3 Ways to Preserve Music for Next Gen Musicians

This post is by Hypebot intern Hisham Dahud. His Twitter: @HishamDahud.

Skyler 2 We're beginning to make positive strides in understanding how music will be consumed in the digital age, but we've spent relatively little time pondering how the music itself will evolve.

How will it be different? Will it change for better or for worse?

To learn more, I sought the counsel of a musician who's not only been around music long enough to witness it evolve, but who's been a part of it his entire life.

Meet humanitarian singer/songwriter Skyler Jett.

Skyler is a Grammy recognized vocalist who has worked with such artists as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Kenny G. He is uneasy about today's emphasis on image, our reliance on digital technology, and the steady decline in music education – all of which may cause music to lose it's meaning for the next generation.

"At the rate we're going, I'm really concerned that kids will grow up not knowing what a guitar even looks like," Skyler told me at his home in Napa, CA. "It's all a spectacle now. Music is just what draws them in." 

With many schools across America losing music programs in response to dire budget concerns, Skyler feels too many kids are growing up not knowing how to play real instruments and as a result, they do not understand music at its core.

"If we don't have music in schools, it's ludicrous." Skyler said. "Music is educational, it's healing, and it brings people together because it's about feeling. It's our job to pass music down to our kids and introduce them to real instruments, and we're not doing a good enough job of that."

Today, many kids are introduced to music through pop star iconography and sensationalism through popular media. A great deal of youth-pandered culture continues to exist in music, but perhaps one would argue that that could be one of the things holding the music industry back - that its product continues to be primarily marketed towards kids and thus seems irrelevant to everyone else.

As a result, music is placed in similar, yet digestible boxes – so that by simply looking at an artist, it's immediately apparent what they should sound like before even listening to them. This creates more room for stereotypes and can even result in musical discrimination.

It was while on this topic that Skyler proposed three solutions that could aid in preserving music for a new generation of musicians:

1. Remove the Focus on Image 

Skyler: "Music isn't something you look at. It's something you listen to and something you feel. I'd rather have you judge me on what I write, and how I make you feel – not the way you perceive me, or the way you could market me. A lot of people have turned music into a spectacle, but it's not really about music itself anymore. Take a look at all these awards shows… you don't even see the musicians anymore!"

"While image is certainly important to a degree, it's never as important as having outstanding and compelling music. Without quality music, you essentially have nothing but your image. By removing the emphasis on image and shining the light on musicianship, we'll aid in filtering out image-based artists and force many would-be musicians to step up their game."

2. End "Age Discrimination"

Skyler: "Close your eyes and ask a 25 year-old to strike a high 'C' on a piano. Then ask someone else whose 55 years old to strike the exact same note… Can you tell me how old the finger was?"

"There are musicians out there who have been playing music their entire lives, but then suddenly become 'too old.' Each and every musician has his or her own signature and your age has nothing to do with your capability to reach your audience. A room full of musicians playing real instruments is a chemical mixture of sound that will sound different each time around. That's a beautiful thing."

3. Bring Back Real Instruments

Skyler: "Some people need to spend time learning an instrument, while others are born to play theirs. They have a special and natural ability to speak fluently through their instrument."  

"What's beautiful about music is that it brings people together. A bass player will seek out drummer, then will come a guitar player, and so on. It then becomes about teamwork. We're getting away from that. We're losing that human element. Computers have diluted the sound of real human beings. Nowadays, digital technology has musicians spending more time behind a computer screen and less time actually playing music with one another."

"When you get some amazing musicians together in one room, that sound will never compare to any computer."

On a scientific level, music may in fact be something unique to the human brain. The ability to ingest sound in the form of harmony and expression and then have it affect an emotional state may be something completely incomprehensible to non-humans. While music continues to evolve over time, my only hope is that it does so while carrying on that uniquely human element which made it so meaningful to us in the first place.

You can learn more about Skyler Jett @ skylerjett.com

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