Like many of my university colleagues, I am in the middle of a crazy amount of jazz theory marking. Although it is busy, I can't help but feel excited for the students who are discovering the joy of applied music theory. It is like watching a painter explore a new box of paints full of vibrant colors.

In jazz, theory is used as raw material.

I remember back in the early days feeling totally overwhelmed by the perception that I needed to know EVERYTHING before I could even come close to considering myself a jazz musician. The stress of trying to learn EVERYTHING as quickly as possible became way more of an impediment than the material itself.

Then one day after feeling anxious, terrified and ready to pack it in,  I realized that this was going to be a life long journey and that the information was going to go into a huge musical basket that I would inevitably spend my lifetime exploring. I cut myself some slack and started to have fun again. I surrounded myself with open-hearted musical friends and reclaimed my joy.

The irony is that when I started to do that, the information got absorbed and assimilated quite quickly.  My playing improved and so did my peace of mind. The learning happen way more quickly when you are calm and open. So, after I realized that embracing the process was the whole point, music became fun again.

So, remember that theory is just information and frameworks. It's raw material for your art. The power actually lies in the feelings you create within yourself while using the material, the feelings that you create with your musical collaborators and then how you communicate these feelings to the all important co-creator - the listener.

So remember:
  1. Stress inhibits learning. Learning how music works should be fun.
  2. There is no end game in music. It's endless. Embrace that fact and you will have a great adventure. Fill your basket with all kinds of things and enjoy exploring the collection.
  3. Music is the art of feeling. Focus on the feeling  you want to have within yourself and share it with others. Feelings are also raw material for the song.
Have a great day everyone!

~ J