When thinking of music practice there are a few exercises that come to mind

  • Scales
  • Arpeggios
  • Playing existing pieces

These are all well and good, but I think there is something missing and I’m going to illustrate this gap with an analogy: compass and map : person :: X : practicing musician.

Navigating up a scale is straight forward because you go sequentially through a pre-defined set of notes. An arpeggio is the same way. These develop a fluency of movement through a particular musical “area”. They do not provide a sense of what would be an interesting set of “areas” to walk through. They do not provide a metaphorical sense of direction.

Just a compass can be used to orient a person with a map within a space. What if we had some construct that could show you where you’ve been, musically, and what some interesting paths forward could be. Where as a compass points Northward which allows you to pick a direction of travel over a fixed landscape, this construct, let’s call it a “suggestor”, shows you the landscape that you’ve created and where it may go next.

compass

suggestor

Where could we go?

Physical Travel

Imagine walking around your town. You start at home, walk by the park, then down a road to downtown, then to a coffee shop, then you go grab dinner, and then you finally return home.

Musical Travel

Imagine playing guitar in the key of C. You start at home playing at the root chord (C major) chord, then you venture out to the major fifth (G major) chord, then you see what’s happening at the minor 6th (Aminor), you stop by the major fourth (F major), and then finally you return to home to the root (C major).

Now think bigger

Physical Travel

Imagine travelling around your state. You start in your home town, mosey on over to a chill town recommended to you.

Home Town

You start at home, walk by the park, then down a road to downtown where you catch the bus to your next destination.

Chill Town

You’re here to chill. You got to the coffee bar, then you hit up a tea lounge, finally winding down at the hot springs. The next day you wake up and travel to funky town that’s known to be a little unsettling but a worthwhile experience

Funky Town

You’re here to take in the culture of people that do what they want even if it’s all a bit discordant. You hit up the …. And the next day you return home.

Home Town

Where it all began. You stop by the coffee shop on the way back from the airport and then end up at home. It feels even more relaxing to get home this time because you experienced such different vibes across the state.

Musical Travel

The changing of towns in the previous section is analogous to key changes.

Just as you can build a larger journey with distinct but related destinations, so too can you build up a musical composition that visits different keys that have some connection.

The takeaway, is that the suggestor can work on different levels of abstraction. It makes sense when considering single notes in a given key and still works when considering chaining keys in a larger composition.

Why?

Like any activity, people want to feel like they are accomplishing something. Music has the ability to have an emotional quality to it that imparts certain feelings in the listeners. If you can help people produce specific feelings with their playing, then you are helping them achieve musical effects. This could be an effective way to help people find their “sound” and be original with limited training rather that having them learn other people’s songs and endless exercises.