Most people at one time or another dream about being able to rock out along to their favourite music. The 10 year-old version of me wanted to play electric guitar just like Francis Rossi from Status Quo. The local guitar teacher assured my mum I’d be beyond that by lesson 2, and sure enough, I had to come up with new aspirations within a fortnight.
Learn by listening
I continued my lessons for a couple of years, and with plenty of practice and enthusiasm, I got pretty good. I picked up technique pretty quick and I had a good ear and sense of rhythm. My teacher would give me cassettes and records to listen to, and after a little help and guidance, I’d learn to play them from memory. Eventually I got to the point where I could listen to a song and play along pretty much straight away.
I never did progress to reading music, learning theory or any of the “traditional” ways of learning music though. Sheet music was an impenetrable swirl of lines and dots to me. Guitar tab was a little more accessible but so boring. I probably never gave either enough time to bed in, but to me they were such slow ways to learn a new tune. I just wanted to play a tune (or something resembling it) in the shortest possible time, and I had other tools at my disposal – my ears.
30+ years later and I’m still doing the same – listening, and playing along – improvising, imitating, iterating. It seems to come as naturally to me now as it did when I was 10.
Music is in your bones
And why shouldn’t it? Listening and imitating by playing with sound is how nature teaches us to talk. It’s funny how many people I’ve met over the years who say “Oh, I can’t do that – I haven’t a musical bone in my body”. Funny, because it’s a skill we all have from birth. It’s just that some people stay in touch with it beyond learning to talk – through music, new languages, impersonating voices/accents, etc, and others forget how to tap into it.
Is it D# or Eb? Who cares.
With the exception of a short period during my undergraduate degree studying Physics with Music, I always considered myself to be a musician. And a pretty good one at that. Part of my studies, however, dragged me back to my most dreaded subject – music theory – and once again I struggled. More swirling lines and dots.
In the company of a cohort of classically trained music students in a music faculty where there was an attitude that:
“you must know and understand music theory before you can call yourself a musician”,
I definitely felt like the odd one out. And when singled out to answer a question on triads in front of the class, I went down in flames.
Eventually I did get my head around a bit of theory – the bits I found useful, anyway. Some of it still makes me dizzy, but I can hold my own to a certain extent (and I’ll call BS on anyone that tries to tell me that there’s a difference between a D# and an Eb. It’s the same effing note!).
What makes a musician?
I questioned myself briefly, but I shouldn’t have. Knowledge of music theory doesn’t make you a musician. Choice of repertoire doesn’t make one musician better than another. Being able to play music makes you a musician. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow, how complicated or otherwise. If you are connected to the music and it feels like music to you, you are a musician.
Get an instrument you can play
To be able to make music, you first need an instrument that you can play. And by “play” I mean from both physiological and psychological points of view. You need to be able to physically interact with it of course, but you also need to like the sound, the way it feels, and have a desire to play it.
For me it was guitar, for others it’s piano but for many of the people we’ve worked with at Skoogmusic, traditional instruments are not an option – too big, requiring impossible postures, too much strength or precise movement. That’s why we invented first Skoog; the 5-note expressive musical instrument designed to fulfill a need that other instruments simply cannot; and then the one-button Skwitch.
Know where your notes are
The thing about guitars is that in order to play a tune, you first need to know where all of the notes are. The same is true of pianos, violins, trumpets. In fact, pretty much every traditional instrument. Even with modern electronic instruments where you can limit available notes to notes within a scale, you still need to know where the next note is physically located in order to play your intended tune.
Not so with Skwitch. With Skwitch you begin with a sequence of preprogrammed notes – a tune. With just a one button, one interface to interact with, you just press the button and it plays the next note in your sequence. If you can clap your hands in time, you can play Skwitch. Just start with one of our preprogrammed songs, and you’ll be playing it in seconds, one press at a time, note by note. You don’t need to know where to put your fingers for the next note, because it’s always the same place – the button – you’ll never play a wrong note!
But not only that, because the button is pressure sensitive and responds to how and where you touch it, it is lets you be fully expressive with the sound you create. The note will start when you press, and it will stop when you let go. If you press gently, you’ll get a gentle sound, if you press hard, you’ll get a harder sound. And if you change how hard you are pressing while the note is playing, you’ll hear the tone vary.
Play the music, not the instrument
This is what makes Skwitch so special. It lets you play music. But unlike other instruments, you don’t need to learn how to play it first. From the very first press you are 100% in control of the timing, duration and expression of every single note. You can play slow, fast, gentle or hard, play it straight or with a shuffle – whatever you feel like. All of the music that you hear comes from you, and that’s what being a musician is all about.
Skwitch is available with 50% off in our Indiegogo campaign. Learn more here: igg.me/at/skwitch