Many music students like you take music lessons to express themselves with a creative outlet. They often seek a creative endeavor outside their work or studies.  

Music gives you the opportunity to express yourself in many ways.  You can express yourself intellectually, physically, emotionally, or spiritually…In fact, anything you can express as a human can be expressed through music. That’s exciting. Even more, expression becomes more powerful and more meaningful through music. And that is terribly exciting!

In this article you’ll learn

  • 3 simple steps to express yourself with music.
  • Avoid common mistakes that limit your progress
  • The tools that enable you to play music with ease

Learn the language of music to create expressive musical performances

Think of your native language.  Can you say anything that you want in your native language?  Absolutely.

Now think of a language that you don’t speak, or only speak little of.  Can you express yourself in any way in that language?  Definitely not.  

So the key to musical expression is to learn the language of music.  If you are fluent in the language of music you have the tools to express anything you want. It may take some time to develop fluency in musical language, but you can start today and grow steadily from there.  There are only three simple steps to take.

Step 1: Make a goal

If you read our blog, you will know that we talk about goals a lot.  Why? If you don’t know where you are going, it’s hard to plan the route.  Making solid musical goals will help you prioritize your work and make steady progress toward your goals. The first section of our guidebook on making music lessons a success will help you formulate a good goal.

Step 2: Define the style of music you want to play

As part of your goal, you should define the style of music that you want to play.  This is essential for you to quickly learn how to express yourself musically, and create moving musical performances.

Each style of music uses specific patterns of sound regularly.  And these patterns of sound become patterns of movement on your instrument.  So your music lessons will focus on teaching you the patterns of sound and movement that occur most often in the styles of music you want to play.

When you have learned these patterns well, you can easily play all the music in your chosen style. Or you can write and perform your own music.

Step 3:  Form secure habits

Once you have identified the right patterns, practice them into secure habits. Since habits happen automatically, they don’t require conscious effort to do.  When you develop habits, your music making will become effortless. Then you can concentrate on expression and artistry. That’s a liberating feeling!

A qualified teacher is essential for identifying these patterns and showing you how to do them correctly. He will know what patterns belong to each style, and can help you learn them quickly and securely with the proper technique. The teacher will also show you how to practice properly so you make the fastest progress.

While the first two steps can happen rather quickly, this third step takes time.  Habits are formed over weeks and months of practice, so be patient as you work to develop them.

Habits are essential to musical expression

Did you know that walking is a habit?  And your music playing can be just as easy as walking.  

Babies cannot walk when they are born. They have to learn how to do it. When the baby becomes a toddler she starts learning to walk.  She makes many attempts, carefully placing each foot.   Over time, her walking becomes a habit. It becomes easy, and requires no conscious effort.  This is how you walk, without ever thinking about moving your legs.

Imagine that you are walking down the street and having a conversation with your friend.  You are not thinking about the walking, because it is a habit. You are thinking about your conversation, where you are expressing yourself.

This is exactly how habits work in music. When the movements you make on your instrument are habits like walking, you are free to express yourself like the conversation.

The reason you can have the conversation is because your walking is a habit and you don’t have to think about it.  Would you be able to have a conversation while you were having to consciously think about moving your legs? You already know it wouldn’t work.

Express yourself

Once you’ve developed the habits needed for the music you love, expression becomes easy.  The motions that your hands make will be automatic and you can concentrate on expressing yourself. You will be able to communicate your ideas, your emotions. You will connect with your audience.  And you will connect with your friends whom you play music with.  This is the goal of making  music, after all.

Getting to this point will take some time, but it is easy to get there if you understand and follow the process.  Taking music lessons with a qualified teacher will help you get there faster.

Avoid common mistakes

Here are the most common mistakes that people make when trying to express themselves through music.  You can avoid them to speed up your progress.

There is no shortcut to learning music

Often, people will look for shortcuts, magic tricks, or hacks to learning music.  There is no shortcut.  Trust in the process and the results will follow.

Don’t skip technical training

Some musicians work on developing ‘expressiveness’ but don’t see the relationship between technique and expression. The entire purpose of technical training is to develop your ability to easily express yourself, and play any music that you wish. Good technique will allow you to play effortlessly.

Students sometimes wonder why they have to practice scales or arpeggios. Simply, it is because those are the patterns that are found most often in the music you want to play.

Be ambitious yet realistic

You should set your sights high, but make a realistic goal.  If you were learning a new language, would you learn to say ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ first? Or would you start by writing a speech on quantum mechanics and take theoretical questions after?  The same applies to learning the language of music.  

Your first goals should be realistic and attainable.  If they are too ambitious, you may not have the time to develop all the right habits. And then you’ll be unprepared for playing music expressively. Or you will fall apart in your performances.  I’m sure you don’t want that, and I don’t want that for you either.

Set a big goal for the future, and set smaller goals that you can attain right now.

Be patient

Some students will try to speed through easy pieces of music, always wanting to hurry up and get to the ‘good stuff’.  It never works. If you don’t learn to play an easy piece of music well, how will you ever learn to play a difficult piece of music well?  If you can’t play an easy song expressively, you won’t be able to do it on a difficult song.

Make music from the very beginning

When you start learning songs that are easy to play, don’t forget to make them musically expressive. Just as you will develop your technical skills, you will need to develop your ability to express yourself. So make music expressively today, even if the music is easy to play. Mozart performed Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And it sounded amazing. Remember, it’s not about how difficult the music is, but on how good your performance is. If your performing is solid and expressive, you will sound great!

Conclusion and a special offer

It is important that you go through the proper steps so that you are fully prepared for a powerfully expressive musical performance. When you make clear goals, identify the music you want to play, and build secure habits of movement, you will be making real progress to playing music expressively.  

If you’d like personalized help in learning to play music expressively, please contact us for your free consultation.