continued from To Study or Not to Study: That is the Question (Part 1)
Knowledge aside, the next best thing was being able to really focus on my music and put in some serious practice time. Apart from classes and assignments (which takes about 3-5 hours daily), I would put in a minimum of 3 hours of practice on most days of my Berklee years, sometimes even stretching to 6 hours. How many of us have that discipline/time/willpower to spend that many hours on the development of your craft if you don’t leave your comfort zone? These days I’m overjoyed if I get to even put in a solid hour of practice time.
Even ‘the Special One’ has his off days
All that knowledge and practice hours also helps in having some consistency in performance. Everybody has bad days one time or another. I know of some musicians who are world beaters on a good day and plain terrible on their off days. I suppose that’s what happens when you rely solely on heart and feel. Naturally, it’s hard to make exciting music when you’re feeling down. We are human after all! But when you’ve paid your dues in practice hours, your brain and motor-skills kick in to ensure at least a decent performance on an off day.
Having said all that, I think I learnt even more after graduating and coming home to Malaysia. The trick is to never stop learning and to try to keep up with the constantly changing music trends. Most of the musicians I work with nowadays are recognized to be the best in their field, and yet some have never ever stepped into music school. This alone is proof that music education is not the end-all of your music career. But these guys work HARD. They have sacrificed a lot and are a disciplined bunch. They have managed to put in hours and hours of practice despite their busy working schedules. Obviously these musicians are no lesser than the ones who have had their formal music education.
There really isn’t a quick answer to the question above. Nobody has ever asked me for my paper qualifications in all these years. The ‘degree’ per se might come in handy when you’re after a teaching/lecturing/full time employment kind of post. But I would always strongly encourage anyone who clearly has the means and opportunity to have some kind of intense music education for an extended time. I think people who discourage the idea of getting an education in music are simply dishing out bad advice and killing one’s true potential.
spent hours in these piano rooms…
So… if anybody does ask me if they should go study music, I would say, “GO! To a school that allows you to spend as much time playing and practicing as you would spend in a classroom.” This, to me, is the core of music education. Develop your playing as much as your brain, equally. One can’t do without the other! Such is music.
At the end of the day, we all have our own individual music journey. When it comes to the area of music development, it is often the journey of the life you lead not just during, but after music college that counts. If you never got a chance to go to music college, that’s ok! There’s still a lot of ‘race’ to go. It’s how you swim the rest of the race that counts. Learn from your peers, learn from YouTube, learn from anybody… just be willing to learn and improve. You will finish the race just fine!
That’s how we keep the music REAL!