When we’re learning we’re taught to study and to practice over and over again until it becomes second nature. What we’re not taught is how to know when it’s time to move past that and start doing because that’s where the real learning begins. Many people view having a black belt in the martial arts as meaning you’re a master while in actuality achieving a black belt simply means you’ve finished mastering the basic techniques that make up the martial art. When you are awarded your black belt, you’re being told that now is the time to start learning. If only there was such a thing for us in the arts and music.
One time when I was young and studying with my aforementioned teacher, I came into a lesson asking, “What scale do I use to solo over this chord?” He responded, “You’ll study all the scales and one day you’re going to wake up and realize there is no scale; you’ll just be able to make it work.” Not satisfied with his apocryphal answer, I continued to pester him about the chord. With an exasperated sigh he said, “G mixolydian”, while I smiled happily at my new found knowledge not realizing at the time that the real knowledge was to come. It took 13 years for it to finally arrive.
I suspect some of us figure this out much earlier. Some of us arrive at it later, like I did. And some are yet to stumble onto it. If you haven’t yet, you’ll know when you do because it’s more than a light bulb going off; it’s a sun exploding.
Now if you’ll be so kind as to excuse me while you take a moment to figure out if you still give a damn. I need to grab some blue — any blue — and just make it work.
-Frank Perri, May 2012.