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The Elements of Music

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One of the first things I like to do is give the student a general overview of the basic building blocks of music and how they apply to playing the bass. This bass lesson is to simply give you a taste of the basic elements which make up music. If you feel like you don’t fully understand everything that follows, don’t worry. It will make more and more sense over time. This is simply a preview. There is a lot of information to absorb in this lesson, and I wouldn’t expect you to get all of it in one reading.

Why Study the Basic Elements of Music?

All styles of music, be it rock, jazz, Classical, funk, blues, country, hip-hop, or whatever, use the same basic elements of music. The reason each style sounds different is each style combines the basic musical elements in a different way.

A second thing that sets apart musical styles is the musical instruments used. Classical music sounds the way it does in part because it uses violins, cellos, woodwinds, and the like. Rock sounds the way it does partly because it uses distorted electric guitars. Electronic music sounds the way it does partly due to the use of synthesizers and computers. But, the basic musical elements for each style remain the same.

These elements are the essence of music, and are a big part of what you should study as a musician. Something important to my teaching philosophy is to thoroughly teach each student all the basic elements of music. Once those are understood it’s only a matter of understanding how each style combines those elements to create that style's unique sound. As old styles evolve and new styles emerge, the student will be able to quickly adapt if he or she already knows everything that makes up the new style.

If you know the basic building blocks of music, playing, creating, and improvising music will be much easier and more satisfying. This approach isn’t difficult, but it does take patience and commitment. This isn’t one of those “Play like a pro in 10 days!” approaches. This stuff takes years to learn.

Now, let’s get an overview of these musical elements about which I keep talking…

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