I used to think that musical mastery meant wearing black clothing and hunching over a music stand stacked with complicated looking sheets. But, as I mature, I’m realizing that this is not it at all.
“Music,” as musician Robert Fripp once said, “is the wine that fills the cup of silence.” I remember hearing that quote as a child and having not the foggiest idea what it could mean. As I became older I realized truly what it meant. Without musical mastery, there is something missing for us.
Without musical mastery, there is something missing for us.
There are unspoken things that can’t be expressed verbally. And as we go through life, those wordless moments become more frequent and more intense. Finding the exact wording in the English language (or any other language) is difficult when we feel the need to express certain emotions.
Where do we turn?
To music. The mastery of music, to be exact. But of course, cue the little voices inside your head saying, why bother? I’ll never learn. It’s too hard. It’s too late. It’s too “this”…, I’m too “that”…, I’m not enough of “this”… But what if I told you that the mere exercise of listening to music throughout your life has already prepared you to learn it yourself?
It’s true that the more exposed you are to a musical lifestyle, the easier it will be for you to comprehend and perform pieces to your delight and satisfaction. Consider the emotions present in the Hungarian Pastorale Fantasy, by Albert Franz Doppler. How would we know what these emotions sound like until we, as maturing adults, have had enough life to experience them?
It brings a more educated and well-rounded musician to the stand, one who plays with discipline, passion, and understanding. Consider the fact that every person on this planet has had a very unique life. No two persons can say they have the exact same outlook on a variety of situations. This is what happens when these same two persons are given identical sheets of music. The emotional connection and outcome (depending on skill level) are going to sound very different when the music is played.
At this point in your life, you could be in the thick of a good / not great career, family, and other obligations. Time for yourself is a little more rare. How are you going to spend your leisure time learning?
Actually, exercising your brain in any way you can keeps it young, improves your memory, and works just as well as any other calming exercise. If you can commit to consistently striving for a level of proficiency and fun with the flute and really stick to it, you’ll reap the benefits for many years to come.
What about the most dangerous pitfall of mature learners? The fear of failure. Needling questions will pop into mind to try and talk you out of your original idea like: Why did I think need to learn to play an instrument? Can’t I just enjoy music without actually being the one playing it?
My question is, Why Not?
There’s no expiration date on musical mastery.
FACT: There’s no expiration date on musical mastery. In fact, adults almost always have a better understanding of the theory of music and can inject more emotion into their playing than younger musicians can. Especially if you’re already an avid music listener and enjoyer – you might be surprised as how second-nature playing it yourself might become.
Here are a few great pointers for starting, continuing, and enjoying the journey towards a sense of musical mastery.
Starting is the first and biggest hurdle (yet easy to jump over). If you have children who are learning musical instruments themselves, make it a family affair. Or challenge a friend or family member to take up music just like you are. If you can find an adult recreational band or ensemble in your area, try your hand there. Having other adult musicians to support, albeit to commiserate (haha) with, makes all the difference.
Whether it’s ten minutes or two hours. Your motivation will grow as your skills do. If you’ve mastered a few new pieces, try new scales. Then, try memorizing them, and reciting them by name. Or even improvise! Make up your own tunes (they don’t have to be great), challenging your finger speed, intonation, or rhythm abilities. Do away with the thought that you have to be perfect all the time. Enjoy your daily moments with your instrument.
Set short- and long-term goals.
Everyone starts out playing flute wanting to immediately know “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Unfortunately, all musicians have to suffer through unsavory renditions of “Hot Cross Buns” before moving on to the slightly more challenging “Happy Birthday.” While you might not see results right away, it’s important to set markets every now and then. If in two years you want to play “Flight of the Bumblebee,” start by mastering “Ode to Joy” by the end of next week.
Play music that you enjoy.
Find arrangements of your favorite songs, or even just a popular tune you enjoy. When you polish something that you and others can recognize, you’ll become more confident in your playing and you’ll be a more versatile musician.
Focus on the little details.
Details do matter. Lucky for you, here at Learn Flute Online we focus on skills that make music easier and more fun. Example: If you improve your posture, your lungs will open much wider and allow for longer, fuller passages through the music.
Find new ways to learn.
We don’t have to drive to the corner record store to flip through thousands of vinyls to uncover something new and exciting in music. Whether it’s surfing YouTube for one of the greats performing on flute or downloading a metronome app, the joys of technology are at your fingertips, and are here to make your learning experience easier and more enjoyable.
Don’t get hung up on the word ‘mastery’. This term can be used in many different ways and should be the term used to describe someone who has the skills to play and enjoy the instrument and music they love.
You are at the perfect stage of life to take hold of your own education. I always tell my students that if we’re still here (alive) then we had better be learning something. It becomes much easier to enjoy the process of musical mastery.
As always, play on and play strong.