Zen & the Art of Music - Lesson 1


     The first sign of a novice is that they think they know everything. The first sign of a master is that they will readily admit they know  nothing, or at best very little. I will use the martial arts to  illustrate this important point about music and what I believe is the  best approach to learning. 

     I have a black belt in Isshin-Ryu Karate. In  Isshin-Ryu the first belt is a white one, for beginners. There are three Katas to reach Green belt, each kata earns you a belt. From white you go to Yellow, then Orange, Blue, then Green. I didn't like Yellow,  Orange or Blue so I waited until I was ready to test for Green Belt and earned that. Then I earned my Brown belt, then Black. There are several  levels of Black but Sho-Dan or 1st Degree  Belt was good enough for me.  My favorite belt however was Green. I was eager to learn as a student,  practiced intensely, absorbed everything around me, asked a lot of  questions and was excited to learn new things. I've seen Black Belts who couldn't uphold the skill level of the belt once they had achieved it,  then acted like venerable martial arts masters without the skill or wisdom to support this posture. 

    They considered  themselves masters, but the masters they emulated always approached  their art as a beginner, as a white belt.

    The same holds true in music,  the best approach is to always be a student and never a master. That way you are always learning, always excited about what you are doing, you  have a freshness of attitude that makes learning exciting and that excitement always shows up in your playing, and in your compositions.

   Ego to me is a mirror in the road, blocking the road ahead, and instead  of seeing new vistas all you see is your own reflection.