Aspiring musicians have one crucial decision they need to make concerning getting to where they want to be; whether to take formal lessons or be self-taught. Both options have their pros and cons, so it’s important to understand each of these before making the final decision.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Being self-taught definitely has an element of adventure and genius associated with it, while formal education can be associated with rigidity.

But on the flip side, having a teacher or going to college to study music can put you in an environment that limits you creatively. When you’re at a music school, everyone gets the same education. From a music schools point of view, it’s more fair that way, and everyone is on equal ground. It’s one of the ironies of music education however.

In any creative field, whether it’s music or art or anything else, you’ll stand out more if you’re unique. And that’s a good thing. There already is a Dave Matthews; we don’t need another (nothing against Dave!). Not that anyone forces you to sound a certain way, but when you all have the same teachers, the same courses, and the same graduation requirements, there’s more of a chance you’re all going to sound the same, or at least similar. Via Lance Vallis

Despite this increasingly popular view, it’s important to understand that music is not a product of just one factor. Musicians that sound more original also tend to have more avenues to draw upon. Additionally, successful self-taught musicians are quite rare, and most musicians actually do better as a result of obtaining a musical education that is more formal.

Formal music education offers a detailed introduction to music theory and exposed students to the general implications and cultural basis of music. This is beneficial for both the individual musicians as well as the broader music industry in which they find themselves in. Here are some of the major reasons why formal music education may be a better choice for aspiring musicians:

It teaches you the basics of music communication:

music notes
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Communication skills are the most vital elements in any education – whether that of a child or that of an aspiring musician.

The primary point of a formal education in music is to make an aspiring musician literate in the language of music. The ability to read notes, understand rhythmic patterns, construct interesting melodic phrasings and convey these ideas to other musicians ensures that musicians will be able to properly communicate with one another on a professional level. This makes collaborating with other musicians far easier when everyone can follow along. Via Music Think Tank

It teaches you what high-quality music is:

The music industry depends on artists who grasp the value of creating quality music. In many situations, artists that have no depth of knowledge in music theory lack the dynamic flexibility that comes with knowing how to employ theory to ensure that a piece is a quality composition and has all the right elements to attract a paying audience. Via Music Think Tank

It teaches you the impact of music:

live concert
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Music is of no value if there is no audience, and audiences respond to music based on the effect that it has on them. In this respect, it’s important for musicians to understand what effect they can expect their music to have on their audience. Otherwise, they’ll be making music that is unappealing and constantly play a guessing game in their musical creativity.

Because music is such a powerful tool of expression, people’s very behaviors will often be altered by the music from which they listen. To better grasp the relationship music has on how people behave, a musician may also find it interesting to obtain a masters in behavior analysis.

Music will often help individuals experience every emotion from happy and calm to intense stress. The way tension builds and resolves within a piece can trigger a wide variety of emotional and behavioral responses from those who listen. Knowing how to write music that evokes specific behavioral responses is a key to getting a musician’s audience to exhibit precisely the types of reactions they want to produce with their music. Via Music Think Tank

An artist who is truly aware of what music can do is the one that will create powerful music. This is why a musician’s ability to reach out to their audience is based on how much he or she has learnt about music and its effects. As a result, such musicians will receive recognition in the industry as true innovators in both musical expression and sound.

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