573 words — 3 minutes read

63 - learning with a beginners mind

The Coursera Songwriting and Music Production classes I’m taking are being discussed over on the Justinguitar forums.

Here’s the text I wrote as an answer to the bitching about the courses being all wrong, shallow, etc…

I’m taking both the music production and the songwriting class, and so far have been enjoying them (each in their different way). I have been dabbling with audio for 30 or so years, but even so I have still learnt quite a bit on the basics and a few new things that weren’t obvious to me. I am working on a video presentation of how to record an acoustic guitar and I have learnt how different polarities of my mic (cardiod, omnidirectional, stereo) sound (by actually trying them and recording some stuff with that setting). I have learnt more about iMovie and syncing of video and music than I cared for (and I have learnt that iMovie probably isn’t the right tool for that kind of video production). Is it strictly about music production what I have learnt? No. Have I learnt something? Yes.

As for the songwriting course. I have written a lot in my life - mostly technical stuff, including a 600 page book on web development. I can write if I need to. I have blogged for the last 12 years or so, and recently (after a long hiatus) have started a 100 day / 100 blog posts challenge (I’m still on it after 36 days).

But I (think) that I can’t do any creative writing. When my kids asked me to tell them a story when they were small, my mind went blank. This blankness is something I really fear. The course with Pat Pattison gives me tools (the boxes, the 6 friends) that allow me to take a feeble idea and look at it, examine it and maybe come up with angles on it that I hadn’t thought of. We will see where this leads… (I’m still totally scared by the first assignment)

But I adore how Pat delivers his lectures - I love how he tells stories (Bernice), and alone that is worth the time I spend on that class.

I see those classes (and others I have taken from Coursera and Udacity) as wonderful gifts. What you do with them, is totally up to you. Everything you do is a learning opportunity. It is just up to you to discover what you decide to learn from it.

I practice Aikido. While there are grades in Aikido, there are no competitions, no “I am better than you” attitude (at least in theory). In our classes, a total beginner can ask (and is expected to ask) a Dan bearer to train with him, and the Dan bearer is not allowed to turn him down. Both are expected to learn from each other - the beginner from the master and the master from the beginner. And learn, they can both - but each of them needs to have an open mind about what they are doing.

It is easy to bitch about this or that, about the style of an instructor, about the low level of a lecture, about the stupidity of an assignment. If you do that, you deprive yourself of the chance to learn something. There are a couple of concepts that can help you: “Beginners Mind” and “Shu-Ha-Ri”. What they mean is left as a (learning) exercise for the reader.

Jens-Christian Fischer

Maker. Musician