Is it a cop-out to copy? I’ve been thinking about this for a while. This time I’m thinking about it in the context of guitar playing, which is the context in which I think about this more often than any other.
I just heard Hymn 11, by Pierre Bensusan, used as part of a video photo montage showcasing the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968.
Isn’t copying the best way to learn? Sure it is. But I’m now at the stage in my guitar playing that I am competent enough to create, rather than copy.
If you look through the magazines, you’ll find the pages filled with tablature of popular songs. Look in a music section of a book store and you’ll see books upon books of chord and tab books.
But is that not the case with classical sheet music as well? And don’t symphony orchestras make a lifetime out of performing classical music?
Where symphony orchestras are concerned, it is the conductor who plays the most important role. So, although the musicians are playing the music as it was composed by the composer, there is infinite room for movement, for interpretation.
And with popular songs, some cover versions are preferred over the originals, i.e. Hurt, originally written and recorded by Trent Reznor and then recorded by Johnny Cash. The JC version is invariably the one that people have heard, and, indeed, the one that I play. Incidentally, I was into Nine Inch Nails long before I stared listening to Johnny Cash!
I got my chops from learning songs that I liked. I guess that’s the route to learning any instrument: get inspired enough to want to learn to do what your favourite artists do. But where does that end? When does one stop copying and start creating? Or are copying and creating inextricably intertwined?
I often feel so incredibly inspired that I sit down and attempt to create. I’ve done this countless times. I’ve come up with some interesting tunes, but whenever I try to put words to it, they fall apart into embarrassments. I don’t know what it is that prevents me from writing lyrics that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to share.
My autistic 6-year-old son is heavily into a computer game called [Everybody Edits]:(5). He gets excited and shouts me through to hear his ‘new songs’. What he’s done is create music using some sort of building blocks based on well-known classical tunes. At least as far as I can gather. He was raised on the Baby Einstein classical music videos and recognises a lot of it now. It’s his favourite kind of music to listen to as well.
We’re home-schooling him now and it is my plan to teach him Garage Band on the iPad to see what kind of things he can come up with. I want to encourage his creativity before it gets stifled. I don’t think he’ll have the patience for much else. He much prefers doing something, so having him listen to music and explain to him won’t be possible right now.
I’m sure this will be and interesting a project to me as it is to him.