Speaking Music

Learn to Speak MusicJohn Crossingham started playing music when he was around twelve or thirteen.  He went on to play in successful indie bands such as Broken Social Scene and Raising the Fawn, and he wrote a book about it.

Learn to Speak Music: A Guide to Creating, Performing, & Promoting Your Songs is part love song to indie music, part inspirational how-to book for kids (though I’d recommend it to interested indie music lovers of all ages).  Here’s a video that tells more about the book:

The main theme of the book is “you can do this.”  You can create, you can perform, you can live your dreams.  I love this.  Let’s pass on our DIY ethic to the next generation.

Minneapolis is a great place for DIY, especially music.  There is a diverse scene with people who are ready to support up and coming musicians.  We have local radio stations and many venues that feature local music, including a newly-launched stream from MPR’s The Current that features Minnesota music all the time.

I asked several local musicians how they would inspire the next generation of indie musicians to get started creating.  Gus from Hot Ashes is a strong supporter of DIY.  His advice to kids wanting to get started playing music is to “Learn the difference between talking about doing something, and doing it. Be cautious of people who have great ideas, but never even try them out. Be the kind of person who tries, even if you’re certain it’s going to fail.  Failure is necessary to even know what success looks like. Be comfortable with your own mistakes, and tolerant of others’ mistakes. Sometimes mistakes can be downright perfect.”

Her also offered this on the subject of criticism: “Learn to be excited about criticism. If someone is taking the time to try to help you get better, take the time to listen and understand the best you can. Consider the source, and carry on with your work.”

Here he is with Hot Ashes at the Uptown Apple Store last summer:

It may take some time to figure out what works for you creatively.  Sometimes you need a little collaboration to get the creative juices flowing like Thomas from Broken Bicycles, who writes about his songwriting with bandmate, Turkeyes:  “[She] writes the words and brings them to me. I read then and think of how they make me feel. I then sit down with a guitar, banjo, or uke and start playing what I felt. After I have come up with chords that I feel are right, Turkeyes starts to write the melody to the chords. Then I can start hearing the other parts for the instruments I will record over her melody.”  See the result of the collaboration in this video:

Cindy, the singer from HighTV, has a similarly open attitude about her creative process: “I strum a few chords to get a melody in place, and let the words flow through me and out of me. I keep a notebook close by, and most times I keep playing until the song is finished. It’s a wonderful, fulfilling process!”  It is particularly good to see women getting a chance to rock.  Music isn’t a boy’s club anymore.  At least not in Minneapolis.  We have Gospel Gossip, HighTV, and Zoo Animal–all fronted by very talented women.  And that’s just the few I can think of off the top of my head.  See Cindy rock with her band:

New York City musician and writer, Joyce Raskin, has a series of YouTube videos for girls who want to learn to play guitar.  Her upcoming teen novel, My Misadventures as a Teenage Rockstar, was written, in part, to inspire girls to find what makes them feel good.  Read more about Joyce and her book in this interview on Chicktellectual.

Part of being a teen is figuring out what you love.  For me, it was writing.  For many of my friends, it was music.  It may take some exploration.  Gus (Hot Ashes) gives an idea of his path to music with this advice: “Learn to haggle. Learn how to cook. Ask questions, and listen to the answers. Cultivate patience, learn to wait, and how to hold your tongue.  Read books. Turn off the tv. Look at art. Fill your head with great ideas, and your own ideas will be all the better.”

Learn to Speak Music‘s advice is right in line with that. Crossingham tells kids to seek inspiration, always be learning, and play for the love of it.  If you know a young musician, start them off with Learn to Speak Music.  If they’re middle school age, pair it with Rules to Rock By.  High School, Fat Kid Rules the World.  Then make them a mix cd. That’s what I would do anyway.

How will you inspire the next generation to create?

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8 thoughts on “Speaking Music

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