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Musicians? What Do WE Know?

Updated: Jan 8

There is a view that everyone is musical. This might, in some people's minds, be difficult to accept, however time after time, when you give an adult a musical instrument, one who strongly believes they have no talent, their inner child rapidly materialises and they find that music just appears. A reaction of astonishment is frequently the case.

Music is an innate human quality. Music carries within it the ingredients which make us Humans such a successful species. In some of us the qualities may be somewhat dormant but by developing them with an eye on The Musician's Way Model, this can lead to a highly motivated and skilled workforce.

So diving in a little deeper, musicians are expert planners, decision makers, problem solvers, & communicators. Team-building & leadership are innate elements of The Musician's Way. The Musician's Way is a means of looking at what it is to be human in a more flexible manner and opens up the possibility of healthier and more creative interactions between team members.

One way or another, musicians are flexible in their response to each other. For example, when they play together, they lead themselves and but are also led. How they choose to respond to each other in different situations depends on a variety of circumstances. Ultimately they bring it all together to perform a piece of music. Playing music involves being responsive, collaborating and co-operating, leading and letting go, stepping forward

and back, accepting and processing error, being supportive and nurturing, working hard to improve their skills, being aware of detail whilst having a sense of context, handling pressure, nerves and anxiety and hopefully producing a good outcome.

​This is what happens in the musical context. Musicians are very conscious of all of these elements and work hard to develop their abilities in these areas. In terms of The Musician's Way Model, musicians experience the intuitive and the practicalities of the rational. Following the other path in the model, musicians can experience both being powerfully led by the command of the baton, and the sublime openness of the emergent where almost no framework or structure is envisaged.

When these processes of interaction are applied to non-musical settings, it becomes possible to see that there are musical ways for groups of humans to interact effectively when handling life's non-musical issues.

One thing is clear with musicians and indeed in many other performance art disciplines there is always a sense that "The Show Must Go On!". Musical leadership at certain times can be leadership 'in the moment', guiding complex simultaneous activities. Musicians will lead themselves and their 'team'; their band or orchestra, in a variety of different styles to suit the piece. The leadership style must 'fit', relate to what is happening now, with a sense of what's coming towards them, hopefully leading to the best outcome. Use the wrong 'style' of musical leadership and 'it just doesn't happen.'

Musicians have to make 'choices' constantly, as we've already mentioned; "the show must go on". Unexpected things happen. Mistakes are made. We might even make things up to 'cover things up'. But musicians will 'make it work'. Making music is done in many, many different styles and in many different ways. At one end of the scale it's highly organised and at the other seemingly chaotic. Skilled musicians are able to work, respond and make music in all of these different territories and scenarios.

Some musical scenarios are large-scale and others very small and intimate, just as there in non-musical arenas. Many things are at work in the mind of the musician on many different levels. At one level they might be individuals with a specific role to perform, but at another time they connect and respond to a much larger tapestry, working in very large groups who then appear to be acting 'as one'. The musical outcomes are often composed and written down at one end of the musical spectrum, whilst at the other the creativity is completely improvised. In terms of the creative process, published musical pieces don't as it were, magically appear on the paper. Musical musings precede everything. Pop bands offer ideas to each other and capture them by laying down tracks which are worked on later in post-production to eventually create a product which can be sold or shared. However these products could not exist without the preceding improvisation and crafting.

So this is the way musicians produce a product. Taking a look at the ways we have available to us to bring it all together stretches far beyond the field of music. All it takes to begin with The Musician's Way is courage.

Let's delve deeper into the fascinating intersection of music performance and the intricate tapestry of human behaviour.

Structure and Spontaneity: A Tightrope Walk

Imagine a tightrope walker, poised amidst the clouds, gracefully navigating from one end to the other. Their movements are meticulously rehearsed, each step a testament to rigorous training and unwavering focus. Yet, within this framework of planned precision, there exists a whisper of spontaneity. A gust of wind, a shift in balance, even the audience's collective breath can necessitate subtle adjustments, a delicate interplay between control and adaptation.

Similarly, a music performance unfolds on a tightrope of structure and spontaneity. The score serves as the guiding map, a framework of notes and rhythms meticulously crafted by the composer. Yet, within this framework, the performer breathes life into the music. Through nuanced phrasing, dynamic shifts, and the subtle inflections of their unique artistry, they transform the notes from mere symbols on a page into a living, breathing tapestry of sound.

This carefully calibrated dance between the planned and the unplanned is what keeps music performances alive and electrifying. Each rendition, while informed by the composer's blueprint, becomes a unique expression, inflected by the performer's emotions, the energy of the venue, and the interplay with the audience. It's a testament to the human capacity to exist within both structure and freedom, to find inspiration within the confines of form, and to create something new and breathtaking in the ever-changing present.

Beyond Technical Brilliance: The Spark of Inspiration

While technical virtuosity is undeniably impressive, it is merely the foundation upon which the true magic of music performance is built. The mark of a truly captivating performance lies in its ability to evoke emotions, to transport the listener on a journey beyond the confines of the concert hall. This is where the spark of inspiration takes centre stage.

A performer is not merely a conduit for the composer's voice; they are an interpreter, a storyteller, a weaver of sonic emotions. Through the power of their artistry, they can elicit joy and sorrow, ignite passion and introspection, and paint vivid sonic landscapes that resonate within the depths of our souls.

This ability to inspire transcends technical prowess. It stems from a deep understanding of the human condition, a connection to the universal emotions that bind us together. When a performer truly inhabits the music, they create a bridge between their own soul and the souls of their listeners, fostering a shared experience that transcends language and cultural barriers.

Pushing Boundaries: Embracing the Challenge

But music performance is not merely about comfort and familiarity. It is also about pushing boundaries, venturing into uncharted sonic territories, and embracing the challenge of the unknown. Great performers are not content with simply replicating the past; they are driven by a relentless curiosity, a desire to explore the fringes of musical expression.

This spirit of exploration manifests in myriad ways. Improvisation allows musicians to weave spontaneous threads into the fabric of the composition, creating unique moments that exist only in the fleeting present. Collaboration with diverse artists from other genres or cultural backgrounds can lead to unexpected sonic fusions, challenging preconceived notions of what music can be.

This willingness to embrace the challenge, to venture beyond the familiar, is what keeps music fresh and vital. It ensures that each generation inherits not just a musical legacy, but an invitation to reinterpret, reimagine, and push the boundaries of what music can express.

Music performance, then, is not merely an exhibition of skill or a source of entertainment. It is a powerful demonstration of how human beings navigate the intricate tapestry of our experiences. It is a testament to our ability to find structure and freedom, to connect with ourselves and each other, and to embrace the challenges and joys of artistic creation. In its essence, music performance is a symphony of our lives, resonating through the ages and reminding us of the beauty and complexity of the human experience.

In summary learning and playing a musical instrument offers a treasure trove of personal development skills. Here's a list of some key benefits:

Cognitive skills:

  • Memory: Remembering melodies, rhythms, and fingerings strengthens memory capacity and recall.

  • Concentration: Focusing intently on practice sessions improves attention span and ability to tune out distractions.

  • Problem-solving: Overcoming technical challenges and interpreting musical notation hone analytical and problem-solving skills.

  • Multitasking: Coordinating different body parts (eyes, hands, feet) to play simultaneously enhances multitasking abilities.

  • Auditory processing: Discerning subtle pitches and rhythms fine-tunes auditory processing skills.

Emotional skills:

  • Self-discipline: Sticking to regular practice routines instils discipline and perseverance.

  • Patience: Mastering difficult passages necessitates patience and acceptance of gradual progress.

  • Frustration tolerance: Learning to overcome mistakes and challenges builds resilience and frustration tolerance.

  • Stress relief: Playing music provides a creative outlet for emotional release and stress reduction.

  • Self-expression: Music allows for emotional expression and exploration of personal identity.

Social skills:

  • Communication: Collaboration with other musicians develops communication and teamwork skills.

  • Listening: Playing in ensembles requires attentive listening to blend and harmonise with others.

  • Empathy: Understanding and responding to the emotions conveyed through music fosters empathy.

  • Confidence: Performing in front of others builds confidence and public speaking skills.

  • Openness to feedback: Receiving constructive criticism from teachers or peers strengthens willingness to learn and grow.

Motor skills:

  • Fine motor skills: Finger movement precision and dexterity are developed through playing the instrument.

  • Physical planning and coordination: Coordinating hands, eyes, and body movements improves overall motor skills.

  • Spatial awareness: In performance, lateral vision and auditory skills provide us with a much greater appreciation of where we are in space, both physically and in time.


  • Creativity: Improvisation and composition skills unlock creative potential and self-expression.

  • Lifelong learning: The pursuit of musical mastery encourages a love for lifelong learning and personal growth.

Remember, the specific skills you develop will depend on the instrument you choose, the dedication you put in, and the learning environment you seek. Regardless of your musical path, embracing the journey is sure to enrich your personal development in numerous ways.

For those of us with the experience of learning and playing a musical instrument, these are undoubtedly qualities which we can carry over into other parts of our lives.

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