Don’t Skip the Basics

Looking up at a mirrored skyscraper. Photo by MichaelGaida on Pixabay

Nobody wants to learn the basics. We want the get-skilled-quick solution. But when trying to create something profound, too many novices stretch beyond their abilities and create amateur work .

I know this from experience. A classically trained pianist, I struggled with improv when I joined an R&B band. I wanted to sound as good as the other, more experienced keyboardist, so I skipped the basics and tried to emulate the funk and blues masters by ear. It didn’t work. I dreaded solos.

Last month, I was set to perform as half a duet at a solo-filled community Christmas concert, and I knew I needed to practice if I wanted to sound half-decent. To prepare for the show, I first recognized that mastery through osmosis wasn’t going to happen. I then went back to basics and learned a few easy scales1. The show went great—someone told me that I sounded professional, and while I am still far from mastery, I improved more in a few weeks than I did in a couple of years.

Embrace the learning process. Even the tallest tower needs a foundation.

  1. The major pentatonic, minor pentatonic, and blues scale.
Written on January 27, 2019