“We’re creatures of habit. We know what we know. With collaboration…and I’m not just talking about music, I’m talking about in life – if you’re a good listener and you have your ears open, and to be a good collaborator you have to be able to listen, you can learn something from somebody else.” – Dave Koz, American Jazz Saxophonist
Think of your favourite song… we can almost guarantee that you are thinking of a song that was written, produced, performed, recorded, mastered, and released by a variety of people. That’s because music is a collaborative effort! Often people believe that bands provide the only type of music that would have multiple people working on a given song, but that really isn’t true! Even solo artists often have songwriters that they work with; for example, Elton John writes his music but has a long-term lyricist Bernie Taupin who has written the lyrics for most of his songs…not to mention that they also use educated producers to provide insight (ideas they might not have come up with themselves) on their songs!
Music is all about collaboration. Musicians are constantly working with and at the same time, inspired by other musicians!
Private lessons are an excellent way to learn music, and one-on-one instruction with a teacher is one of the best ways to ensure the student gets the education, support and answers they need to become a fantastic musician. Saying this, it’s also important to realize that students need other musical experiences to become well-rounded artists! A simple way to learn from collaboration is to jam with other musicians. Often, teachers will duet with their students to demonstrate this skill! Organizing groups of similar experience musicians together to play some simple songs is one of the fastest ways to grow in musical skills, plus, it’s FUN! At Crescendo, we encourage our teachers to spend time collaborating with a student, whether by writing songs, playing scales as solos, accompanying a singer, or even meeting up with a peer to practice a duet; this is integral to becoming a well-rounded musician!
“Collaboration is an extra pair of ears, hands, and an additional brain to work with. It gives you VIP access into someone else’s workflow. It helps you overcome creative blocks. It even brings out creativity you didn’t know you had.“ – Leticia, LANDR:
Not Just For Bands!
Other ways to encourage collaboration even as a solo artist is to attend local workshops or live music venues! Not only will you get to enjoy some live performances when doing so, but you’ll be experiencing different music you might not have heard before. Plus, it’ll give some hands-on examples of live performance skills, if that’s something that you want to pursue in the future!
Students of any age should consider this – even local coffee shops or schools will put on performances throughout the year. Don’t be afraid to go up to a musician or performer and congratulate them on something you really LIKED about their set or their songs. Not only will they appreciate your kind words and the time you took, but they might give you an idea of something you can try in your own music!
Solo artists often learn and grow simply by experiencing new things, plus you never know when you might want to team up with someone who has a complimentary style to yours. Students who are just beginning their musical journey may be inspired by pros, and that can give them a goal for as they continue mastering their instrument.
Opposites Can Be A Good Thing!
It’s important to really dive deep into your musical learning! See if you can find strengths and skills that you have; maybe you’ve got an excellent ear for improvising on your instrument, and can play some pretty cool solos? Or perhaps you’re a vocalist and you’ve got a powerful voice that you can project? Knowing where your strengths lie is a skill for each musician, but perhaps even more importantly, know where your weaknesses are! When collaborating, it’s the best idea to find another musician with complementary skills. This means that if you are a loud leading vocalist, perhaps you’re looking for someone who has a better ear for harmony to help you learn a new skill, or to add a new depth and dimension to your song.
Instrumentalists can also benefit from this. Just because you play guitar doesn’t mean you have to team up with another guitarist – but it also doesn’t mean you can’t. See what works for you, and meet lots of different musicians with different styles, backgrounds, instruments, etc. Different is never a bad thing! Other people will bring new opinions and mindsets to the collaboration and usually make a musical project even better.
Don’t be afraid that you aren’t good enough to start performing with other people. As you’ve probably heard your teacher mention before, practice is what improves a musician! Start jamming and collaborating now, and you’ll only continue to grow and improve. Plus, you’ll have a lot of fun practicing with other people instead of always on your own!
Remember, collaborating isn’t just a one-time thing.
Collaborating doesn’t mean you have to immediately form a band and start performing. Sometimes the best music is created on the spot with an impromptu collaboration. Often collaboration doesn’t mean writing full songs or performing full sets or recording anything – sometimes it’s as simple as a quick session playing your instruments and songs you love just for fun.
No matter what, just keep on experiencing different styles of music, asking questions, watching live performances, and teaming up with like-minded individuals, and most importantly, keep on playing and growing with the music you love.