Recently, I have been watching a lot of reality TV shows on music – Indian Idol and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. Some of the talent is outstanding and combined with the fact that my daughter is starting to learn music, it got me thinking. What makes for a good musician? Starting early in one’s life will help, but can someone much later in their life also pick up music and excel?
It is all about the beats
In my mind, music is built around the taal (or tala). There has got be a beat to the music, be it singing or playing any musical instrument – the support of a rhythmic beat is much needed. The sooner it is ingrained in the mind and sub-conscious, the better it is.
An organized mind
The 7 notes of music are repeated across cultures, civilizations and eons. I think the best musicians are able to organize their minds. The ability to partition notes into groups of 8 (or multiples of 2), helps immensely. Their minds are automatically tuned to the octave and anything that does not fit in, will immediately be set aside as noise.
Throw in creativity
Someone once mentioned to me how the human brain is able to conjure so many different kinds of music from just 7 notes. True, that. Scientifically, myriad frequencies coupled with 7 notes constitutes music. Of course, the taste of the listener plays a significant part. The ability to create different sounds and blend them together to make it pleasing to the ear makes a good musician. Not every singer, instrument player with an understanding of beats and an organized mind becomes a great musician. Creativity separates the woman from the girls.
Heaps of practice
It doesn’t matter if one is yearning to be excellent at their trade, be it a shoe maker, a sportsman or a musician. No one is going anywhere without practicing day in and day out. Ask any athlete, or any skilled practitioner of an art form, they would not have become one without being passionate about it and practicing more than anyone else around them. I once heard Ustad Zakir Hussain, the tabla maestro mention that he would be awoken at 3:30 a.m. as a kid and made to practice by his father, the great Ustad Allah Rakha. No one becomes a champion overnight. Practice, practice and practice some more.
No fear of failure
This is the most difficult thing to do – overcome the fear of failure. Often, when starting out, we look at seasoned musicians and aspire to play like them. Practice for many hours and then, even then, we are no where near playing like the teacher or a seasoned musician. It is easy to give up right then. “It is not for me”, “I can’t do it”, “I don’t have it in me”. Succumbing to these negative thoughts is easy. Getting over them is not. But get over them, one must. Stick with it long enough and it can be done. Believe!
These are just some of my thoughts on the topic of learning music and getting better at it. What do you think?