by Author nicbriggs

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Keeping Current by Sarah Wilson (Lead Artist on Quench Arts’ Wavelength project)

How having knowledge of lots of different kinds of music and new releases can help you engage with young people.

As artists, we all have our own personal taste in music and styles and ways of playing that we prefer. We know what sounds we like, how we want them put together and we certainly know what we don’t like.

As practitioners, we have to take the time to keep up with new musical ideas and releases. It is important that we act inclusively by making sure that we understand the musical world that our participants inhabit. When a young person first embarks on a musical journey, they may be very nervous not only of their own ability but of the relationship that will be formed with us; the workshop providers, practitioners and teachers in front of them.

We can ease some of these nerves by asking them to introduce us to the music they listen to. This means we are taking their input seriously as well as giving ourselves a good understanding of what it is they want to make. We cannot possibly know every artist and type of music out there but being open to the ideas and new sounds that the participant brings to the session is invaluable. It also gives the practitioner space to talk about how those pieces were made and what layers could be used to build a new piece.

People like to be proud of what they have made, so using sounds and rhythms that are heard in current music to build the musical piece being worked on, by the young people in the session, will help to build pride and confidence. I have found many times that young people will be much more likely to engage if they lead the process.

All of us feel more comfortable starting with something we know so trying to mimic a track they like can be a good starting point. Once they have begun to make something that they are proud of, it is much easier to start introducing instruments and sounds that may not be so familiar to them or to encourage them to play something like the bass line on a bass guitar.

Sampling can be a really useful tool for encouraging engagement and confidence. Getting the young person to find tracks that they like and looking for sounds or loops that can be sampled and captured for use in their own piece can help to support how they perceive their own work and can act as a really useful starting point for those that are struggling with how to begin. There are issues with copyright if you do this, though!!

To put it simply- if it is not something they would want to listen to, it is probably not something they would like to make. Our musical tastes and our creative drives develop as we are exposed to more music and more ways of making music. I enjoy the way that my own practice and my own musical tastes shift and change as I work with young people who push to make music they can be proud of.