by: Konner Scott
Last week I went to see the original “Avatar” movie in IMAX with some friends. I hadn’t seen it in about 15 years, and wow, the visuals and special effects have held up over time. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I highly recommend the film if you’ve never seen it.
At one point in the film, the protagonist- Jake Sully, a paraplegic ex-Marine chosen to visit the newly-discovered planet- is attempting to learn the language of the Na’vi, the apex alien species that inhabits the planet of Pandora. He had one quote during this process that really stuck with me.
“The language is a pain, but… I figure it’s like field stripping a weapon. Repetition, repetition, repetition.”
I think the memorability of this quote for me lies in the simplicity. I have a tendency to overcomplicate things when I’m trying to learn something new. For example, if I’m trying to improve my gospel piano repertoire, I’ll take on way too many chords & progressions at once, and then get frustrated and give up.
Thinking back on the biggest successes in my piano chord journey – the chords I still gravitate towards with composing or improvising – they all share a common thread. They’re not wildly complex, flashy, or overwhelming. Some are more involved than others, but the commonality lies in my approach: I just played them a million times, in a million different ways.
I played them around the circle of fifths. I played them chromatically. I played them within a ton of different chord progressions. I spent time improvising and intentionally trying to work them in to my improvisation.
After enough time, they stick with me. I have those tools in my toolkit, and I can use them at will. All it takes is time and consistency. Repetition, repetition, repetition!
This is a great philosophy when trying to learn chords, a new piece, melody lines, etc. Just do it a million times! You can mix it up. You can try it different ways. You can play it upside down, backwards, and underwater. Keep the content of what you’re trying to learn down to a manageable level, but then try to learn and play it as many ways as possible, as much as you can. After enough repetition, you’ll have it down. It’s only a matter of time!