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  • Writer's pictureMichael Isabell

The Journey of Learning

This section of is dedicated to not only the countless musical inspirations of mine, but the philosophical and thoughtful aspects of life, guitar, and music.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was certainly one of the most profound thinkers and proponents of self-reliance in his or any time throughout history, and on a personal note, one of my absolute favorites! I wanted to take the opportunity to start this entry with a quote, not from a famous musician, but from Emerson, and

focusing on the trials and tribulations of learning to play an instrument.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

For so many in this world music is one of the most, if not, the most important aspects of life. A song, a band, or a musician that truly speaks to you on a deep and profound level has captivated all of us at one time or another. Whether the music has changed your mood from sad to happy, from pain to bliss, from any one feeling to another, even elevating a particular emotion, putting into perspective the ups and downs of life. A single song, even a lyric has immense transformative power!

Learning to play an instrument, harnessing the transformative power of music is an experience shared by many around the globe. However, a great deal of frustration comes with the challenges presented by learning to play and enjoying the creative freedom that comes with a certain inderstanding of the instrument.

Let us now apply the above quote by Emerson to the journey of learning and playing music. In the fast paced, fast food, high speed connected world we exist in, it is all to common and expected a sense of immediate satisfaction. We can replace the word “life” in the quote with; music, guitar, piano, violin, drums, trumpet, singing, etc… It now allows us to have a different perspective on the journey that is learning and playing music. It’s quite simple to jump on any number of websites and learn to play a song, a chord, a scale, or address the challenges that arise with the learning of an instrument. You can even have a friend or a professional show or teach you how. However, it’s not about the song, it’s not about the chord, it’s not about the scale. It is about the journey, the work you put into the song, the chord, and the scale. Playing them over, and over, and over. Learning from your mistakes, and always applying the knowledge gained from those mistakes. There is much to be said about learning from experience, but real wisdom comes from reflecting upon our mistakes. To be teachable, to be a true student, one must admit their ignorance and approach learning with the mind of a beginner. If you’re a “know it all”, what is there to learn?

Application: Write this quote out, inserting your instrument of choice. Example: “Guitar is about the journey, not the destination”. Post it in a conspicuous place and use it to reflect on any time you practice, certainly when the challenges and frustrations arise as you learn. Recognize the effort put forth and keep moving forward, constantly building on what you learn. Whatever your instrument of choice, learning never ends. And remember to enjoy the journey!

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