Monday, February 18, 2008

Levels of knowing

Good morning!

Levels of knowing. How well do you really know that song or idea? As I get ready for a last minute gig this weekend, I'm faced with several different levels, and limits of my playing.

- The "I have no clue!" level

- "I'm starting to get it, but I need to play along with the song" level. (Think of this as riding a bike with training wheels.)

- "I can sorta play it, but I need the band to keep time."

- "I can play it 'a Capella' and it sounds great."

- "I can teach it."

The last level could explain a curious statement. When I first applied for my teaching gig, one of my teachers told me it would help my playing out a lot. I was puzzled, as I couldn't see how teaching someone else would benefit my skills as a musician.

I quickly discovered that there was a ton of material that I knew about, and could play, but...I sure couldn't explain it! I attribute this to my knowledge being not as "deep" as I would have liked. Trying to explain modes one day to an unfortunate friend of mine left us both thoroughly puzzled. A student totally froze my circuits one day when they asked why a half diminished chord was called what it was called.

I knew this stuff to the point I could apply it, but not to the level where I could teach it.

Needless to say, I can now teach modes, half diminished seventh chords, and even a Hannah Montana song if the student wants to learn it.

Teaching has taught me much about levels of knowledge. So has playing live music.

So what's the point? There's two.

1. Jam with people. This might seem intimidating to the uninitiated, but it's really quite fun.
Start off with a buddy, and if you can, join a band. It will really help your playing. If nothing else, it will quickly show you where your limits are, and more importantly, what they are.

2. Teach a buddy. If you've got a friend who wants to know how you play that cool song on the guitar, show 'em! How about one that's confused about guitar tab? Sort it out for them! I certainly don't recommend running out to the local music store to teach if you're not ready, however. But helping your friends learn is a fabulous way to learn to organize your thoughts to provide a clear explanation, and to learn your limits so you can learn more.

Remember how I was talking about levels so long ago (at the beginning of this post?) I find that if you can play it and teach it, you've got it down.

Best of luck!

Finding a blues jam in your neighborhood is a really good thing to do. A blues jam is an impromptu band thrown together from the attendees, and an excellent place to hone musical skills. More on 'em later, but in the meantime, as my little brother would say "GIYF." (Google Is Your Friend!)

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