Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

Learning to play a musical instrument is a journey filled with excitement, challenges, and, most importantly, patience. For children embarking on this adventure, the concept of patience might seem elusive amidst their eagerness to master the instrument quickly. However, understanding the importance of patience in this process is essential for both parents and educators alike.

Patience serves as the cornerstone of a child’s musical development, fostering a positive and enriching learning experience. Rather than focusing solely on achieving immediate results, cultivating patience allows children to embrace the journey of learning an instrument, nurturing their creativity, and building a lifelong passion for music.

One of the key aspects of fostering patience in children learning a new instrument is encouraging them to “play” rather than “practice.” This subtle shift in language can have a profound impact on a child’s perception of the learning process. By framing their musical exploration as play, children are invited to approach the instrument with curiosity, imagination, and a sense of freedom. This mindset shift empowers children to explore the instrument at their own pace, experiment with different sounds, and express themselves creatively without the pressure of perfection.

Here are some practical tips for suggesting children to “play” rather than “practice” when learning a new instrument:

  1. Create a Playful Environment: Set the stage for musical exploration by creating a playful and supportive environment. Encourage children to view their instrument as a tool for creative expression rather than a daunting challenge.
  2. Embrace Mistakes as Learning Opportunities: Help children understand that making mistakes is an integral part of the learning process. Encourage them to embrace their mistakes, learn from them, and use them as opportunities for growth and improvement.
  3. Encourage Creativity: Foster a spirit of creativity by encouraging children to experiment with the sounds and techniques of their instrument. Provide them with opportunities to improvise, compose their own melodies, and explore different genres of music.
  4. Celebrate Progress, Not Perfection: Shift the focus from achieving perfection to celebrating progress. Recognize and celebrate each small milestone along the way, whether it’s mastering a new chord, playing a simple melody, or improvising a short tune.
  5. Be Patient and Supportive: Above all, be patient and supportive throughout the learning process. Encourage children to enjoy the journey of learning an instrument and reassure them that progress takes time.

By encouraging children to “play” rather than “practice,” we empower them to take ownership of their musical journey, make it their own, and develop a lifelong love for music. Through patience, encouragement, and a playful approach, we can nurture the next generation of musicians and inspire them to unlock their full potential.

Introduction:

In the symphony of a child’s development, music education plays a pivotal role, harmonizing cognitive, emotional, and social growth. As we delve into the orchestration of academic studies, it becomes evident that the influence of music on young minds goes far beyond the notes on a page. Let’s explore the symphonic journey of why music education is not merely a supplemental class but an essential element in the composition of a child’s holistic learning experience.

The Cognitive Crescendo:

Research from renowned institutions such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins has been tuning into the cognitive benefits of music education for years. The brain, akin to a musical instrument, undergoes a transformative tune-up when exposed to the intricacies of music. Studies suggest that children engaged in music education demonstrate enhanced cognitive skills, including improved memory, attention span, and problem-solving abilities.

One notable study, conducted at the University of California, found that children involved in music education showed accelerated development in the areas of language processing and mathematical reasoning. The rhythm and patterns inherent in music seem to create a neural symphony, fine-tuning the brain for more efficient cognitive processing.

The Emotional Overture:

Beyond the realms of academia, music education orchestrates a powerful emotional overture in the lives of children. It serves as a melodic refuge, providing an outlet for self-expression and emotional regulation. Music becomes the soundtrack to a child’s emotional journey, helping them navigate the complex tapestry of feelings.

A study published in the Journal of Research in Music Education discovered that children engaged in music education exhibited higher levels of empathy and emotional intelligence. The collaborative nature of playing in an ensemble cultivates a sense of camaraderie, teaching children the art of listening and responding to the emotions conveyed through music.

The Social Symphony:

In the grand performance of life, the ability to collaborate and communicate is key. Music education, with its emphasis on ensemble playing and group dynamics, becomes the rehearsal ground for these essential social skills. You will find resonance in the transformative power of music education to tip the scales in favor of positive social development.

Research from the National Association for Music Education highlights the social benefits of music education, noting that children engaged in musical activities develop a strong sense of teamwork, discipline, and leadership. The shared pursuit of musical excellence cultivates a sense of belonging, transforming classrooms into harmonious communities.

Conclusion:

In the symphony of a child’s education, music is not merely an optional chord but a fundamental note that resonates across the cognitive, emotional, and social dimensions. Let us acknowledge that the true crescendo of a child’s potential is orchestrated by the transformative power of music education. It’s not just about creating musicians; it is about sculpting minds that resonate with the harmonies of lifelong learning and emotional intelligence. The importance of music education, when understood in this comprehensive light, becomes a powerful testament to the enduring melody that shapes the future of our young minds.

If there’s anything to know about drummers, it’s that we’re loud, both behind and away from the kit. But there’s a time and place for noise, and a thin-walled apartment is not one of them. RTOM’s Black Hole mesh practice set is perfect for musicians who want to avoid a complaint for their neighbors and still jam out in the comfort of their own home. 

These muted pads maintain the stiff feel of a drum set while producing a fraction of the sound. It’s so quiet that your neighbors wouldn’t even know you were playing unless they saw you. The tension of the mesh pad is adjustable, just like tuning a regular drum, so it can be looser or tighter depending on your preference. They’re also easy to install; you just pop them on top of your kit and start playing, no assembly required. 

Of course, the high price will deter many, especially college-aged drummers on a budget. For professionals and anyone playing long-term, though, the investment will pay off in the long run. While they dampen noise, other cheap brands lie directly on the drums heads, meaning they still create more sound than some might be comfortable with. The Black Hole hovers above the drum pads themselves, holding on from the metal rim, meaning there’s no chance for any resonance to shake the drums and make more noise than necessary. 

On top of that, the mesh maintains a greater surface tension that allows drumsticks to bounce off the same way they do a regular drumhead. Other mute pads made of foam or plastic tend to cushion them, slowing you down while you play and taking away the stick’s essential rebound that allows you to play faster. These foam pads also can tear easily with use over time, while a few tightening fixes any lost tension the mesh pads have.

However, there is the glaring issue of no cymbal pads. This set is often suggested to be paired with a set of quiet cymbals, which can ramp up the cost an uncomfortable amount. The mesh pads can also be temperamental if you’re a heavy hitter. The kick drum, in particular, is susceptible to collapsing, eating up your time having to tighten the mesh every now and then.

Despite this, their high quality and longevity make the price well worth it if you’re interested in investing in these mesh pads. Once you buy them, they’re with you for the long run. 

Every musician loves overcoming a challenge, and with drumming, a challenge is more than a sore throat or blisters from plucking strings. It takes a toll on your entire body—legs for the kick and hi hat, arms for the snare, cymbals, and toms, neck for headbanging—which means a challenge is as broad as music genres. 

Here are five songs to challenge your skills and push your limits as a drummer in a fun, exciting way. 

Brianstorm by Arctic Monkeys

Brianstorm is a powerful opener to Arctic Monkey’s album Favourite Worst Nightmare with a quick and heavy drum beat in the beginning that flies around the kit, transitioning swiftly into the first verse with a rapidfire hi hat that is dizzying to follow. This 2:50 minute song never never slows down, so it can be a great way to test out your arm and wrist strength. Although it seems like a simple enough beat, it’s the speed that truly makes it a fun challenge to tackle. 

Hot for Teacher by Van Halen

Starting strong with some double pedal action, this Van Halen song takes funky, offbeat rhythms and meshes them into a high energy classic that is sure to rile up any crowd. Hot for Teacher takes a lot of energy, physically and mentally, in order to power through. Although it might take some time to adjust to two pedals, once you’ve memorized all the stops and pattern changes, it’ll be smooth sailing for you there. 

Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin

Moby Dick is misleadingly easy at first, with a simple, jazzy tone at the beginning, but its simplicity is what makes it so challenging. It consists almost entirely of drumming, which means you get the spotlight. With sudden, fast movements that are sure to make you trip up during every listen, this Led Zeppelin song gives plenty of breathing room to be creative with your own fills—which in and of itself is a challenge—but also grants you bragging rights if you manage to memorize it. 

Goliath by The Mars Volta

This Mars Voltas song is bound to make any intermediate drummer have a heart attack out of pure intimidation. A loud, eccentric banger with lots of stops, it becomes simpler in the verse, but maintains that fast-faced energy all the way through. Not to mention Goliath is also over seven minutes long, no doubt testing any experienced drummer’s energy levels with just one playthrough, but is also a satisfying beast to tame. 

Ticks & Leeches by Tool

Another song that leans less on speed and more on disorienting beats that are hard to keep up with, Ticks & Leeches is 8 minutes of rock and metal ups and downs, giving pauses in between verses to grant you a break every now and then before diving straight into another fast, harsh chorus. If you’re a huge Tool fan with enough time to dedicate to learning every second of this, it’s a great song to push yourself to your drumming limits. 

Drumming takes many skills. Not only do you use both hands and feet on a kit, but they’re all most likely going to be doing different things at once. It takes practice to build the skill of rhythmic multitasking, which most drummers won’t have developed when they decide to pick up sticks for the first time.

Here’s five songs for beginning drummers that will help them build up the skills needed for harder songs. 

1: Do I Wanna Know by Arctic Monkeys

AM by Arctic Monkeys is full of songs with interesting and tricky drumming patterns that challenge a drummer to use their entire body. The exception, of course, is Do I Wanna Know, which has an easy to follow beat on the kick drum and snare during the verse. While the chorus does add some flare, with a different kick pattern and some high hat, the beat is steady and slow enough for starters to keep up with. 

2: Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes

Ah, the dreaded beginner’s song. While every instructor on the face of the earth may be sick and tired of hearing this song, that doesn’t change its simplicity that any new drummer can easily pick up without any prior experience. Sure, your teacher might lose their mind, hearing this song for the thousandth time, but it’s good practice to work up your leg muscle on the kick and teach your hands to do two different things at once. 

3: Dreams by Fleetwood Mac

Dreams, among many other Fleetwood Mac classics, is a great song for any beginner to try out. It has a sweet and mellow vibe that’s easy to keep up with on the kit. Although it’s slightly faster than the other songs on this list, it’s a great way to build up that high hat speed and have fun with new drumming patterns that don’t become too complex. This song also allows you to have some fun with fills and adding ghost notes to the pattern if you feel up to it.

4: Buddy Holly by Weezer

A loud, heart-thumping banger, Buddy Holly by Weezer is the perfect dip-your-toes song for any young rockers eager and ready to go all out without the struggle of a difficult drum beat. It has an easy tone to keep in time with, a slower pace so you don’t lose the tempo, and enough leeway to use the space and play any funky little drum fill that your heart desires. 

5: Psycho Killer by Talking Heads

This classic by the Talking Heads is one that everyone should learn purely for its funky bass, catchy guitar stings, and of course, the heart of the song: the drum beat. Although it’s nothing too difficult for a beginner, Psycho Killer leaves plenty of room to experiment with patterns, drum fills, and anything else your heart desires. And, if you’re feeling particularly experimental, try and play Cage the Elephant’s cover of this iconic song. 

Electric Guitar

There are many brands you can start off with for electric guitars, and they are all similar in quality at the entry-level; however, three brands have stood the test of time, and you can’t really go wrong with any of these three brands: Fender, Gibson, and Ibanez. Like anything, you will have a good, better, and best option. For electrics, it comes down to where the instrument was made, hands-on craftsmanship, the quality of the wood, and pickups. There are definitely many other options, but these are the prominent features that affect the price. Here is a breakdown of which guitars I would get per level:

Entry Level ($150-400)

  1. Fender Squire Strat
  2. Gibson Epiphone
  3. Ibanez GRX70QA series

Mid Level ($400-800)

  1. Fender Player Series
  2. PRS SE Standard or Custom
  3. Epiphone Les Paul Standard

Pro Level ($800+)

  1. Fender American Vintera or Pro II Series
  2. Silver Sky PRS
  3. Gibson Les Paul

Now, after you get your electric guitar, one of the next things you’ll be asking yourself is “what kind of amp do I need?” I can tell you, hands down, the Fender Mustang series is the PERFECT practice amp. It’s literally all you need…so much so, that it is the official practice amp of the Freeway Music locations. One of the best ways to ensure that you get all you need is to purchase a package. So, let’s get that out of the way and talk about it. Here are some packages our friends have at Sims:

Acoustic Guitar

The good, better, best for acoustics is generally found in how much solid vs. laminate wood is involved. Entry level guitars tend to have a laminate top and back and sides. Mid-level acoustics have solid tops. The reason they do the top is because that’s where most of your sound resonates. So, if you have a solid top, it makes a difference. Pro-level guitars are generally solid all the way around with solid tops, sides, and backs. For the most part, you’ll run into the usual suspects for guitars. Here are some recommendations for various guitars at each level:

Entry Level ($150-400)

  1. Fender FA-15 (3/4 size guitar great for a smaller student)
  2. Fender (pretty much any)
  3. Ibanez (pretty much any)

Midlevel ($400-800)

Normally, I’d tout Martin and Taylor pretty hard in this range…especially the Taylor GS mini as it’s literally the perfect 3/4 guitar, but they are low in stock. So, I’d check out the Ibanez Artwood Series. They are great mid-level guitars.

Pro level

Can’t go wrong with Martin, Taylor, Gibson. They are king.

Ukulele

Ukes make for AMAZING holiday gifts because they are portable, easy to learn and play, and very affordable. Ukes tend to range between $50—$300, but float around that $50-150 mark for decent ones. Here are some brands to check out:

  1. Kala
  2. Cordoba
  3. Ortega *This is a newer brand that Sims recently started carrying. They look, sound, and play amazing. I just bought one for Sara Ann for Christmas. Don’t tell her ;)…She’s not reading this is she? :/

Keyboards/Pianos

So, if you’re looking for a serious acoustic piano, check out our friends at Rice Music House. They’ve got a great selection of acoustic pianos and will be of great help to you. The acoustic pianos at Freeway Music are from Rice. You can buy or rent. 

If you are in the market for a Digital Piano, I like the Casio and Yamaha brands. You can’t go wrong either way. We stock the Casios at Freeway for our voice lessons. 

There are also a slew of portable keyboard options available.

Percussion/Drums

Okay, I JUST started playing drums…so, give me a little grace in this department. It’s okay, I spoke with Justin at Sims, and he is an expert…so we will be alright! Here are some opinions of ours:

Entry Level

Ludwig Accent: Drive(full size for 12+) and Fuse (smaller for a younger kid 8-11)

Intermediate 

Tama Imperial Star

Pro

PDP, DW, Ludwig, Pearl, and Tama are all gonna have solid options. You might want to consider some nicer cymbals at this point from brands like Zildjian and Sabian.

**Side Note: The cajon has been a popular instrument for drummers as of late for acoustic sets. Check out the LP Americana cajon… it was designed by our very own Justin Sims! 🙂

Recording 

So, you wanna ease into recording. The best way to get started is by grabbing one of the Scarlet Focusrite Packages They have two different ones. Both come with a mic, mic cable, headphones, and an intro version of Protools. The only difference is one is solo and has one channel ($219), and the other is a duo with two channels ($269). 

Stocking Stuffers

There are a ton of accessories such as capos, tuners, string winders, polish, cables, slides, pedals, shakers, tambourines, sticks, picks, and most importantly…Music Lessons! 😉

Whew…That was a lot of information. I hope this was helpful and Happy Holidays from the Freeway Family! 🙂

Recently, one of our Freeway Music rock band classes was opening up for a band from Nashville called Dedsa. They were great guys that watched and supported every student. They complimented what we were doing with our students. One thing really stood out though. The manager said, “I really love that you are teaching you students stage etiquette!” It never really occurred to me to focus on that. I just shared it with our music students as practical advice. So, here are a few things that could improve your performance etiquette.

1. Give Props
Always give props to the bands that have played before you and the ones that will play after you, even if the bands don’t return the favor. It’s important to have the reputation of being supportive. Sometimes people didn’t catch the name of the last band. It also encourages your friends who came to see your band to stick around and check out the next band. Almost always, the other band will return the favor and give you props to their fans. Also, give props to the venue and its workers.

2. Listen
Whether headlining or opening, get out there and listen to the other bands, even if just for one song. Don’t be the “diva” band that is too good to get out and listen to the opener. At the same time, don’t be the band who plays and rolls. A music community needs to support each other. The bar for the level of support should start at the top with the musicians who are actually playing. Don’t set it low; lead by example!

3. Never Assume
Don’t assume anything, but be clear and communicate in advance. This applies to sharing gear, set time, sound check, the money breakdown, etc. Always iron out all details before the gig happens.

4. Sound Check
I could probably write a whole blog on soundcheck alone. Follow these three P’s: be punctual, prepared, and polite. Come to the venue on time or early. Have all the gear you need there and ready to move on stage. Cooperate with the sound guy and let him run the show. Whatever you do, don’t noodle incessantly or try to showcase your skills to the bar. Testing your gear for tone and volume is one thing, but everyone hates a “noodler.”

5. Moving Gear
If you aren’t a rockstar touring with roadies, don’t act like it. When you are finished, get your gear off stage as quickly as possible, as to help the other band get on. I like to offer to help bands move their gear on and off, whether I am opening or headlining; however, never assume that someone wants help. Some people are weird about other people touching or moving their stuff. It also can come off as though you are pressuring or rushing a band to get on or off stage. So, always ask!

6. Don’t Abuse Perks
If a place gives you one guest member per band, don’t try to stretch it or sneak people in. It’s their policy and they have a business to run. Again, don’t act like a rockstar when you aren’t. This applies to anything such as beverages or food. Don’t try to use your tab for friends or abuse how many beverages your or your band are drinking, as to leave none for the other band or band members.

7. Market Your Show
Blast the event on social media. Email your contacts and let them know about the event. Text everyone that you think might want to come. Put out posters. In general, just get the word out. It WILL make a HUGE difference. The club/venue owners will notice.

8. Be Cool
This sounds simple, but it’s so easy to screw this one up. Simply, be cool to other bands, the venue employees, fans, etc. Develop relationships with them. You will be surprised how this helps the future of your career.

9. Be Positive on Stage
It’s a blessing to be able to play and a blessing to share that with others. If that’s not your attitude, you are in the wrong business…move on! Whether or not you enjoy a gig is entirely up to you! Your energy will bleed over into your bandmates and the crowd. I’m always more impressed with guys that play for two people who give it their all, than a guy who plays for thousands and is half-hearted.

10. Do NOT Overreact to Mistakes
Mistakes WILL happen…so how will you react? The best players are “professional mistake cover-uppers.” Learn to take your mistake and make it seem intentional. Use the moments as opportunities for genius. It’s like drawing a three when you wanted to draw a 9. Turn it into a 9! When it happens, let it roll and think forward. NEVER reflect on it and think backwards. Typically, people will react more to your reaction of a mistake, than the actual mistake itself.

I hope these principles sink into you and that you will apply them to your next performance. You have a large responsibility to set the standard and make performances a better experience for everyone.

Check out my blog on Sound Check Etiquette

Matt Nelson’s Wisdom

My friend referred me to a guy named Matt Nelson that lived in Columbia, SC who used to hang with jazz legends. He said I should spend some time with him. So, I got his number and gave him a call. I drove over to his house near the airport. It was such an amazing time! Apparently, Matt was friends with two of jazz’s greatest guitar players, Wes Montgomery and Grant Green. He even showed me Grant Green’s autobiography, where Grant mentioned Matt. Matt shared stories from meeting Wes Montgomery at a local jam to running into Charlie Parker at a candy store. He spun record after record, and shared so many great jazz artists with me.

Then, it came to play.

We went it to his music room where he had an array of beautiful and expensive guitars.

He generously placed a Benedetto in my hands and asked me to play. So, I launched off into a Thelonious Monk jazz blues song called “Blue Monk”. I was walking the bass line, while Comping the chords in between. Just as I thought I was doing a good job, he stopped me and said, “no, no, no…you are doing it all wrong!”. I was super confused. I thought I was playing it right. He said, “You need to be tapping your foot on 2 and 4.” I was tapping my foot on each quarter beat, which is what I thought you were supposed to do. Then, he demonstrated and asked me to try it.

So, I did, and I immediately felt a difference. It was way groovier! From that point forward, I began tapping my foot on two and four for a lot tunes, making them way groovier. I’m just thankful that I was able to spend time with Matt Nelson, because I my groove was forever changed that day. If you aren’t tapping your foot on two and four ever, go try it. It will blow your mind!

You might recognize Shawn Pelton as the drummer with the Saturday Night Live band. Regardless of whether you’ve heard of him or not, he’s held down the SNL gig since 1992, so he knows a thing or two about how to make it as a professional drummer.

I attended the Modern Drummer Festival in 2010 and enjoyed seeing his band, House of Diablo, but I thoroughly enjoyed when Shawn stepped out from behind his kit to give some advice to the drummers in attendance. He did just that in an entertaining, creative way (much like his drumming). Shawn at MD Fest 2010

What follows is his list of 12 points/questions/topics/Zen koans (and my thoughts) on how to “get a gig, keep a gig, and get called back for more gigs.”

Are you a pain in the a**?

We drummers have a reputation for often being “less than professional.” Showing up on time, wearing appropriate attire, and with a positive attitude will go a long way to stop propagating any negative stereotypes associated with drummers.

Can you take direction?

Being able to execute drum parts suggested by people that aren’t drummers can sometimes be especially challenging, either because the part might be impractical to pull off or because it goes against all of your training. Whatever the case might be, when a 12-year-old artist gives you her drum beat to the song she’s paying you to record, do it with conviction and enthusiasm!

Do you have ideas (for drum parts)?

Focused listening to lots of music is the best way to build your personal library of groove ideas. The classics, as well as modern songs, are a great source of inspiration for not only grabbing specific ideas, but also to rethink/interpret a groove and put a new spin on it. Have something to offer that is the result of your creativity. “Come Together” is a perfect example of an “out of the box” drum part that could have been more straightforward. Brilliant, huh?!

Do you know when to shut up?

Shawn quoted a musician friend of his saying, “I hate somebody with a good idea.” What he meant was that often a musician will be so enthusiastic to share a great idea of theirs that he/she doesn’t allow the artist to express his/her idea. Listen and pay attention FIRST. As a matter of fact, developing a sense for when to speak up and when to be quiet is one of the best attributes of any well-liked musician.

Personality/Style/Sound

Actively develop YOUR approach to the drums. Be aware that you are projecting it every time you play. Own it and be proud of it.

Transparency (it’s not always about the drums)

As much as drums add energy and groove to songs, sometimes the best goal for a drum track can be to make it as unnoticeable as possible. Supporting a song often means not drawing any attention away from the melody. Notice this approach in some of the music you listen to, as well as some of the biggest hits of all time.

Are you flexible? Can you hang?

You’ll be put in many pressure-filled situations, some directly related to you, some not. How you handle those situations will determine your reputation as much as any of your preparation. Observe these challenges and be honest with yourself about your performance.

THERE ARE NO RULES.

Just like Neo in “The Matrix,” the enlightened drummer discovers that all bets are off when determining how best to use your abilities to fulfill your destiny. While there are guidelines for how to be useful to other artists, sometimes those guidelines are too restrictive or don’t apply at all. There is no spoon!

RULE #1: TIME/FEEL/GROOVE

Take care of business when it comes to this non-negotiable aspect of playing drums. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS AS MUCH.

Pocket/Booty Shakin’

Shawn referred to “that tradition of drummers that can sit on something simple and just make the walls sweat.” There are numerous approaches to playing the drums, all with their advantages in various situations, but the most timeless and useful approach is what occurs when your singular goal is to get to the center of the groove you’re playing and dig deeper. That method all but guarantees satisfied fellow musicians, as well as producers/engineers.

Develop the ability to put yourself on the other side of the glass.

Don’t be the drummer that goes into a situation where time is limited and insist on getting sounds from several snare drums, etc. Shaw calls it “wiping your own butt.” In other words, put yourself in the producer’s/artist’s shoes and make some useful decisions that propel the session/situation forward.

PLAY FROM YOUR HEART

Give 100% of yourself to any session for which you’re hired. Your reputation or connections got you the gig. Add to your rep by giving the session your unbridled participation. People will sense if you have a “soulful trip about where you’re coming from.”

That about covers it.

Happy drumming!

A student signs up for guitar lessons. They initially are fired up, they fizz out, and quit. How many times have you heard this story? I have witnessed it over the years, and we all have done this, or know someone who has. So the question remains: How do you maintain your enthusiasm for Music Lessons?

Practice
Let’s face it…showing up to your lesson unprepared is a drag. You feel let down, it’s frustrating for the teacher, and you have to go over the same material again, making no progress. Simply getting into the routine of practice goes a long way towards maintaining your interest. You and others will see the improvement in your playing. This growth will inspire you to practice more. The more you put in, the more you will get out.

Plug In
Find an outlet for your music. One of the things I love about Freeway Music is the performance opportunities that we offer. We have showcases, recitals, camps, rock band classes, and community outreach opportunities. These public performances give students specific goals to prepare for. Play for a school talent show, your church, with a group of friends, etc. Get plugged into your local music scene. Watch people play, join a songwriter’s guild, sit in at open mics, etc. If you aren’t plugged in and playing somewhere, it will be very hard to maintain interest.

Friends
A lot of who you become is directly related to those you associate with. One of the people that spurred me on as a kid was my friend Eric. He would come over and we would play guitar all night together. It was so great for my growth as a young musician. I have constantly challenged myself by putting myself in situations where I played with musicians that were better than me. These situations pushed me and inspired me to be a better guitar player. I have surrounded myself with people that have the same passion that I have for music…including my guitar teacher.

Find the Right Teacher
Finding the right instructor is key. An instructor should be passionate about teaching, inspiring students, presenting opportunities for students, the local music scene, and the community. Music instructors should be qualified, professional, and enthusiastic. It’s very important that you take the time to find a great instructor that fits you. A teacher can make or break a student’s learning experience. If your music teacher is not actively studying, or plugging in, you may want to consider a different teacher.

Learn Tunes
Metallica was the reason I started playing guitar…not a m7(b5). It’s different for everyone, but we all have music that inspires us. I once asked my good friend Jerry Sims for the best advice to grow as a player and he answered, “Learn a tune that you like each day.” It makes sense. If you wanted to lose weight, you should exercise. So, it makes sense that learning tunes is a great way to maintain your interest in an instrument. I have also learned over the years that each song presents a new challenge, forcing you to stretch in ways that you wouldn’t stretch ordinarily.

Be Realistic
My friend Sue is an amazing singer/songwriter. I was feeling uninspired once, and I asked her what I should do. She gave me a harsh reality check. Sometimes you are trucking along and you hit a wall. Then, you pick yourself up and go again. She said that the passion never leaves and you will always go again. Even if you are doing everything possible to stay inspired, you will go through ups and downs. You will continue upward, though. Just make sure that you have realistic expectations, and don’t let a downswing keep you heading down!

If you aren’t maintaining that fire for studying music and continuing your pursuit of musical growth, look within. Are you practicing? Are you plugged into something that will make you grow? Have you surrounded yourself with people that will support, challenge, and inspire you? Have you gotten away from the spark that got you inspired in the first place? Be real with yourself, answer these questions, and weather the natural ups and downs. Then, you will have a much smoother musical journey. Good Luck!

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