Amongst the language learning community, there are a lot of products marketed to learners as being the newest and fastest way to learn a language.
The problem with this, is with how they’re defining what it means to have learnt a language.
Is this to fluency? To basic conversation ability? It is rarely clear just what they’re offering and what they mean by just how much of the language you’ll learn.
From my personal experience, and that of my language learning friends, there isn’t any way to learn a language other than by putting in the time and using that time effectively.
There is no fast or easy way.
It’s all about putting in the time on a consistent basis.
When you’re trying to develop a skill, going weeks without study and then cramming in a ton of practice into a short window before taking another long break is a disservice to you and it ruins your potential growth in whatever you’re trying to do.
But a lot of products are marketed in a way that would have you believing you could learn something quickly.
And this phenomenon doesn’t just exist amongst language learners. Its prevalent amongst nearly every craft that requires any sort of skill.
Nearly everyone is looking for the next bigger, better, faster way to improve at one skill or another, but are shortcuts really the right way to go?
It seems that people are looking for a way to reap the rewards without putting in any of the work to earn them.
So what does this have to do with music?
The same exact thing as it has to do with any other field.
There. is. no. shortcut.
The only way you’re going to get better is by sitting down and putting hours into practice and making the most of that time.
And playing isn’t practicing.
If you aren’t spending the time in the right way, it can be as unproductive as not practicing at all.
Look Beyond the End Result
In music, like many other vocations, we often just see the end result. We see the successful musician, the adoring fans, and hear the well-produced music after all the hard work has been done in the background.
What we miss is what goes on behind the scenes.
It’s easy to forget or write off all of the things that we don’t see. All of the hours of rehearsal, of practice, of coaching and training, of recording, of writing, and of laboring that go on to create that finished “product.”
It’s easy to ignore because that isn’t what we see. We see the end result, not the preparation. It all seems like a magic. Someone waves their hands and we get a polished performer with a hit record.
But that isn’t the case.
It’s important to remind yourself of all the hours that go into a performance, an album, or a video. There’s so much more to each of these things that you don’t see just because they happen behind the scenes (although we’re seeing it more and more recently as artists give us a look into their lives via social media).
You can’t ignore all the work that an artist or musician puts in to create their “greatest work”. They (often) aren’t geniuses, or exceptions to the rule, and their art often doesn’t come as naturally to them as we’d like to think.
99.9% of the time it isn’t natural talent or luck. It’s hard work.
So why do we want to believe it’s talent or natural ability that allows people to excel?
Because we either don’t want to put the work in ourselves or because we want to make excuses about why we can’t do something.
We are often also attracted to the possibility that someone has a natural gift or that they were destined to do a certain thing which why they have a knack for it. It gives us hope that we’ll find that thing we were destined for.
Even though this way of thinking often leads to our admiring those who excel at certain things (which isn’t so bad in itself – they deserve recognition for their hard work), that admiration allows us to set other musicians on a pedestal. It gives us reason to think, “oh, I could never do that.” And by thinking that, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage before you even begin.
Developing a skill is already a struggle, but if you look at it as impossible, you’ll struggle even more.
Learning can be frustrating, and so, it can be quite easy to understand why we want to skip that step and move quickly from learner to expert. No one wants to experience frustration intentionally and at certain stages, when we sit down to practice, we know that’s what we’re going to feel.
So why do we keep submitting ourselves to that frustration?
Because the end result is worth it.
If we want to accomplish something meaningful, do something great, then we need to deal with the frustration that comes with learning our craft.
If music is something we want to do, something we want to become great at, then we need to pour all of the blood, sweat and tears required into improving.
We need to sit down in front of our music stands or put our headphones on and work.
But we also need to use the time we spend working at our craft and practicing the right way.
When you’re woodshedding, it isn’t enough to just play your instrument, you actually need to take things that you struggle with and work them out.
If you’re comfortable, then you aren’t growing. You aren’t pushing yourself enough. You aren’t teaching yourself new things and you aren’t making aspects of your playing that are difficult for you now easier for yourself later.
If you want to do great things, then you need to make great efforts.
Music is a way to be creative and it is a way for us to express ourselves. It should be something that we find enjoyable. Even though you should stretch and push yourself when you practice, it’s important to find the time to do the things you enjoy musically as well. It doesn’t have to be all work, no play, but if you’re driven to improve it should definitely be more of the former and less of the latter.
In fact, by putting in the work, you may find that you enjoy music more just because you’re reveling in the results of all of your hard work the next time you head out for a performance.
So the next time you find yourself envious over someone’s “natural ability” to do something you’d like to do, remember that it’s not impossible. You can get to that point to if you’re willing to put in the work.