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WHAT music, WHEN music, HOW music

Music is made up of three essential Elements.


First, there is WHAT to play.

Which musical notes to play. In which order.

What drum to hit.

Which chord to strum.

Knowing which notes to play is what new students should obsess over.

That’s why they stare at sheet music so intently, they need to familiarise themselves with what these dots mean, and where on their instrument they are positioned.

I encourage all my students to learn to play the notes first.

The analogy is always

“Don’t jump into the deep end of a swimming pool,

and then panic because it’s too deep.

Start off at the shallow end.

Ease yourself in gently.  Step by step.

If you find one step is too hard, you can simply step back into the safety of the shallows”.


Only when people are conversant with the notes,

confident at  where  they are and  what  to play, do I encourage them to count.




WHEN to play – Good ol’ Counting.

Great, now we’ve learnt

what notes to play,

what chords to strum,

which drum to hit,

now we can ease ourselves into Timing.  When to play the notes.

Counting isn’t about maths – it’s about Time. (More on this in the next blog).

Counting Time is essential because it gives a structure to the music.

Playing notes or making hits, WITHOUT any structure, sounds awful,

like random scratchings and bangings in the void of space.

There is no frame of reference.

There is no hook to hang on to.

There is no handrail to help you up the stairs.

As soon as you apply a Time Signature to the, apparently random, notes, hits and strums,

you bring Order to Chaos.

The notes, chords and shots take on a new meaning,

a new significance,

a new interpretation.

Order gives them a fresh beauty, that was previously hidden in Chaos.




Finally, the advanced stage – HOW to play.

Knowing What notes to play,

and When to play them,

can be performed by any robot.

How many drummers are replaced by a drum machine?


What distinguishes Live Musicians from robots and machines,

is this vital and precious human element: HOW to play.

What emphasis do we put into the music we are playing?

What feelings are we emoting in our performance?

A bit like an Actor – you have to BE the part you are playing.

Live it. Breath it. Feeeel it. Work with it. Let it move you.

Be Present when you’re playing, keep your mind inside the room.

I encourage all my students, to breath in and out to the music they are creating/playing.

Like your chest going up and down.

Like a wave of the sea.

Breath in at the crest, pause, then a smooth run of notes on the way down.

It’s your choice as a musician:

Do you slide onto a note  or  slide off it?

Do you hop onto a note  or  land on it heavily?

Do you hammer onto a note and pull off?

Do you slur notes together like a stream,  or do you staccato them?

Do you play on the click accurately,

or behind the click, giving the music a laid back feel.

Or do you play in front of the click, giving the groove a trucking, driving feel !


More about Time in the next blog – see you there!





Want to know more?

Looking for music lessons in Colwyn Bay? Please check out our Music Teacher page for information, or contact us.