Music Is The Best Teacher

The one thing you need to know about studying music is this: the musicians playing the music that moves you are who you should be learning from, not professional music teachers. Since it’s typically hard to bring world-class musicians into your home, think of great music and concerts as your teachers. Learning anything is as simple as thinking about how it is done, and then trying to do it until you get it right. Study the final product, not the easily regurgitated chunks. We can better understand why this is by thinking of recorded music as a teacher, and comparing it with the best qualities of teachers.

The best teachers, first and foremost, are masters of their subjects, constantly striving to understand and improve. For an example, it’s a well-known fact that universities compete to get the best researchers. Some people complain about this system because it allocates money towards the good researchers and away from the good “teachers,” but the reverse is actually true. The best researchers are the best teachers as well because they are the best at what they do, and what they do can be studied and copied by students.

It’s not a coincidence that great jazz musicians often play with other greats at a young age. This is a picture of Miles Davis (right) with Charlie Parker in 1947, when Davis was 21.

The second quality that a good teacher must possess is a healthy respect for the student. The word education actually comes from the Latin educare, to bring up. A good teacher understands that students must do the work themselves, and therefore works in their best interests. Every student is different, and treating students as cogs in a machine is futile if you want them to learn.

Third and finally, master teachers are respected by their students; they cultivate a “natural authority,” if you will. Natural authority is respect for a person based on what they do and how they treat and relate to the world — the same quality that people feel for great and accomplished leaders. This isn’t some unattainable thing; it’s what people feel for their friends. When you spend time with your friends, you’re learning as well and you don’t even know it. Friends are also held responsible for their actions, which is important in a teacher-student relationship — if you mistreat friends, your friendships will tend to disintegrate. The best teachers are friendly; they have a healthy level of affinity and closeness with their students.

Recorded music has all three of these traits. It obviously has the best musicians. It respects students because it is serious, intelligent, real work done by masters, basically the opposite of the way strangers talk to babies. Students respect great music because it is selected based on personal taste. If you want to be a great musician (and who doesn’t), then the best thing you can do is find your musical preferences, study them, and constantly be searching to expand your tastes.

There is a section of articles on this site called “Musical Discovery.” In the future, most of the new content on this site will fall under this category, because that is the most important thing. That is how to really learn drums, or simply how to learn.

Recommended for you:
Musical Discovery
Why You Don’t Need A Teacher

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