Music Education: What is “real time” and why is it important?


Developing an ability to make and execute decisions “in real time” is far and away music’s most useful and underrated complex skill. “Real time” is in reference to decisions made within a time frame, often split seconds, imposed by momentum. A common “real world” scenario that involves “real time” decision making, for example, is whilst operating a vehicle. The momentum of a vehicle in motion is similar to the momentum of a song in that there is a natural rate of steadiness, acceleration, or deceleration relative to any given moment in motion. Step on the gas or break too hard and the jerkiness of a vehicle (or song) thrust beyond a natural course of momentum is unsettling. Conversely, an ability to navigate momentum (whether physically, musically, conversationally, etc) is an extremely valuable and broadly applicable skill.

On and off the stage, in any physical or metaphysical situation where momentum is a factor, I am keenly aware that this skill is at play. I know when I am playing well with it and failing to, and it has become something of an obsession to master it. It’s incredibly satisfying not only for myself but for everyone the momentum I manage to maintain well touches. I’ve also learned to be endlessly appreciative when others have the skillset to manage momentum with or for me. For me when I am not in a position to manage it because I lack the necessary energy or skill sets, with me when two heads are better than one. The latter – the successful spontaneous co-management of momentum – is especially satisfying, and we have many names for it. The current popular vernacular is “vibing.” Yes, vibing is a ‘real time’ skill, and it can be taught. 

If it’s true that the nature of everything is to have momentum, then to the degree that momentum is perceptible the application of this skill is limited only by the tools we have with which to engage it. And while it is therefore possible to develop “real time” momentum management skills from any entry point, music as a discipline requires awareness and development of this skill both in theory and in practice and is, in my experience driven opinion, a most accessible vehicle for developing an invaluable skill set.

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What’s this to you? I encourage my students to look for the myriad ways in which “real time” management skills can improve their musicality and their life. Sometimes even just becoming aware can make a world of difference 🙂

Musically yours,

Maggie


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