Have you ever had a musical experience that was a ‘Wow moment’, one that got you really excited, so much so that it acted like a trigger, propelling you into learning something new?
Maybe it was an inspiring performance that made you want to become a performer too.
Perhaps it was a particular artist you admired whose music really resonated with you.
Or maybe it was the tone colour of a particular instrument that drew you in that direction.
I remember such a trigger that really propelled me into a whole new level in my love of music.
As a teenager I heard the piece of music Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. American folk probably know it well. But I’d been raised in New Zealand on a mostly classical diet of music. I was dabbling with playing in a popular style of the day and playing by ear at the time. The thing that caught my attention was the fun, jazzy harmony, along with the fact it was a piece for piano and orchestra. I went along to the library to listen to a full version of it on an LP (long playing record, back when vinyl was the only medium available!) and see the score.
I was absolutely hooked from the clarinet glissando at the beginning to the flashy piano arpeggios and fat chords at the end. I could also see that I would be able to play some parts of the 29 page piano piece with my current level of playing and, significantly, I had finished school and was working during a gap year. With no formal study driving what I had to play, here was something I really wanted to play. Eventually, I did get to play it all, although some parts were not that flash or as fast as it was supposed to be.
Here’s a link to a piano and orchestra performance, along with the score for the two piano version, (where one piano would be representing the orchestra). George Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue
There is a piano version that combines both, which was what I learned from.
After all the formal training, this trigger was more significant than I realised at the time. It was what actually propelled me into wanting to compose music, so delighted and fascinated as I was by Gershwin’s harmonies and rhythms. This led to my interest in following through with completing a music degree, something I never thought I’d be bothered with after grinding through subjects I didn’t enjoy at high school.
So, as your young ones learn music this year, look out for the opportunities to give them learning triggers that will impact their motivation to really get into it.
Here are some possibilities:
- Check out performances of artists your child enjoys and go to live perfomances where possible – either as an incentive for reaching a particular goal, or just for the fun of it.
- Give them opportunities to hear a range of music around the level they are playing at on their instrument – maybe find some on You Tube or from others at school.
- Find music for them to play in a style they like. Even if they stay with that style for a while, it will be better for their long term love of music than to always play what is not their favourite. Once a mother told me her son loved Für Elise but she was sick of hearing the first part played over and over again. So I wrote a little piece called A Companion for Elise which seemed to help. (Let me know if you would like a copy of it and I’ll send the .pdf to you.)
- Get them to join some sort of music group. Playing with others is often a big motivating trigger.
Has there been a learning trigger that really worked for you? It doesn’t have to only be in the area of music, because we can still get good insights that can help with music learning from all sorts of experiences. It might trigger some good ideas to inspire the musicians among us, at the very least.