Music is Discipline.
Music is discipline. It requires us to be disciplined in our practice, our performance, and our approach to the art form itself. For those who play or sing, music requires discipline in every aspect of the craft, from the technical aspects of playing an instrument or singing on pitch, to the emotional aspects of performing and connecting with an audience. Music is a language that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers, and it is discipline that allows us to communicate through this language effectively, liberating our creativity and granting us the freedom to express ourselves.
One of the most fundamental aspects of music is time. Music is constrained by time, and musicians must always count time. Whether playing a fast-paced jazz piece or a slow, melodic ballad, musicians must be aware of the rhythm and time signature, and play accordingly. This discipline of counting time is what allows musicians to create complex arrangements and syncopated rhythms that are the hallmark of many musical genres. Counting time is neither an exercise for a student, nor a stage through which to progress. Counting time is the fundamental discipline of music, and as we progress musically, counting becomes progressively more demanding, requiring progressively more discipline.
Another crucial aspect of music discipline is listening. Musicians must constantly listen to themselves while they play, to ensure we are hitting the right notes and staying in time with the rhythm. This requires an acute awareness of our instruments and voice, and the ability to make real-time adjustments to our playing as needed. It’s possible to play an instrument like the piano or guitar without listening to the notes, as if we were using a typewriter, so we have to constantly cultivate the discipline of listening to ourselves. By listening to the notes and chords we are playing, we learn and improve.
Music is the discipline to always be conscious of what we’re playing. By being conscious of the names of the notes and the chords, we learn for free. We learn the theory behind the music, the structure and form of the pieces, the patterns and relationships among the sounds. Being conscious of what we’re playing helps us to memorize and understand the music better, and to develop our musicality and creativity.
Music is the discipline to actively correct, in real time, what we are doing. Music is a live art form, and we have to deal with unexpected situations and challenges. Sometimes we may forget a note, miss a cue, or encounter a technical problem. We have to be able to react quickly and calmly, and to continue without losing our focus or confidence. Notes are not started and forgotten. We have to continue listening to ourselves and continue adjusting the notes while we’re singing or playing.
Music is the discipline to respect priorities. Music is a complex and multifaceted art form, and we have to simultaneously balance many elements and aspects in our playing or singing. To manage this, we have a hierarchy of musical priorities: performance, time, harmony, melody. We have to manage any difficulties encountered with respect to the hierarchy of musical priorities, the absolute priority being the music itself.
Music is the discipline to finish a performance. In addition to technical proficiency, music also requires emotional discipline. We must learn to connect with the audience and convey our message effectively. This means that we must have the discipline to control our emotions and perform with confidence and conviction, even in the face of unexpected challenges. Music is a communicative art form, and we have to share it with others. We have to overcome our fears and nerves, and to perform with confidence and conviction. We have to respect our audience and ourselves, and to give our best effort and expression. We have to finish what we started, and to appreciate the applause and feedback. Music is an exchange of energy with the audience, and a musician must under no terms disrupt this exchange of energy.
Music is the discipline to be resilient, to stand up and shed criticism. In playing or singing, we expose ourselves to the criticism of others. We can’t protect ourselves, because trying to do so limits our performance. We have to be tough, ignoring and disregarding unsolicited criticism. We have to accept failure and imperfection. Musical performances are never perfect, and our worst performance is never behind us, but always to come. To paraphrase Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping: We get knocked down, but we get up again – we’re never gonna keep ourselves down.
Music is the discipline to practice, and to practice effectively. Music is a skill that requires constant improvement and refinement. We have to practice regularly and diligently, and to set realistic and achievable goals for ourselves. We have to practice smartly and efficiently, and to use various methods and strategies to enhance our learning and progress. Musicians must be willing to put in the time and effort to develop our skills and perfect our craft. Practice requires discipline, consistency, and a willingness to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone. Effective practice requires practising slowly and methodically, and isolating and practising the things with which we have difficulty, rather than the illusory practice of repeating the things we can already play.
Music is the discipline of continuing for the long-term. Music is not a project to be undertaken and completed within a set time-frame. Music is not short-term gratification. Music is an investment for the long-term, for the rest of our lives, a process of continual improvement, the value of which accumulates with time. We have to be committed and passionate about music, and to enjoy its benefits and rewards. We have to be open-minded and curious about music, and to explore its diversity and richness. We have to be lifelong learners of music, and never stop growing as musicians.
Music is a discipline that requires focus, dedication, and perseverance. While it may appear effortless to an audience, behind the scenes, a great deal of discipline goes into creating a musical performance. It is discipline that enables musicians to create beautiful, meaningful music that can last a lifetime.
Music is discipline: the discipline to count, to listen, to respond, to respect, to act within constraints. Discipline is what liberates our creativity and grants us the freedom to express ourselves. Discipline sets us free.