How to practice learning music? AMA - with Berklee ALumnus Kelsey Joanne Rogers

Kelsey Joanne Rogers
Feb 10, 2018

Join Kelsey for this AMA, and she can answer your questions about music. She has a great passion for sharing what she knows within many different areas in the musical field. Ask questions about different practice techniques, how to learn music if you're a non-musician and don't play an instrument, different skills that people can learn in music; about what learning abilities/ intelligence can be used in music education etc...?

Kelsey has Degrees in Composition, Songwriting and Conducting as well as a Master's in Writing Music for Media.  Feel free to stop by this AMA to talk about anything music related or music within Film, TV, Advertising, Interactive Media/Video Games!


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What are the different approaches to learning different types of instruments?

Feb 16, 5:33PM EST0

I think it depends on what the instrument requires - different techniques are needed for different instruments. E.g. piano requires reading 2 staves ( 2 parts - one for right hand and one for left) , violin requires one to have a very good ear for intonation, french horn/tuba requires people to have a large capacity to hold air and to use it well

And the list goes on - as each instrument has it's peculiaritites and so can be addressed accordingly :)

Feb 17, 5:52AM EST0

Is there an instrument you don't know how to play yet? What is it and would you like to learn?

Feb 13, 11:52PM EST0

Yes - many instruments. I guess if I had to pick another instrument to learn next - it would be french horn, as it has such an amazing and expressive sound

Feb 15, 8:49AM EST0

Do you ever feel shy about sharing your newly composed music when you’re not sure if it’s good enough yet?

Feb 13, 12:56PM EST0

I think the only time I feel hesitant to show my music is if the production quality is not there - this requires a really good mixing engineer 

Other than that, I am not shy to share with others

Feb 15, 8:33AM EST0

Why study music in college when you can learn music even if you’re pursuing another college course? Do you ever get judged in a negative manner because of your degree choice?

Feb 12, 8:22PM EST0

Well, if you study music you have more time to concentrate on it and improve. Thus you will be much more profficient in an array of skills and styles.

Initially, my teachers at school were very negative towards me studying music, as I was always one of the top 3 students in the school. However, since graduating from Berklee, I have never had any negativity towards my studies; perhaps that's because Berklee is probably the best music school in the world

Feb 13, 7:48AM EST0

Do you also write or compose music for other artists or is the music you create only for you to play?

Feb 12, 10:09AM EST0

Mostly, I compose and write music that is performed by other artists - however when needed I do record myself :)

Feb 12, 6:05PM EST0

Do you think a person’s cultural background has anything to do with his/her musical abilities?

Feb 10, 10:51AM EST0

I think that if a person grows up in a particular culture, they get to hear the sounds and music associated with that culture and can more quickly pick it up by playing in that style or composing in that style. As your ears are used to it, it helps you more easily able to play music in that style.

However, it doesn't affect one's technical abilities - but trains the ear more than anything

Feb 10, 10:59AM EST0

If music is tagged as a talent, what are the chances to enhance the talent through learning and practice?

Feb 10, 10:48AM EST0

I don't believe music is a talent, persay as music can be taught through learning and practice! Even if a child is more 'sensitive'/aware of music; they still need to have learning and practice for them to be able to do anything useful with it 

Feb 10, 11:01AM EST0

How is music for media different from general music?

Feb 10, 7:33AM EST0

The difference is in the purpose for which it was written. Music for media - is just that - music composed in order to enhance the function/purpose of what the media is trying to say/show. That means that the music won't always have an ending, or won't always be interestign when listening on it's own. The music is meant to be heard alongside the media.

However general music, is composed so that it can be heard first and foremost. It relies entirely on itself and thus normally follows it's own format and so the changes, endings etc. are based on what the composer feels. Hope that clarifies

Feb 10, 8:31AM EST0

What inspired you to establish music for media? What’s your idea behind it?

Feb 10, 5:58AM EST0

I was inspired as I believe music has so much to offer us. It doesn't rely on language, culture etc to make an impact on someone. Thus I wanted to be able to have a medium to write music so that people would hear it in their daily lives. Because media is so widespread and also has a huge impact, I wanted to compose music to go alongside it and to help others to believe, hope and improve their situations! 

Feb 10, 8:35AM EST0

What does intelligence have to do with music composition?

Feb 9, 1:33PM EST0

Not sure I understand the question? But the intelligence to know about music is needed in order to compose music

Feb 9, 5:00PM EST0

With so many degrees in music and its related areas, do you still continue to learn? If so, what’s it and why did you choose to learn that?

Feb 9, 6:12AM EST0

Yes, definitely! One of the things I love about music is that you can never stop learning!

There are so many pieces of music written and it is really interesting to study them and learn what makes them evoke the emotions they do. Looking at the different musical textures and then trying to go more step further and create different textures that can elicit the same type of emotions and perhaps even more complex ones.

Another element that I still am always learning, is the technological side of music. Technology is expanding rapidly and it is important to be able to use the resources we have and to keep learning about the latest ones available.

I also love teaching and I really enjoy discovering new ways to teach concepts, because I strive to meet each student's learning style well, so that they can learn effectively and efficiently. This keeps me always trying new ways to explain concepts

Additonally, creating music is endless, in that I have so many genres of music that I haven't had time to compose in yet. So there is still much to learn and I hope that I will never stop learning and exploring.

Last edited @ Feb 9, 6:20AM EST.
Feb 9, 6:18AM EST0

What is the right age to start music classes for a child? Why?

Feb 9, 5:22AM EST0

I don't think there is a 'right' age to start, as some people start music rather later on in life. Hiowever, bear in mind that up until you are about 7, your brain is extremely maleable as the 'wires' in your brain are being connected. Then after that until about 10-13 years old, your brain is being 'cemented.' I know these are loose terms, but basically it shows that if you can include music between the ages of about 4-7, there is definite magic that happens as the brain is able to establish connections in your brain very quickly and easily. Of course, later on in life you can establish these connections; but to do it when you are young is a great priviledge. 

Personally, I would start children as young as possible; bearing in mind that the most important thing for them whilst learning music, is that the instructor needs to create and instill a passion for it. Even just starting with the basics, helps their brain develop in such amazing ways and I would highly recommend this to all parents for their children. No matter if the children continue music in their teens; the ability to learn it while your brain is still developing is so incredibly beneficial

Feb 9, 6:07AM EST0

What is your first songwriting experience? Was it a success?

Feb 9, 3:14AM EST0

It was really incredible and was actually the reason why I fell in love with composing. I wanted to take an online songwriting course when I was 16, through Berklee Online and was asked the first week to write a chorus. I did and it was very heart-rendering for me to create as well as being extremely cathartic. My instructor absolutely was thrilled with it and I guess from then on, I knew this was were I wanted to be!

Feb 9, 6:00AM EST0

How could you be able to succeed in music? Is it because of your talents or not giving up?

Feb 7, 7:07PM EST0

I think it's about being inquisitive and always trying to learn new things. Definitely also about not giving up and persevering. Please let me know about a situation and I'll try more specifically to address how to succeed?

Feb 8, 10:20AM EST0

What is the best instrument to start with when it comes to music learning? Why?

Feb 7, 12:10PM EST0

There is no best instrument in my experience. It really depends on the person, style of music they like and what instrument they are drawn to. 

This is the most important thing. After about 4-8years though, I would also suggest including some piano training if that person wants to learn more about harmony and if there instrument is mostly monophonic. For example, if you play trumpet and want to compse - then maybe after 4 years of studying trumpet - why not teach yourself a bit of piano?

Just my thoughts :D

Feb 7, 3:17PM EST0

What is the level of competition that is prevailing in the music industry today? How to face it?

Feb 7, 3:46AM EST0

Hmm, not sure I'd be able to measure it; especially in comparison to other fields for e.g. medical - doctors etc. maybe they have as much competition as we have?

However, I would keep doing what you love and makign sure it's the best that you can do. Look for ways to improve always and network with other people from different fields! 

Feb 7, 3:23PM EST0

How could one deal with the failure in the music field effectively?

Feb 6, 4:15PM EST0

If you feel you have failed, then why not try take what you can from it and try again? Also get comments and criticims from others (musicians and non-musicians) and try improve (or find out how to improve) so that those criticisms will be beneficial for your growth. Then after a while, they won't be able to say you've 'failed'

Keep in mind too, that failing is important. Keep being creative (in other words spending time doing what you love without assessing it) and in that way you stay vulnerable too, which is often a birthplace for great creative outcomes! 

Remember too, that our failures can be great launching pads for our success. Keep going!

Feb 7, 3:21PM EST0

What are the best self-practice techniques to enhance one’s tone?

Feb 6, 3:03PM EST0

I would start with a single note - try experiment with it. For example: How many different types of  gentle, soft can you play? How many different types of loud can you play? Is there a big difference between your soft and loud?

Then I would add another note and see what the connection is between them. Can you play many different transitions between them (same notes/fingerings) but implementing different textures.

Then build it up - can you play a phrase in many different ways? Are you getting the transitions you want. Can you interchange the dynamics and different elements easily?

Once you master these minute details - your tone will definitely improve

Unfortunately, I would love to actually show you how to do this; but it's a little difficult to explain via writing. Hope this helps though somewhat

Feb 7, 3:13PM EST0

What are your tips for the non-musicians to enter into music? What are the first steps to be done?

Feb 6, 3:00PM EST0

I was able to suggest a few things in the last comment...mainly if you're interested in music - find someone who you can speak to initially. In that way, you can focus and navigate your musical learning. I would suggest this for almost anyone at a crossroads and who want to improve in thier music - non-musicians, up-and-coming musicians, adults who have a career in something else and who want to also have music more prominent in their lives, university students etc. This is a great starting point! 

If you'd like to know who to talk to? Let me know and we can also chat about that!

Feb 7, 3:07PM EST0

For a person who is interested to study music, what are your education suggestions?

Feb 6, 12:23PM EST0

I would suggest speaking to someone who has a broad range of understanding and knows about all the different musical techniques and styles. In this way, they can talk to you and find out what you might like doing, what options for learning music might be closely related to your learning style and also understand your goals and what you'd like to learn/do in music. 

In this way, you'd have a clear understanding of the next steps which are specific to you. It could be using online material, suggestions for an instructor, tools you need to acquire and learn etc etc.

But most importantly, just finding out and knowing your possibilities is very powerful; as music can be very complex and difficult to navigate. Achieve some navigation in the beginning and then next steps will be even better!

p.s. if you're interested in studied music and have a passion for it...there is definitely a way to pursue it and enjoy music even more...as a hobby or career

Feb 7, 3:03PM EST0

What to do if a person struggles with a particular musical instrument?

Feb 6, 11:29AM EST0

Many things! There are so many tips and tricks I'd love to share with you, however would you mind being more specific? What instrument and what is the person struggling with?

Feb 6, 11:36AM EST0

What are the basic prerequisites to start learning music?

Feb 6, 10:29AM EST0

A passion for music and a willingness to learn and keep trying.

Other than that, music can be taught from the absolute basic, thus you don't 'need' any prerequisites...If you enjoy music, you're in :D!

Feb 6, 11:27AM EST0

How can a person identify if he/she has music talents by himself/herself?

Feb 6, 9:14AM EST0

I do not know if it's possible. I think you can only know if you are able to do something if you practice that thing and then be able to show someone it. But then again you are finding out your achievement based on the person's reaction, which is not always trustworthy.

It's like asking if you can find out if you have the potential to be a good novelist. Only by writing and having people read it, can you identify if you have talent. Right?

Another difficulty in answering your question, is how much of 'success' is based on talent and how much on perseverance/practice? 

So in essence, I think that we can't really measure much by 'talent' but we can measure things by passion, practice and quality :D

Feb 6, 11:34AM EST0

How difficult is it for the first-comers to get music projects?

Feb 6, 9:14AM EST0

Do you mean get performances/gigs? or composing projects?

Feb 6, 11:27AM EST0

Did you start your music career in South Africa? What was your first professional experience?

Feb 6, 8:47AM EST0

Yes, I started composing when I was 16 and still in high school and so by the time I graduated from school, I had written my first orchestral piece and had it played by the Kwa-Zulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra. This was one of my first professional experiences! It was incredible to have 60 phenomenally talented musicians recording and playing my first orchestral piece! The experience was outstanding. 

I also started teaching professionally whilst I was still in South Africa, which was incredible as I love sharing with others!

Feb 6, 8:51AM EST0

Which is your favorite music genre? How often do you work in this genre?

Feb 6, 8:08AM EST0

I love variety and so don't have a favourite genre. This is one of the reasons why I chose to become a composer for media as it gives me the opprotunity to write for many different genres of music and be very versatile! 

The main genres I work in are: orchestral, pop, jazz-influenced and filmscore type music

Feb 6, 8:49AM EST0

What are the basic prerequisites to start learning music?

Feb 6, 2:01AM EST0

A passion for music and a willingness to learn and keep trying.

Other than that, music can be taught from the absolute basic, thus you don't 'need' any prerequisites...If you enjoy music, you're in :D!

Feb 6, 7:38AM EST0

What is your experience in music composition for video games? How easy is it?

Feb 6, 1:19AM EST0

Composition for video games is different in contrast to films/TV as the music needs to be written in a way that can be interactive with the game. A game is not linear (like in films), as the player determines when actions are fulfilled and thus begins/ends/triggers music. 

Thus it is not as 'simple' as writing music and knowing that your music will be played at the same time in the film always. Your music can be shuffled in between sections, repeated, not completed fully etc. in video games.

However, there are always difficulties when writing music, however a video game composer needs to compose his/her music in a way that will work with and for the video game. It is being able to apply techniques effectively!

Feb 6, 7:37AM EST0

How did the poverty-stricken and affluent societies influence your music?

Feb 5, 6:41AM EST0

Seeing something and living in something firsthand, changes your perspective.  Firstly, it influenced my mindset adn thereafter my music. The most important things I realised are that both sides can learn so much from each other. For example, those living in poverty in South Africa, are always smiling and singing whilst doing some very challenging work e.g. cutting/burning sugarcane, carrying heavy substances etc.  I think affluent societies could learn so much from their attitude - to be in touch with our surroundings and enjoying something no matter how little or how much of an inconvenience it is to our lives.  Another example: about affluent societies are that they plan for tomorrow. This is important so that we can work towards bettering our lives by learning more and improving what we do. Unfortunately, growth and learning is not implemented steadfastly in poor societies.

From being involved in both and outreaching to both, it makes me very appreciative to be able to have these unique experiences. When I compose music, I draw from this well of experience and write about what I feel. The music is based in and from these aspects. Though it may not be clear to you how my music is influenced - you can take a specific song and i would be able to explain how I was influenced :) 

Feb 5, 10:31AM EST0

What is interactive media? Can you explain in detail about that?

Feb 5, 4:45AM EST0

Of course! Interactive media is media that requires the user to perform functions in order for it to work. So this could be video games, apps, websites. Interactive media is not for example a movie; as a movie works in a linear way and you can't change what happens in a movie. In interactive media, you can affect the outcome of what happens. That in essence is non-linear. Hope that makes it clear

Feb 5, 6:23AM EST0

Why according to you everyone should/shouldn’t learn music?

Feb 5, 4:11AM EST0

I think that music benefits us in so many ways! It improves our brain functionality, our mindsets, enhances our skills and develops good habits. Thus whether or not we learn an instrument, I believe we should all take the time to learn about music so that we can enjoy it more and reap it's benefits

Feb 5, 6:17AM EST0

Do you run any special music campaigns for poor people?

Feb 4, 6:52PM EST0

At the moment, we always offer an opportunity to meet with a professional to discuss possible options for anyone to get involved with music and to find their passion and advance it. This is a free session and only requires the person to have internet and a working device. Not all people own this and so we hope that those people can appraoch schools, universitities and other people in their communitities for an opportunity to use these items for their session with us. To signup - http://tuneroads.com/book-an-appointment

As far as campaigns go, I hope that this will increase so that we can do more of these in the future. However, if there is a demand for it and we are contacted, we would definitely be interested to do one!

Feb 4, 7:12PM EST0
What are the best online music tools to be used by the beginners?
Feb 4, 3:29PM EST0

Well, the best tool for learning is having a professional you can checkin with online, who can give you feedback and keep you open to new possibilities. 

However, if you know what skills you want to improve e.g. ear training (for e.g. learning intervals) there's so many online tools - here's one, though I've never tried it: https://www.musictheory.net/exercises

Other tools like learning how to "hear" for mixing purposes: http://webtet.net/apcl/#/parametric -This is AMAZING

To learn music theory - there are many courses online e.g. lynda, also many MOOCs like Coursera, (Berklee Online has a few on there)

So there are many tools, however you need to know what skill that you are passionate about and where to look for it; and therafter how to use that tool to improve. Hope this helps!

Last edited @ Feb 4, 5:50PM EST.
Feb 4, 5:49PM EST0