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Study a Single Note

Take time to explore your music in an entire new way –says Eric Maisel

Van Gogh explained, “If we look at a Japanese artist, we see a man who is undoubtedly wise. What does he spend his time doing? Studying a single blade of grass.”

It is rare for a busy performer who is trying to learn repertoire and trying to deal with the rest of life to do the musical equivalent of studying a single blade of grass.

But that musical equivalent, studying individual notes, is a beautiful and valuable practice to begin.

Quiet Your Nerves

Focusing on one thing deeply and patiently helps us learn about that thing.

Have you ever tried focusing on a single note? If you can quiet your nerves, quiet your mind, fight your inclination to rush off, and really pay attention to a single note, you will learn something about music that you can’t learn if you keep racing along.

Often children are punished for exploring and lose their taste for exploring.

When they become adults, they tell themselves that they don’t have enough time to explore, that they need to get on with knowing, doing and accomplishing.

Burdened by that mindset they find it painfully hard to commune with the basic building blocks of their chosen art and to patiently explore the notes that make up their musical universe.

A New Experience of Your Music

When we set out to study a single blade of grass or a single note we are reminding ourselves that great edifices are built out of actual building blocks.

A melody is made up of notes, not thin air.

The experience of being with each note, of feeling the distance from one note to the next and the space between one note and the next, is at once a meditation and a great learning experience.

Give it a try!

Set aside some time to study a single note —any note of your choosing.

-Eric Maisel