What do you want to get out of your music? Knowing your goals will keep you focused on the skills you need, and steer you away from skills you can do without. I will gear your lessons around what you want, so you can have more fun.
Write down the goals that resonate with you. Have them handy when you choose a teacher so you can see how you will be supported in your goals.
Why do you want to play?
- I just want to play for my own enjoyment, not for anyone else to hear.
- I’m learning to be a therapeutic musician, playing at the bedside of sick and dying patients.
- I want to make money at gigs and weddings.
- I enjoy jamming with other musicians, with or without written music.
- The harp looks impressive, and I want to show off to family and friends.
- I’d like to perform in an orchestra or smaller group on a regular basis.
- Some other reasons...
Put your goals where you can see them before you practice, and bring them to your lessons.
It’s okay if you don’t know your goals yet. I can help you with that, too.
Potential musical skills to learn, if you want
I can teach you the skills that will make your music playing the most fun. You do not have to learn any of these. Your own goals will drive which of these skills are worth your while.
Playing by ear. This is being able to play music you hear without seeing it written down. It opens you up to playing anything you’ve heard before without having to locate or purchase sheet music.
Reading music. Having the ability to read music means you won’t have to hear it first, and you won’t have to memorize your songs completely. But, if you can play by ear, you don’t need to learn to read music.
Sight-reading. Not just reading music, but playing it on-the-fly, particularly when you’ve never seen it before. If you can sight-read, you don’t have to memorize your music at all, which can mean a larger repertoire.
Lead sheet. Playing from lead sheets is like sight-reading the melody and improvising the bass. You’ll be able to play from fake books and create your own arrangements, not only increasing your repertoire, but really making the songs your own. Reading from a lead sheet is easier than full sight-reading, since there is no bass clef.
Memorizing. This is helpful if you don’t want your audience to see you using the sheet music, if you don’t want the paper to get between you and your patient, if it hurts your eyes to focus on the music and the strings, or if you can’t light your music.
Improvising. You don’t have to play jazz to be able to learn to improvise. Make your songs longer with an improvised intro or outro. Recover from mistakes by going into an improvised bridge. Or just play.
Arranging. If you have sheet music for a piece that is too difficult or for a different instrument, or if you know a tune by ear but want to do it in a different way, then you can make your own arrangement. Maybe you’ve always wanted to do a bossa nova version “Frosty the Snowman” or turn “Yesterday” into a waltz.
Composing. Want to make music that’s never been heard before? It’s much easier than you think.
Music theory. If you want to be better able to sight read, play from lead sheets, memorize, learn by ear, improvise, arrange, or compose, then you will want to learn music theory. You can do any of these skills without theory, but theory makes it easier.
Do any of these skills sound like fun? Write them down. Anything sound dismal, make you cringe? For any teacher that you are looking to work with, make sure they are willing to focus on what you want.