Musical Aspirations

By Sal Haque 2019-12-05 16:02:35

It's not about the tune but the experience

Being a musician myself, I naturally hoped my son would have an affinity towards music. But it wasn’t something I tried to push on him. I certainly encouraged him, and always had instruments lying around. But I never really taught him to play an instrument, at least not in the traditional sense. I myself can’t read or write music, and have only a basic sense of chords, so teaching him even the simplest music theory is beyond me. But I am able to show him the joy of music, the curiosity of sound, and the more conceptual side of music.

We often want our kids to learn Chopin or reach Lang Lang levels of technicality, and that’s completely fair. Music theory and structure are definitely important. However there’s also a philosophical side to music that we can develop. Part of teaching our kids any art form, is encouraging exploration, and allowing them to develop and discover their own concepts at their own pace.

You don’t need to play a song to make music. It’s a very subjective art and can take many shapes and forms. It’s ultimately up to the listener to decide what they like, and why. The simple sound of a bell can be music. One string on a guitar, or a hand on drum can be music. While there are certainly mathematical rules to music, there are no conceptual or philosophical ones.

All of that’s a bit intense for a five-year-old. But the cool thing about kids, is they generally have a decent sense of rhythm early on. If you give them a hand-drum, they can more or less hit a consistent rhythm for about five seconds, and that’s all you really need as foundation. Let them start by making noise, and they’ll gradually begin to understand the instrument. If they enjoy themselves, they’ll make more noise, and their understanding will continue to grow, perhaps slowly, perhaps quickly. But what’s more important is that they’re enjoying the instrument and exploring the sound it makes. 

One of my kid's guitars only has one string, I wanted to simplify the process for him. Now he just rails on it like a maniac, and even though it sounds like a pile of garbage, the smile on his face is a million miles wide. Every now and then he catches a rhythm, and actually stops and tries to develop it, and that’s super cool. But most importantly, he’s enjoying himself.

I want my kid to know, when there’s a string missing from a guitar, it’s not broken or “flawed”, its just different. It still makes sounds, and it still holds infinite possibilities. Explore it, discover it, and see what happens, maybe you’ll find something awesome you weren’t even looking for.

I think of his approach to music the same way I think about his approach to drawing. When he first started drawing, he’d hit the page with a mess of lines. I had no idea what he was drawing, nor could I make out any discernable structures or figures, but he generally had an idea of what he was trying to create. Like…“what are you drawing little man?”…“a plesiosaur”. Fair enough. It ends up looking like a bunch of random scribbles, but he is trying to develop his concept and understand the medium, while having fun. If he enjoys himself, he’ll continue doing it, and will have his entire life to continue exploring and developing. The same can be applied to music, or any art form, really.

Apply the same idea to dance. Maybe for a minute forget ballet or hip-hop, and just encourage the kid to move however the heck he wants. As a DJ, I’ve watched people dance for over half my life, like eyes-closed, body-flaring, dance-like-no-one's in the-room vibe. That style of just pure expressive dance is the ultimate expression of joy. If you don't believe me, hit up any nightclub and watch people just jump around for a couple hours, and I can pretty much guarantee you, they're going to be smiling. It’s pretty hard to hit the dancefloor when you’re angry or sad… dance really is one of the ultimate expressions of joy. Obviously your kid’s not gonna be hitting Dada on a Friday night, but you can definitely jump around your living room while blaring Bobby Fuller at a reasonable volume. (You want this tune: Let her Dance by Bobby Fuller…trust me.)With that approach, he can see that music and dance are first something to enjoy, and a discipline second.

We live in a world where we often want our children to learn music/dance the “best way” or the “right way”. But music, like all art, is also a philosophical, spiritual, and creative process, and just as much as we need our children to learn theory, we need them to realise music and dance is really just sounds and movement, and as long as you're expressing yourself, and happy as hell while you're doing it, you’ve already succeeded, because really, what other motivation should you have for creating art.