Mr. Rogers on Living the Musical Good Life, Deep and Simple
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.”
Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers)
There’s a trap many musicians fall into. And this trap is made up of shallow complexity.
Instead of plumbing the depths of musical experience, we get distracted by shiny objects. And what are the shiny objects? Notes. Notes, notes and more notes.
We play harder and harder tunes, with more and more notes, in more and varied rhythms.
And there would be nothing wrong with this, except for one thing….
The point of music is not to play notes. The point of music is to play music.
The literary equivalent would be the writer who only attempts to write as many words as possible. As long as each word is spelled correctly, he thinks he’s doing great. Nevermind that his work is not fit to read.
And it’s very common to hear this in music: complex music that’s boring, bland or uninspiring (even if it is clean and polished). All we can say after hearing it is, “wow, that sounds hard…”
Instead of striving for quantity, or difficulty level, we could choose different targets. We could ask different questions in our practice. We could set different standards and aspire to do more with less.
We could think of getting the notes as the first step to playing music, and relish the parts that come after.
We could resist the temptation to define our “level” or “grade” by the complexity of the music we play. Instead, we could maximize and optimize for personal discovery and joy in daily practice.
Each piece of music is a potentially rewarding relationship (even the “easy” tunes). But we miss those relationships when we jump into the next tune as soon as we learn the notes of the current one.
And what do we do after we learn the notes? We explore. We record ourselves and look for ways to make it more beautiful. We listen to the great players of history on instruments other than guitar. We find music that moves us and try to find out why. We go deeper.
Mr. Rogers knew how to enjoy life and make life meaningful: deep and simple.
Hi, I’m Allen Mathews.
I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
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