Why curiosity is an essential ingredient to becoming a musician

Do not underestimate the power of curiosity. Just ask my cat.

She’s too afraid to go outside without one of us standing guard, but slice open a box, unzip a suitcase, or pull open a drawer and there she is, head butting us out of the way to see what’s happening, and then settling into the space (and no matter the size), as if the whole exercise were purely for her entertainment and comfort.

You may well feel terrified at the thought of playing music, but it’s curiosity that is going to help you get there. It’s an essential ingredient when it comes to getting started and, like a magical portal to a house filled with endless possibilities, it’s what will help carry you through those first steps (mistakes and all) and beyond.

This is a house that is as much yours to enter as it is mine or anyone else’s, and don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise. Instead, what is crucial is the desire to try things out, to understand how things work, to know why something is the way it is, and to explore what you might be able to do with it.

And when it comes to music, there is no shortage of things to wonder about. For example:

  • Why do we instinctively tap our feet when we listen to some kinds of music but not others?
  • How does someone know how fast or slow to play a piece of music and does it matter?
  • why do some notes sound good together and others seem to clash?
  • Who is that person standing in front of an orchestra waving their arms around and what would happen if they weren’t there?
  • Why does a piano have black and white keys?
  • How is it possible for me to hear a song and then sing it myself?
  • How do you know when to clap in a classical music performance?
  • Do I have to learn how to read music if I want to play an instrument?
  • Why do some people use notes and others play or sing without them?
  • Why do we like listening to sad music when we’re feeling sad?
  • And the list goes on.

Even after many years as a musician and as a teacher of newly minted (and not so newly minted) musicians, I will always have questions of my own and my students will keep asking me questions, some of which will have answers that are easy to find while others will remain unanswerable. 

But this is part of the beauty of music. Not only do we each experience (listen, hear, make) it differently, but its possibilities are infinite, meaning our curiosity may never be completely satisfied . And which also means that it’s completely up to you how you choose to participate, whether that is listening to the same playlist and nothing else or taking the plunge and learning more about how to sing or play guitar.

Two more questions: why does my cat prefer the bottom shelf of our linen cupboard to the expensive climbing frame? And why won’t she go outside by herself?

See? Unanswerable.


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