Last weekend I was teaching at a music camp for grown-ups. I like being at this camp – I’ve written about it before. There’s an awful lot of people who are really passionate about music, and want to learn. But there’s this weird belief that a lot of them have – than me, as a teacher, can give them one insight that is going to make things hugely different for their playing – like putting more rosin on their bow, or sitting differently, or adjusting their music stands. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
I was also fortunate enough to sit in on a lesson given by a very-fabulous guitarist to a young student. And really it all boiled down to one thing. You need to know so much background knowledge to play better. You need hours at the instrument. And not just a few – but hundreds of hours every year. You need to work hard, and work hard consistently.
I joke with a regular playing partner of mine about a certain style of amateur player. They have every gadget available. Tuners. Fancy stands. Magnetic self-sharpening pencils. Apps that show them all sorts of stuff. But they don’t play very well, because they don’t actually sit down and practise.
It’s not magic. It’s not really a gift. I mean, sure, there are people who show aptitude. And there are people who instinctively can phrase beautifully. But actually, most good players work. And work hard. Damn hard. Day in, day out.