Duke Ellington Composing

Duke Ellington

“My biggest kick in music – playing or writing – is when I have a problem. Without a problem to solve, how much interest do you take in anything?”
–Duke Ellington (The Musician’s Way, p. 54)

No matter how musically advanced we become, we encounter passages that defy easy mastery.

Some push our technical limits; others challenge us artistically.

Performers often label those passages “problem spots,” but in spite of that ominous name, all musicians need such spots.

Climbing to New Levels of Competence

By tackling musical and technical problems, we exit familiar territory and climb to new levels of competence.

And when we acquire the means to untangle predicaments creatively, problem solving becomes one of the most rewarding aspects of our practice.

Students often mistakenly believe that mature artists don’t run into vexing problems. Not so.

One of the most vital skills that elite musicians possess is that they’re masters at morphing dilemmas into art.

Aspiring musicians can become fluent problem-solvers too, but they first need to acquire specific know-how.

“When we acquire the means to untangle predicaments creatively, problem solving becomes one of the most rewarding aspects of our practice.”

Creative Problem-Solving Explained

Chapter 3 of The Musician’s Way maps out a far-reaching approach to creative problem-solving that’s incorporated into the book’s method of deep practice.The Musician's Way book cover

It begins by considering how we approach problems, emphasizing the importance of divergent thinking.

Next, it describes a 3-stage problem-solving process illustrated with dozens of music examples:

1. Recognizing that a problem exists
2. Isolating and defining the problem
3. Applying problem-solving tactics

The book has earned worldwide praise and been reprinted numerous times in both English and foreign-language editions. I invite you to take a look.

Preview The Musician’s Way at Amazon.com.

Related posts
Divergent Thinking in Practice
Efficient Practice
Glorious Details
The Meaning in Mistakes
Solving Problems in Practice

© 2016 Gerald Klickstein
Adapted from p. 54 of The Musician’s Way
Photo via the Smithsonian Institution