Kevin Lynch and Pittsburgh

            Pittsburgh has a phenomenal cultural district that can be broken into the elements that Kevin Lynch describes in his essay, “The City Image and Its Elements.” This small portion of Pittsburgh has a substantial amount to do and even more to see. Its organization contains three major aspects. Firstly, the paths that allows pedestrians, public transportation, and cars to move about this area to see the various stages and theaters. These paths link this area of the city together providing the human traffic necessary for it thrive and maintain itself. The paths then connect to the nodes of the area. The nodes are the buildings that which people entire on a regular basis that house the main events. Plays, orchestras, operas, etc. can all be found within the structures. It is a conglomeration of art and entertainment where the observer can pick and choose what they desire. Containing the artistic area, are a series of edges that keep the area segregated from the city, forming a neat barrier between artistic outlets and the rest of the city. These edges are not just roads and imaginary lines but physical, natural barriers as well. Kevin Lynch breaks up the parts that make a city and defines fairly specifically, these elements can be seen in the cultural district of Pittsburgh.

            Pittsburgh, as a city, has many forms of paths that Kevin Lynch describes. Paths are defined as “…the channels along which the observer customarily, occasionally, or potentially moves” (Lynch 99). Using this definition for the Cultural District, roads, sidewalks and even bus routes apply. As long as a set route permits traffic to flow it is considered a path. The significant question is what are the major paths that comprise the cultural district and how do they interact with the area and especially the people that are there. Access to area is quite easy by bus, as twelve stops lie within the area. Pedestrians, as in any city, have plenty of space along the roadside to move about the area freely. Pedestrians are an imperative part of any city structure. The paths that they take are like the arteries for an urban environment and the individuals that travel them are the blood platelets delivering life and vitality to the area. The cultural district would not be successful if it did not provide as many paths as possible to accommodate any form of traffic or transportation that may want to indulge in some type of art. Without people, the area would be a hollow husk, devoid of observers and eventually devoid of artists who would move on to share their ideas and creations somewhere else where they could maximize their audience. The purpose of these paths are to deliver observers to the artists’ creations whether it be audio or visually based. Penn Avenue is the main road that bisects the area from 6th Street all the way to 10th Street. On Penn Ave, two major nodes are across from each other, the O’Reilly Theater and the legendary Heinz Hall. Penn Ave allows access to dozens of restaurants in addition to these excellent venues. Without this path, as logical as it may seem, it would be impossible for people to go to these stages and view the art that actors and musicians alike create. These paths would be empty, however, were it not for the nodes that they connect.


          People need something worthwhile in order for them to actually visit an area. They must have a need to satisfy, whether it be entertainment, food, work, or any other need that motivates them sufficiently to exert the energy needed to go somewhere. Individuals will not interact with the city unless there is sufficient reasoning to do so, the benefit of going out, exploring, and enjoying the area must outweigh the cost of the effort and money it costs to do so. Nodes are such attractions that people flock to in order to satisfy a certain need. Kevin Lynch’s definition of a node is “…the strategic spots in a city into which an observer can enter, and which are the intensive foci to and from which he is traveling” (Lynch 99). Nodes are not limited to artistic venues, restaurants, stores. Offices are nodes as well. It does not matter what happens within the building for it be a node, only that it is a city dweller’s destination or focus. People travel paths in order to fulfill their main objective, their objective being located, most likely, in a node. As mentioned before, Heinz Hall and O’Reilly Theater are significant nodes that are located on Penn Ave. Heinz Hall is a historical point in the cultural district, it is the home of the Pittsburgh Symphony and hosts dozens of shows throughout the year. Stand-up comedy, classical music, lectures, shows, jazz, and pretty much everything else can seen at this venue. The O’Reilly Theater as a node houses various plays and is a part of the Pittsburgh Public Theater. These nodes house enough artistic material to compel individuals to move voluntarily and enjoy the experience that they provide. On 6th Street is the Bayham Theater. The Bayham is a node that specializes in musicals and other shows like Heinz Hall. As for restaurants, they too are plentiful. 6th Street has everything from Indian cuisine, to Italian restaurants, to casual bars, it can all be found there. These nodes satisfy two major needs, art and food. Dinner and a show can mean a difficult choice because of the variety present in the Cultural District. These nodes are then surrounded by a series of edges that contains all of this rich city space in a neat package.


            Edges are lines that contain and separate one space from another. The definition to adhere to when defining edges is, “… linear elements not used or considered as paths by the observer. They are the boundaries between two phases, linear breaks in continuity, shores, railroad cuts, edges of development, walls” (Lynch 99). They can consist of any feature, be it man-made or natural. In this instance, the Pittsburgh’s Cultural District is actually recognized by Google Maps. It’ll even draw out a set of imaginary lines where the area is. What neighbors the district, is mostly offices and a variety of other districts, including Market Square and North Shore. There are four sides to the cultural district and each presents its own edge. Each edge is new type of district and presents a new experience for a traveler in the area. Paths cannot be defined as edges so the space described by Google Maps is not applicable in this instance. The northern edge is Allegheny River. This edge divides the Cultural District from the general area of the North Shore. This water feature is an excellent example of an edge because it unusable space for the most part. It only becomes a path by boat, which a minority of people have within the area. It can become a path but it is unlikely that an attendee at a ballet or an orchestra would like to swim across to enjoy a Steelers game. The western edge is a dramatic change. Instead of music and art venues, travelling down Penn Ave will lead into office spaces and corporate facilities, a much duller environment by comparison to the posters of upcoming shows hanging around the corners of theaters. The transition is slow traveling down Penn Ave but jolting when it is realized.  The southern edge is more subtle in approach than the change in building type for the west. The roads are no longer perpendicular to the river and the area feels off-center from the cultural district. Fifth Avenue, Sixth Avenue, Strawberry Way, and 7th Ave connect at a 45 degree angle to Liberty Ave. This may not seem like a dramatic change, but it is very apparent from an aerial view. The paths themselves are not the edge, rather the change in continuity of the connections of the paths. This creates a noticeable square block that is the Cultural District. The eastern edge is most noticeably defined by the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. This ominously large building looms over the district as a the start of a divider between the Cultural District and the Strip. The Eastern side is also defined by the large skyscraper on 10th Street that is a sudden change from the smaller buildings that lie nearby. It too reminds travelers that they are no longer in the same area and can expect to see a different type of space. These edges enclose the paths and nodes that make up the Cultural District from the rest of the city.


            Pittsburgh is a city that offers many forms of entertainment and many forms of work. These areas, however, are segregated from each other. The Cultural District is one of these areas and it is absolutely saturated with things to do and places to see. It is a self-contained home for a lot of the arts in Pittsburgh. Kevin Lynch’s defining elements of a city can be seen in this area as well. His concept of paths are found in the streets and bus routes that go through the area. Nodes of notable interest are abundant and keep the paths filled with eager traffic, wanting to indulge in what the area has to offer. Finally, a series of edges keeps the area contained and separated from the rest of the city. Kevin Lynch’s essay “The City Image and Its Elements,” is applicable to one of the more interesting areas of the Pittsburgh region for its  use of paths, nodes, and edges just like many other parts of Pittsburgh.

Works Cited

Lynch, Kevin. “The City Image and Its Elements”. The City Reader. Eds. Richard T. LeGates and Frederic Stout. New York: Routledge, 1996. pp. 499-509. Print. The City and Its Image

Mumford, Lewis. “What is a City?”. The City Reader. Eds. Richard T. LeGates and Frederic Stout. New York: Routledge, 1996. pp. 91-95. Print.  What is a City? 


“Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.” Map. Google Maps. Google, 2013. Web. 17 Dec. 2013.



Bethel Park

Kevin Lynch’s essay “The City Image and Its Elements” focuses on the elements that comprise a city. Applying the same elements on a suburb is slightly difficult. Not only does a city and suburb differ aesthetically, but functionally as well. The culture of a city and suburb are marginally similar at best. I live in Bethel Park and it lacks many elements that make a city so welcoming to pedestrians and those who just like to walk around.

Bethel Park is not quite a city. It follows the same design of many suburbs and mostly consists of residential blotches accented with strip malls and other private entities. As a result, there is minimal foot traffic in the town. Pedestrains in Bethel Park are fairly uncommon besides the occasional group of kids without a car for the night, someone walking a dog, or commuters parking and walking to one of the T stations. The town consists mostly of commuters rather than explores. Despite its lack of smaller paths and openess for exploring, it still consists of nodes and landmarks. The most notable that I am closest to is Washington Junction. Hundreds of commuters from Bethel Park and other nearby towns come to this node.  Their main objective and commonality between these commuters obviously is to go the officies they work downtown. These T stations in Bethel Park are nodes that focus on moving people out of Bethel for their 9 to 5 and then carry them home afterwards. The other primary reason people conglomerate here from nearby towns, is to go downtown for entertainment after they have finished their job related work.

I take a literal path to get to Washington Junction to commute to the Allegheny CCAC campus. Only a few dozen people walk through it, but their objective remains the same.


The most significant part of this path is it connecting to a graveyard. This graveyard just happens to be the location where Andy Warhol is buried.

This is a landmark in the purest sense because you cannot physically go inside of the grave, naturally, but can only observe it. I’m not quite sure who, perhaps extended family or a caretaker, but someone decorates the grave for the holidays. Also, the grave is constantly monitored by two Earthcams that stream video of the grave


  The T is a major path in Bethel Park connects to another major station that just happens to be by the Library, Community Center and Police Station. These spots are hearts of Bethel Park in my own mind. The local stores are next to these T stops form a small districts. Dull strip malls are the closest thing that Bethel Park has to districts but they do nonetheless. The library and community center, just like other towns, are a concentration where members  can go to for really anything. Many locals host an array of public classes from yoga, zumba, and I even taught fencing there as well. Despite the lack of hustle and bustle that makes a city interesting, Bethel Park is still a great place.


The term Hipster is quite the paradox. The Hipster fad revolves around not being mainstream. This is quite the paradox as hipster culture such as indie music, overpriced coffee, and horrendous Instagram filters have become the norm now. However, Hipsters have some decent taste in music, just not the appropriate attitude.

If I had a dollar every time I saw something like this on my Facebook feed…

For the sake of the argument, we can define Hipster as someone who has a taste for music from underground labels, experimental, and otherwise non-popular music. Anything that doesn’t get radio play is a good way to think to think about it. The negative connotation to the term Hipster is that they feel superior for their far more intellectual tastes in music. This  is utter nonsense.

The assumption that everything on Billboard’s Top 100 is inferior or dumb people music simply isn’t true. Pop music is engineered using common chord progressions in different styles and instrumentation because people are proven to like it.  The genius of pop music isn’t how it’s written but usually sold. The PR and marketing team play more of a role in mainstream music than ever before and the goal is usually to try to push product. Very rarely will something edgy and different come up on the charts. A great example of this is the website It’s fun to see how everything is same but different.

So why are these people who think that they’re taste in music wrong? I personally have an incredibly broad taste in music. I like my sludge metal as much as I enjoy my British 80’s pop to classical and so on. My personal preference or ‘taste’ in music is no superior to the 14 year old blasting skater punk thinking it’s the end all be all in music and that everything else sucks.. Hipsters who worship Neutral Milk Hotel (In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is actually a really solid album as an fyi and worth a look) think their superior because their music is better. How is it better? Is it better by mass appeal? That can’t be true because anything on Billboard can outsell Neutral Milk Hotel any day of the week. Is it better by musicality? This is purely subjective and there’s no factual evidence to support it. Is it better by artistic interpretation? Well, that’s subjective too. There’s nothing wrong with liking music that’s common on the airwaves. You cannot be lesser of person for liking Lil Wayne or NIcki Minaj. You can be lesser of a person, although, judging those who do and complaining about how The Black Keys sold out while wearing plaid, sucking down Pabst Blue Ribbon with a Camel Turkish Royal in the other hand.

Neutral Milk Hotel

Yarggh. Music Piracy

Music lovers are divided into two camps about music piracy. One is, “music piracy is an abomination.” the other is, “music piracy is healthy.” I belong to the latter. For legal purposes, I will not point anyone in the direction of piracy, this is not a how to post as so much as a philosophical one. First, we must discuss what music piracy is defined as. Next, we must discuss what does it do for music. Finally the big question, which is who cares.

Music piracy is the unauthorized downloading, distribution, or selling of copyrighted music. That makes total sense, right? Well, not really. Music piracy is probably the most interesting phenomenon for lawyers and the most paying due to the complications that occur. Hundreds of copyright lawsuits have been dealt out by the RIAA for people “illegally” downloading music. Stealing music today, though, is not quite stealing music as it was 50 years ago. In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, you had to walk into a store empty handed and walk out with a few albums with no currency exchanged for a theft to occur. That is truly stealing music, there is a limited number of albums in that store, you have taken one without consent. The internet makes an easy fix of this. There is no scarcity or limited supply. Downloads aren’t theft, an item is being taken away from one place to another, it is being cloned. Downloading a song is equivocal to walking into a store, looking at an album and having one magically pop into your hands, a complete clone out of thin air. If you can create an infinite number of copies of something, have you really stolen it? Another metaphor is if you look at a nice car, close your eyes, and an exact replica with a title and registration in your name appears  on the street and the keys in your pocket, is that stealing as well? Using a term to applicable to tangible goods does not necessitate that it is applicable to digital ones.

One of the first acts of recorded music piracy was conducted by non other than Mozart. Yup, classical music’s poster boy stole music. The story is that at the age of 14 good ol’ Mozie (as nicknamed by my music teacher)  heard “Miserere mei, Deus” by Gregorio Allegri in a service. He later wrote it down by memory after hearing it only twice. The Vatican was very strict about punishing those who wrote it down or performed the piece outside of service. We know music piracy has been in existence. I tell this story because of how ridiculous it is. Mozart was smart enough to be able to take a piece of music and share it with others, which really isn’t a crime. The whole idea of music is to share it. File-sharing (torrents) allows this freely and connects people faster, therefore, it shares musical ideas faster.

Miserere mei, Deus

Who really cares about this issue? A band normally is just happy to get exposure, recognition, and sold-out shows. Who really suffers are the middle-men, the labels and iTunes. Support the artists you love by buying their products if you truly care, if not, don’t buy their products. However,pirating anything that’s on the top 100, really isn’t going to cause any harm whatsoever to music. Music will always find a way.


Blog Review: Dennis

For this assignment I chose as my blog to review. Mostly I chose it as Dennis writes well in a narrative sense. For a blog, it works and I feel as if I am being told a story and engaged in a conversation rather than forcing myself to plow through words on a screen. It  His content is substantial and fascinating as well. Being as young as I am, it gives me a new perspective on education to see someone who is an adult go through the same classes I am. A 52 year old freshman is something not many could boast about. How he arrived there is a great story and I want to know more about his police career before his decision to come back to school. His posts remind me of the expression, “the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now.” His posts actually compelled me to do things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t in a while (a while for a 19 year old, however, constitutes as a few months or a few years for perspective). Far too many people simply it’s too late for me to do x, y, or z and Dennis is countering that continued practice very well.

It’s stunning someone has the dedication to go back to school, and make the Dean’s list, while already having a career and a family. His most recent post about how high school students are not prepared for school really hit hard to home. I can attest to many of my friends who failed classes in their programs such as pharmacy, engineering, and pre-med. Most of them graduated with 3.8 or above GPA’s and still feel overwhelmed by the jump in content and workload as they do not possess the time management skills to do it all because they never learned them in high school. That connection makes me feel obliged to read on to search for anything else I can relate to. Having a commonality, such as that, is really effective at keeping a reader’s attention.  Dennis’s blog connects to a reader that I hope to able to incorporate in mine. I try to back away from a personal connection in writing because I’ve always tried to follow the rules of sticking to a third person perspective, however, seeing how persuasive it is in a blog format, I will try to use it more in online environments. I will still use a third person perspective as much as possible when it comes to objective work though. As I try to expose music to people in my blog, I will be sure to try and connect it in things in my own life experiences that readers can relate to. 

Spooky Scores

Halloween is near which means the scariest movies will be hitting the silver screens and  the cable boxes. The scores that are written for this cinematic wonders of gore and horror are what really deliver the final blow of a good scare. Music is crucial is in creating an atmosphere that is based on tension and emotion. Video games ,in my experience, have been upping their standard for musicality, especially in horror. While unrelated to movies, if you are a gamer, I highly recommend anything from  the Silent Hill series,  the Resident Evil series, Bioshock, System Shock, and Metro 2033 for their movie level production of their music.  Here are my personal favorite movies scores that scared the willies out of me more so than than the movies.

28 Days Later- This movie’s soundtrack is phenomenal and incorporates excellent bass and drums throughout the tracks. The guitar work is also notable. Its uses sounds for the score from genres such as industrial and even a bit of classical themes used sporadically to create an ambient atmosphere. “In the House, In a Heartbeat” is the most famous song from the soundtrack and can be heard almost everywhere. It’s a good song but is falling victim to being overplayed in online videos. For whatever reason, montages and home videos uploaded to the internet feature this song to be overly dramatic and after hearing it the 75th time, it loses its touch.

Insidious–  This movie was fantastic and has one of the greatest orchestrated scores in my opinion. Its use of the strings section. Sudden shocks of fortissimo with hammering on piano strings, skin-crawling  glissando, agonizing tremolos make this the creepiest soundtrack I’ve heard. The most familiar sound from this score is the sudden tremolo in the violin section in the song “The Insidious Plane.”  The  movie is also fantastic and well worth a watch, especially with friends who are jittery due to numerous jump scares.

American Horror Story- While not having a full original score, or really that much horror, I feel it should go onto the list for its interesting choice of Alternative, Indie, Blues, Jazz, Funk and just about everything else. The music choice is fantastic and its meaning is twisted into something slightly more sinister when given context via the acting in the show. American Horror Story falsely advertises on the horror aspect in the first season (in my opinion) but it picks up in creepiness the second. The upcoming season is centered on witches and used a great re-imagining of “House of the Rising Sun” as testament to its creativity with music.

Pyscho- Hitchcock horror is a cinematography marvel and it needs a score to match. This classic from 1960 delivers with a score that is memorable as well as haunting. The composer Bernard Herrmann uses the strings section heavily with ominous flowing sounds jumping to tension filled chords being bashed out in the next piece. It is the perfect balance of tension and relief, which allows a listener to be sucked in into a scare.

“If one listens to the wrong kind of music, he will become the wrong kind of person.” –Aristotle

This quote bothers me. It bothers me so incredibly much I have to create a post about it and even challenge the great Aristotle. As brilliant as he was, he is incredibly wrong in this instance. I could not find further context or writings with this quote so it’ll be examined and judged by itself. “If one listens to the wrong kind of music, he will become the wrong kind of person,” is a chicken and the egg situation. Does somebody listen to poor quality music because they are a poor quality person to begin with? Does poor quality music turn people into poor kinds of people? Is there no correlation between the two at all? These are the three main questions that arise from this quote. Looking through music history, we can see a lot as to what common opinion has to offer on the situation.

Tipper Gore, that name can bring up some seriously strong feelings for anyone who grew up when the PMRC hearings were in full swing. 1985 was an incredible year for music (and the interpretation of the first amendment at a legal level). The PMRC was a committee created to assess, judge and label music deemed inappropriate or unsuitable for children. The political shenanigans, gossip, and debate that ensued from the creation of this committee were fantastical and lead to great philosophical responses from musicians such as Frank Zappa, Jello Biafra, and Dee Snider.

Firstly, Dee Snider’s senate hearing comes to mind when I see this quote. Who is to define what the wrong kind of music is? Everybody has their own tastes, preferences, and a moral compass when it comes to music. Interpretation of musical lyrics differs as well, what imagery I may see in an album may be completely different from your own metaphorical interpretation due to differing life or mindset about that music. This was Dee’s issue. Tipper Gore interpreted a song, “Under the Blade,” that Twisted Sister wrote as being about sadomasochism when in reality its intention was to describe a throat operation the guitar player went through. This is quite a long-shot from the original idea that Twisted Sister wanted to convey and makes myself wonder how many songs I judge that are “bad” that I simply listen to wrong. I can tell you for a fact some of the things that come out of my speakers at home shock my mother (and would shock many other strict parents) while having no real negative lyrics. Despite how violent my own collection of experimental hip-hop and metal may sound, it deals with subjects that are often no more violent and tragic than my vinyl collection of operas I have inherited from my grandparents. Tosca, written by Ciacomo Puccini, is one crazy opera full of death and torture and is more metal than many modern bands claim to be today.

Dee Snider’s PMRC hearing

Secondly, I think of Jello Biafra’s Oprah interview with Gore Tipper present on the show. This is probably my favorite talk show piece ever aired. At the 8 minute and 40 second mark of the second part, a mother calls into the show to tell the story of her son tragically had a psychological episode. He threatened to kill his mother and father with a knife and the mother attributes this episode to Beastie Boys’ and Dead Kennedys’ lyrics. The gravity of this situation cannot be expressed enough as psychological stability is a sensitive matter. The panelists against the PMRC then discuss how an isolated incident is not reason enough to have concern for the content of a song. The majority of teenagers are able to listen to the music without violent breakdowns, this child had unfortunately a predisposition for mental illness due to stress or physiology. Biafra makes the case, “Judging me or any other rock artist by the actions of one mixed up kid, is as narrow-minded as judging all Born Again Christians by Mark Chapman, the guy who shot John Lennon.”

Part 2 of the Oprah Interview

Part 3 of the Oprah Interview

Music does not have the power to change a person. Their family, friends, and life challenges they deal with will have a far greater effect on them than a rock tune or a hip hop beat. Still, parents of children often know what is best and have the right to determine what permissions children have in their choice of music. Artists can create whatever they want, however, the duty of interpretation falls on the individual.

PMRC source

I recently was dragged into a conversation about Miley Cyrus while out with friends due to her new music video being released. The same arguments of,  “what happened,” “how could she,” and, “what a disgrace in music.” Getting beyond the bad girl image she’s trying entirely too hard to present, she isn’t the first and won’t be the last. Musicians have for hundreds of years used these methods to get their names out and market themselves. Sex sells, gossip spreads, music is bought, and money is made.

Some of our favorite composers were known for their rock star antics just like Miley, even all the way back in the 1800’s we can see the insanity of the entertainment world, minus the twerking of course.

First on the list is the composer and pianist Franz Liszt. Franz Liszt caused such commotion amongst his female fans that there’s an actual diagnosis for it, Lisztomania. He would cause total mayhem wherever he would go walking in the streets. Women would fight each other for items he dropped or lost, such as broken piano strings or handkerchiefs. Sound familiar? It should, Bieber fever is a modern example of this old phenomenon. Whether it be 19th century women or 21st century teenage girls, people will idolize celebrities to the point of violence for locks of hair or autographs (seriously people wanted pieces of Liszt’s hair). Famous violinist Niccolò Paganini was thought to have struck a deal with Satan for his lightning fast and demonic technical performances. He enjoyed this image so much he would have a black carriage with black horses drive him to performances to add his dark persona as a musician. No other than Lady Gaga can be seen using the same techniques as Paganini.  Her obsession with her image and musical talent is not unlike Paganini. Also, there’s dozens of conspiracy theories connecting her to the Illuminati and believe her to be a Satan worshiping soulless being. Yet, she continues to use the imagery in her music. Does she worship Satan? Probably not, however, the imagery gets people talking which is what really matters in the long run.

Two musicians, same marketing techniques

These are only two musicians from the Romantic era of music but there are dozens of instances in the history of music of outrageous acts to gain appeal and publicity. From Mozart to Iggy Pop, all have used gimmicks with their passion to sell their craft.  Miley is no different from the hundreds of entertainers that come before her and we’ll see the same cycle again in give or take within 10 years with another Disney protégé turning into a bad girl.

As a side note, it is rather remarkable how she’s gone from this,

to this (I consider this one NSFW )…


Practice Practicing to Stop Procrastination

Another academic year has begun and another cycle of thousands of students panicking over their increased workloads, stress, and lack of motivation have come about as well. Everybody has hit the wall at some point in their career. The wall being that wonderful point in time where the unforgettable sense of dread knowing your impending doom is on the horizon from your own doing via procrastination. Fear not, for music has the answer. That answer is practicing, of course.

The human brain is an incredibly complicated piece of biological engineering, however, let’s face it, we as species are still incredibly dumb. Our brains require hundreds of hours of repetition to learn a new skill and even then, there is a guarantee we’ll still make mistakes. We become frustrated with a lack of progress, which leads to further frustration, and many of us of have difficulty seeing and planning for the future. I am willing to admit I am one of those procrastinators, however, I have learned from my musical studies how to avoid the trap (most of the time). This is the process that I have developed for myself to cope with my affliction for averting assignments and hopefully it benefits you as much as it did me.

Step 1.
Realize that you are terrible. No, seriously, you are, just deal with it. This is the hardest part to accept. No matter what skill you start or study, you will be a greenhorn, a newbie, a new kid on the block and that is perfectly o.k. If you can pick up a violin and play Mendelssohn’s concertos from one listen or memorize a lecture in one sitting, ignore this advice. However, for everybody else, you will be atrocious at new things.

Step 2.
Find the problem spots. This is where the work begins. With music, it is common for someone to learn the music not in the order written. A musician will look through the piece, find the hardest technical parts of the piece, learn them, and then go on to the other parts. It saves time knowing what bridges you have cross before you get to them. This is incredibly beneficial for studying. Don’t study what you know, but rather what you don’t. The difficulty lies in being able to find these problem spots when our feeble brains like to show off what we know rather what we do not.

Step 3.
Write it, say it, and do it everyday. It’s incredibly easy to simply say, “I know that,” and continue on to the next issue at hand. It is to better to be able to prove it. Practicing music? Say the notes, chords, as you play so you understand what the melody, harmony, or rhythm is doing. Studying for school? Say it as you write it. Then do it again, and again, and again. It is far more beneficial to spend 15 to 30 minutes a on a task everyday rather than binge information in 3 hours the day before. Our brains like repetition for learning, our will, though, despises it. Finding motivation is the hardest part in this step. Be creative and reward your efforts when you conquer small battles that will lead to your final victory.

Step 4.
Dress Rehearsal. The first stepping stone to success is here. If you can replicate the conditions that you will be put under, whether it be a test, essay, or performance, do it. Practicing with all the variables you can will give you an advantage. You can’t prepare for everything and improvising is an important skill but give yourself a strong familiarity with your environment you will be entering to face your challenge. Playing on the stage is a great way to know what you will sound like to the audience and ensure that you can compensate for acoustic deviations.

Step 5.
Perform. The big day has arrived and you have to play, hope you practiced enough!

Step 6.
Reflect. The concert is over, you bow, you walk off stage, and immediately think, “That A flat in the 20th bar was so off.” Whatever happened in that auditorium or classroom, happened. The more you linger on it, the less motivated you will be for your next performance. Note, though, that it is important to look back at your process and preparation and see what you can do, add, refine, or reinvent to be better prepared. People learn by repetition but everybody learns at different rates, different means, and different efficiencies. Altering and customizing these steps for your own benefit is highly recommended.

Staying Motivated
Finding what keeps you pushing yourself to get that next guitar lick, essay written, or work related project done is hard and keeping that flame lit is even more of a challenge. My choice of motivation is cheesy motivational videos. They are quite the guilty pleasure. If I find I am off course, I watch a good ol’ fashioned pump-up, feel good video and I get back into the zone. “Success,” is a personal favorite weapon of mass motivation.