A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Coursera – DYM Lesson 3 videos (1)

So, the first video for Lesson 3 of Coursera’s Developing Your Musicianship class kicks off with the question “What advice would you give someone interested in studying music?” It is subsequently answered by Berklee staff and students in short interview snippets. These are actually the videos I think that I learn the most from – outside of actual theory. Here’s what I gleaned:

1. Berklee Faculty/Student Spotlight: Advice for Studying Music (4:32) 

The first person interviewed is the East Indian girl from previous videos. “Don’t be intimidated by everything that’s going on around you. Just be yourself,” is her advice. She goes on to explain that when immersed in such an exhaustive musical atmosphere, the first thing that many people do is experience fear and doubts about whether they’re good enough to be in the environment. She says that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and the reason that they attend music school is to learn and have a long way to get to where they want to be. She says that its a hard journey, but to believe and have faith in yourself and you’ll arrive where you need to be.

Next comes the Hispanic male whose parents sung barbershop. He says, “At the root of it all, its all about the art.” He says that its important to expose yourself to different art that’s already out there, and I think he implied that you need to also get yourself exposed to the public. His exact words were, “Practice exposing yourself,” but I’m trying really hard to take the high ground with that. 😉 He says that they study music history to understand where music has come from, and they study music that already exists to that they can understand the theory behind the rules that we have now. He also says that all of the music that will come in the future is the direct result of what’s happening now and that students must aspire to keep the technical knowledge that they learn relevant to what’s happening and remain curious about new music and music from all around the world.

The third person is the male Jewish pianist who produced The Loft Sessions. He says that when he first entered Berklee, he experienced this feeling of complete humility, which is something he thinks every student there experiences from seeing students perform amazing pieces and getting the idea that that’s where the standard is at this point. It leads to a high level of respect for musicians that attend the school and he thinks it makes students want to work with as many people as they can, especially those that they respect on a deep level. It also seems to illustrate what the Indian student was speaking about.

The fourth person to be interviewed is Rob Jaczko, the Chair of the Music Production & Engineering Dept. He says that some of the best advice that was given to him, which he passes along when people ask him what they can do to be better at music is to, “Set aside some time each week and listen to music you think you hate.” He says that no one has to tell you to listen to music that you like – we all do that all the time, The rationale behind this is, “To purposely confront your biases about music, no matter what, what it is, or your fear of a style you don’t know about.” He says to spend some time and really dig into it, try to understand objectively what’s going on, even if you don’t personally connect with it. He says that music production and engineering is built on the idea that you need to be broad and be able to collaborate with many people who come from different perspectives than your own. He believes that listening to music that you don’t readily understand at first leads to a wider appreciation, and this can lead to a career that can last a lifetime.

Kris Adams, the fifth interviewee, and Professor in the Harmony Dept says, “The more hours you put into it, the more you’re going to reap the benefits because its all about putting time in.” At first, that sounded like unionized methodology to me, but then she followed with, “And you can’t get better if you don’t practice it. It just takes time and you have to be patient.” She says that music is a lifelong journey – there’s always something to study, learn about or listen to. So, that’s one more voice on the woodshedding side of the argument against magical shortcuts when learning music.

Interviewee #6 is the Chinese student from previous videos. His advice translates to, “The tip I will give students who are going to study with Berklee is to do everything you can for the music you love because there is no failure with Berklee.” I’m not sure if his part was cut short, because he doesn’t expand on this at all, but its interesting for me to hear only because of the perceived Asian attitudes towards failure, success, achievement and the arts. His comment about doing everything you can for the music you love is endearing, but the continuation about failure seems like it could mean different things to different people.

Finally, the black girl, who I assumed was Jamaican (and who still could be) interviews in Swedish and says that taking Berklee online courses is a very good idea. She follows with, “And don’t be afraid of the fact that the world is so big, and what’s Sweden compared – no. Play, just play.” She encourages Swedish students to come out to Boston if the opportunity arises, because its fun and rewarding and then encourages them to go ahead and study music. Well, I know a lot of Jamaicans here in NY, and none of them speak Swedish, so that was a complete surprise, but also, Sweden produces so many of the bands that I listened to growing up. They’re practically a Mecca for death metal – the Gothenburg sound emerged from there, which is practically the blueprint for melodic death metal. Just off of the top of my head, At the Gates, Bloodbath, Dark Tranquility, Dismember, Edge of Sanity, Entombed, Grave, Katatonia, Opeth, Therion, Tiamat and Unleashed come from there. That’s not even counting bands that I listen to but aren’t as heavily into, like Arch Enemy, In Flames, Meshuggah and Soilwork. In the world-at-large, Sweden might just be a blip on the map, but I think that, to metalheads, especially those who enjoy black metal and death metal, Sweden is one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Also, for you bass players, Jonas Hellborg is Swedish!


2 responses

  1. Pingback: Coursera – Developing Your Musicianship Lesson 3 | Ugly Bass Face

  2. Reblogged this on I Write The Music.

    February 23, 2015 at 1:16 am

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