It would be the most optimum by far for any musician to have music lessons from an early age, routinely and progressively. It goes without saying that quality of instruction is of utmost importance, as per an earlier article. A good instructor instills the musician with a solid foundation of fundamental truth, and cultivates the blossoming of virtuosity, all in a systematic manner that is not strained or rushed, but follows a line of organic development. To give the analogy of cheesemaking, if the talented student is the rennet, the instructor is the milk.
Having good instruction is so integral that it is customary for even word-class classical performers to publicly acknowledge the primary teachers who brought them up, such as in biographries, concert programs, liner notes, etc. It is usually a hallmark of prestige for the performer to validate their instructors in such a way. It is a feather in their own cap. A good instructor who is the primary one to bring up the musician is worth his/her weight in gold.
But what about those talents who are entirely self taught? Look, we understand that life produces various circumstances and that people come from all walks of life, some privileged, some underprivileged. For example, a child may possess an innate talent and passion for music, yet they may be from an environment so underprivileged that their parents or guardians may not even be able to afford lessons, let alone an instrument. Many try their best to realize their dream somehow and do the best they can within their ability. This is usually the factor behind self-education.
While there are some definite huge talents who have manifested themselves this way, the truth of the matter is that their spectrum of ability and potential could have blossomed tenfold, had they had the advantage of nurturing instruction. Think of the ingenious old man who lived in the Mississippi Delta during the early turn of the twentieth century, who had nothing but a guitar, a pick and his own voice. And look at what soulful art he created on his own. Now, think if that same individual had the advantage of a quality instructor who taught them about music and cultivated their talent for maximum potential. Their soulful expression of their art is inherent. That would not change. But their breadth and power to express that would put them on an even higher plateau, perhaps another Mozart.
There is another factor where some musicians feel they do not need instruction, that it will only impede their creativity and undermine their artistic integrity. This stems almost exclusively from bad instruction. As covered in one of my earlier articles, bad instruction does more harm than good. No instruction is almost better than bad instruction as poor teaching can ruin one’s musical appreciation. Good instruction does the exact opposite of what some fear, in that it empowers and brings out maximum creativity and ability to express one’s artistic integrity.
Interestingly enough, the ones who most commonly shun instruction are those musicians whose proclivity or gift is in composing or songwriting, more so than those who are virtuosic with an instrument or voice. There is a human tendency to be impatient when it comes to creativity. Obviously, this is more evident in creative minds. This is because the life force can “create” something instantaneously. Close your eyes and envision something, no matter how fantastic, elaborate or surreal. You envisioned it within seconds, didn’t you? That’s how the basic essence of you works. Those whose passion is to create something aesthetically, such as a composer or songwriter, for example, operate their minds with such lightning speed. To then learn such basic things as notes, etc., seems tedious to them.
The truth of the matter, however, is that music, while spiritual in nature, requires material world components to manifest, such as soundwaves, timing, etc. So as fast as it is to envision a creative concept, it is quite something else to transfer it into actual music that is heard by others and not just inside the composer’s head. The good instructor will know exactly how to cultivate this in the talented mind and bring it out with its maximum energy and force.
The accomplished musician who has been fortunate to have a main instructor who has almost mentor status will hold that person up as a trophy, because they are not only crediting them, but are showing their own prideful identity as a musician. If one fails to do this, it is an indicator that they are not actually as accomplished as they purport themselves to be.