't forget that the balance between both command and vocabulary is critically important as well. You could have a veritable encyclopedia of techniques, tunes, and riffs under your belt, but if you can't be "conversant" with it, what good does it do? Sort of like a speaker rattling off a ton of adjectives at the expense of saying anything memorable to his or her audience.
Now, what are the obvious benefits of this language observation? Well, to be perfectly honest, the answer is quite simple, but well worth the time to reflect on it.
To become a more eloquent, efficient speaker, you practice the language skills that you already possess by engaging in "dialogue" on a regular basis. In the music world, it's called studying, or as many jazz musicians like to put it, "woodshedding." You know, as in "practice makes perfect?" And it's not a bad idea, as I've mentioned in the past, to record your "conversations" (performances) from time to time. This gives you the opportunity to judge how you come across from a more objective point of view. Painful at times, as I can personally attest, but it does do the trick.
On the vocabulary front, though I gave the nod of importance more to command, don't you agree that it's much better to be as "armed and dangerous" as you can possibly be? To know as many styles, tunes, riffs, and techniques as you can? For me, I just couldn't be happy leaving any stones unturned in my musical pursuit. You might say that, as an artist, I want to possess as broad a palette of colors imaginable for that next great painting. But that would be music as an "art" instead of as a "language," a topic that I guess I'll just have to save for another article. Oh well...
"Coach's Corner" is an ongoing addition to Vision Music. The purpose of these brief articles is to share philosophy, offer practical insights, and to enhance your musical studies.
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