It’s a nice idea, isn’t it? Getting rid of all the fol-de-rol and the bells and whistles, so that you can concentrate on the essential things.
I’m thinking about this particularly with regard to music, and the teaching of music. A year ago, I thought all my face-to-face work would disappear and I’d be destitute. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and I managed to maintain a high percentage of my work, keeping many people engaged with music in their own homes. But at the beginning of the pandemic, I came up with a project I could do – not to make money, but to connect with people and help them learn about music.
I thought my idea was a simple one: make a series of YouTube videos explaining and illustrating the basic principles of music. There are plenty of tutorial videos out there, some of them very good, but many more are too complicated, too simplistic, too excitable, too dull, too confusing, too American, or just plain wrong. I wasn’t aiming to be an influencer, just to find a way of doing what I do in Covid times.
This project has been on my “To do” list for a year now and it has not progressed very far. I tried making a couple of videos and I discovered several things. Firstly, that I look really grumpy if I’m not actively smiling. Secondly, that I say Um quite a lot. And also that even when I understand things well, off the cuff I don’t always describe them clearly. There were technical things too: the microphone I bought didn’t work and getting the lighting right was tricky.
I was aiming to keep each video short – five minutes or less, to suit the medium. This was why I was trying to really pare back to the essentials.
I started off with what I thought was a basic building block of music. Easy, I thought, I will just introduce this one concept. Soon, though, I realised I’d used another word that had a specific musicky meaning which needed to be explained. So maybe THAT should be part one and this other thing should be part two?
There are many terms in music that are words we use in everyday life. Words like bar, note, pulse, beat, even high and low – when you use them in a musical context they have a specific meaning. In addition, some words like note* and beat have more than one meaning, and it’s worth spending some time on precisely what is meant.
*Just to elaborate on this one: This can mean 1. the sound you hear, 2. the symbol on the page or 3.the physical thing you press down on a keyboard. These are three quite different things.
I’m glad I had this idea. I haven’t scratched it off my list yet and it has really helped clarify my thinking about the fundamental elements of music. Even if I don’t upload videos, it will inform my teaching.
I am now filled with admiration for everyone who makes a half-way decent video on YouTube about anything. Especially music.