Why Gospel Musicians Don’t Share Playing Tips

So I put out a challenge on my fan page the other day asking all my musicians to do a “1 minute lesson” with someone. The next time someone asked for help or tips, take them aside and just show them one simple thing they could take with them and practice. The idea was to break some of the negative images Gospel musicians have as selfish arrogant people who never give back.

Now, usually if I send a shout-out to the musicians on my fan page they show up in droves, chatting and posting comments, participating in the conversation and really hanging out with me. This time though, all I got in response was the finely tuned sound of crickets chirping. This is not something most musicians care to discuss.

Someone posted and asked me the question “So what is the reason most musicians don’t want to share tips?” I thought about it a while, trying to determine the best way to explain it to her without making the post too long. Well that didn’t work. My answer went on for several paragraphs, lol! But it got the attention of at least one musician who had an “OMG” moment, leaving me a kudos-filled comment generously sprinkled with lots of exclamation points.

So suffice it to say that I thought the answer seemed too important to leave it there on the page to be pushed down until it’s eventually out of sight. So I decided to post my answer as a blog for all my readers here. I hope this offers a different perspective for you to think about the next time this comes up for whatever reason. Or the next time you’re headed toward that organ after the benediction.

“So what is the reason must musicians don’t want to share tips?”

I have to qualify my answer by first saying I’m not at the level of many of the musicians who frequent the page. But while there could be any number of reasons, I think a lot of it has to do with the way people approach musicians about showing them things.

Highly skilled musicians don’t get that way by accident. Their skill represents years of dedicated practicing for sometimes hours at a time. People often approach musicians wanting to bypass that work and just go straight to the cool chords or the great run.

For example someone might hear a great chord and want the musician to show it to him note by note. But the musician knows the chord because he has painstakingly studied theory and learned how to build these amazing chords.

He also knows that most people who ask for the chords wouldn’t really know how to use it anyway. Then of course there is the proprietary aspect of such things as chords and runs, and how they tend to define the signature sound of one musician vs. another one. Musicians often create these chords and runs from scratch. 

They work very hard developing such things, and I think it’s just a matter of wanting to see that kind of initiative in someone else, rather than simply asking for the notes.

One other example just to really illustrate it. Often skilled musicians will do these amazing runs. People hear them do it and then want the musician to just give them the run note by note. But the musician has studied and learned several different types of scales and their application, carefully worked the run out note by note and created it from scratch, then spent hours developing the muscle memory and speed..

So you can imagine he or she might be reluctant when someone walks up and just wants him to give it to them note by note. I think if people were asking musicians questions about practice tips and good resources to learn theory, etc. they’d get much less evasive answers. 

I think you see musicians more willingly sharing with other musicians who have also achieved the same level or similar level. Simply because they know that person is at least as serious and as dedicated as he is.

People say that musicians don’t share because they’re selfish or worried about someone taking their spot, but seldom does a skilled musician have that to worry about, because so few people are willing to put the same amount of work in. 

So this one-minute lesson challenge doesn’t ask musicians to do that. That’s why I called it a “one minute lesson” challenge. One minute or so is enough time to show that guy asking for the notes to the run you did the pentatonic scale, and explain to him that the scale is often used in many runs you hear in church. Then challenge him to learn the scale in all 12 keys.

If you’re trying to really take your playing to the next level you won’t get there asking for quick tips after church. You need some training. Specifically, training designed specifically for Gospel Musicians. The source I use and highly recommend is The Gospel Music Training Center, from Hear And Play. I’ve been a customer for years and they’ve helped me tremendously. Check it out here.

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8 Responses to Why Gospel Musicians Don’t Share Playing Tips

  1. thank you themusicministrycoach for giving me wonderful information

  2. Cinexa says:

    As a musician for over 20 years, I would say that I’ve always found joy and reward in sharing whatever knowledge I have with others. Just know that some people are not going to toil for years to get the reward you may have worked a lifetime for. If I share a “secret” with someone or a faster way for them to get over a hurdle. I’m doing my part. It takes nothing away from me to share with you. Just remember some are going to leap to the front without any real effort, that does not reflect on you and what you are doing. It just may be their time to shine. There may be a blessing for you in the blessing for them.

    • Ron Cross says:

      Great comment Cinexa, I appreciate your input on this as an experience musician who actually encounters this often. I appreciate your positive attitude.

    • Suzanne says:

      I love the way you put it. I don’t keep what I’ve learned a secret either especially when it comes to having the same goal and to try to fulfill that goal, glorifying God. It is rewarding!

  3. Ron, This is a truly valuable, God-inspired essay. I’ve never heard this subject so succinctly and humbly presented. You’re absolutely right: great musicianship cannot be distilled into a demonstration of a “trick run” or a special chord. The best meetings of the minds are those peer-to-peer and/or those between a teacher and serious, hardworking student. The value of hard-earned talent is as that of beautiful, rare pearl necklaces. And we all know what we ought not do to these (smile)

    • Ron Cross says:

      Thank you so much Lane. Trust me, since I started blogging I’ve come to recognize when it’s God and not me. I typed that whole thing live on my fan page in response to a question. So it had to be God.

  4. Monica Hines says:

    Hi Ron. One other reason why musicians are hestiant to show tips is after I’ve encountered someone asking for ‘tips’, you give what you think may be a simple and easy lesson to show them. It turns out to be a 15 minute or more lesson. That’s why I am hesitant. I have no problem showing my runs but it’s always at a most inopportune time. It’s usually right after the benediction while I am attempting to get up from the organ after sitting there for 2 hours straight. That can be at my church or when we are guest at another church. I really don’t want to be ‘trapped’ at a guest church. Lol! Just a thought…keep up the good work!!!

    • Ron Cross says:

      Monica I’m so glad you added that perspective to the conversation. It’s a very important one to consider and one I inadvertently left out as I typed that reply live on my fan page. I think what I’m trying to do here is simply give people a glimpse of what this whole thing looks like from the other side of the conversation. So many people have so many negative things to say about musicians, but most of it is born out of a lack of understanding or empathy. Thanks so much for sharing this, as I’m sure almost nobody thinks about that when they’re approaching a musician after church.

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