• Exposed: What Building Engineers Know That Most MUSICIANS Don’t

    in Self-Improvement

    music foundation

    Where I’m from, it’s common to hear musicians say things like:

    I started playing the keyboard when there wasn’t anyone available to play it. I am self-taught. All the things I can play now are a product of hard-work.

    I started playing the keyboard by stealing chords from my dad.

    I joined the choir back in high school. It was there I met a guy who taught me how to play ‘Amazing Grace’ and that was how I started playing.

    I’ve analyzed several dozens of statements like this and I’ve noticed one thing they all share in common – superficiality.


    The art of manipulating a musical instrument is associated with the word “playing”. That explains why most people consider music playing as something similar to playing with a toy. There are no laid down rules to the use of a toy. Heck, even when we buy toys with product manuals, we hardly go through them.

    A vast majority of musicians have this shallow perception. Even though they know that there are classical and contemporary approaches to formally learn the keyboard, they feel it’s not worth the trouble. They eventually become superficial players who:

    • Can’t distinguish between a note and a key. Or can’t explain why there are 12 notes and 24 keys.
    • Believe that the keys of C and D are the same. Can’t understand why C has seven sharps and D has five flats.
    • Still struggle with letter names like C, E etc. Simply because there are no black notes in-between E and F or B and C.
    • Can’t relate one key to another, choosing instead to stay in the comfortable keys they first started playing in.

    Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying one must bag a PhD in music before playing the piano – far from that. I’m only saying that it’s better to know the basics of music.

    Truth be told, there was a time when I thought that playing an instrument with a shallow foundation was permissible for hobby players. However, I’ve seen several hobby players who took the time and patience to develop a rock-solid musical foundation progress on to become amazing players.

    Whether the goal is to become a professional or stay a hobbyist, there are no excuses for skipping the basics and fundamentals.

    Think about driving a car. Whether your aspirations are to become a Nascar driver or commute here and there casually, you had better not skip the basics of operating that car!

    Guidelines in Building Construction That Are Related to Music Growth

    The process of music learning is similar to the process of building construction. Below are building construction guidelines that are applicable in music education/growth. 

    Guideline #1 – Begin at the Base

    Engineers: The very first part of building construction is the foundation. I have never seen a building project that started with roofing and ended with the foundation. It’s always the other way round – foundation comes first.

    Musicians: The proper way to get started with music is to learn the basics and fundamentals. Playing songs while getting started is like starting a building project with its roofing. There are basic ideas and orientations that you can’t play the keyboard without. Sure, you can play songs without a mastery of major and minor scales and their proper fingering; however, when it’s time for improvisation, those weak fingers will expose you – sometimes in an embarrassing way.


    Guideline #2 – Depth and Height are directly proportional

    Engineers: The height and weight of a building are directly proportional to depth. High-rise buildings are massive and will require deeper foundations for support and rigidity. Think of the tallest buildings in the world and imagine what would become of them if they had superficial foundations. A skyscraper outweighs an average house 50,000 times. The outward mass outside can stand and withstand pressure because there are structures under the ground.

    Musicians: It’s not enough to desire global relevance and international renown in music. You must support it with a deep music foundation that is directly proportional to the relevance you desire. Most big musicians you admire out there are like skyscrapers. They have massive foundations that you cannot see directly, but certainly indirectly. We see their “glory” but often times don’t understand their “story.”


    Guideline #3 – Mind the Materials

    Engineers: The foundation of a building is laid with iron, cement, concrete, sand etc. using certain construction principles. Imagine building with plastic, paper and nylon.

    Musicians: The fundamentals of music are laid with theory, ear-training and technique (I’m tempted to add sight-reading to the list). These are core areas that guarantee a rock-solid foundation. However, it’s common to see a vast majority of musicians with plastic or nylon foundations?


    What does it take for a 140-story building to stand?


    The world’s tallest buildings are massive. Their height (over 800 meters or 2,700 feet) and weight (over 350,000 tons) can crush anything underneath – iron, cement, sand, concrete etc.

    Skyscrapers – considering their weight and height – rest on the very foundations of the earth itself. Building engineers excavate several layers of the earth’s crust – sand, clay, concrete etc. until the bedrock is reached.

    What it takes for a skyscraper to stand tall is depth.

    As musicians, we must change our orientation about music growth. Let’s start thinking like building engineers if we are to accomplish those skyscraper feats.

    To get to the bedrock does not involve an ordinary excavation process. Therefore, do not think that you can find BEDROCK music theories on the surface. It takes a lot of excavation, patience and hard work. However, it is rewarding because after the learning process, BEDROCK musicians always stand tall.

    Who else wants to be a bedrocker?

    Final Words

    Foundations are below but aren’t hidden. You can tell the depth of the foundation of a musician by the massiveness of the outward structure.


    For the past year, we’ve been excavating and excavating and excavating and we just hit the bedrock. At the moment, we’ve laid a foundation for musicians who want to go beyond the level of “mud and sand” to the BEDROCK where they can derive structural and functional stability.

    In a few months, we’ll be offering our fundamental series. If you join our notification mailing list, you’ll be the first to know about it.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Peter LaFosse

    A very good read enjoyed it and learned a t thing or two along the way. Thanks


    2 Johnson

    Thanks so much Jermaine


    3 josh

    Thanks greatly, dis write up cut across every aspect of our life activity.


    4 resurfacing contractors

    It’s a great comparison. There are standards in construction that cannot be ignored because the consequences can be fatal. The same cannot be said for music.


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