There Is No "Key" to Unlocking Music

Advertisements targeted toward aspiring musicians often try to entice potential customers with an impossible promise:

“This is the one key you need to unlock your musical potential!”

You may have stumbled across these kinds of advertisements, whether on social media, or at the start of a YouTube video. Perhaps you’ve even purchased a book or a course being offered. While it can be comforting to think you’ve finally found the one piece of information that will get you where you want to go, here’s the thing:

There is no “key” to unlocking music.

Musical competency is not something that can simply be unlocked. The process of learning music is actually a lot messier.

If anything, it’s less like unlocking a door, and more like assembling a jigsaw puzzle.

Over the course of years you will acquire various musical puzzle pieces that you then have to fit together. You do this by listening, learning, practicing, and creating. With each new piece that is added, the musical picture becomes clearer, and you slowly begin to understand how these seemingly disconnected pieces fit together.

Areas of the puzzle that at one time you couldn’t figure out how to make fit will eventually slip right into place, adding clarity to the rest of your puzzle (like how learning a new instrument or musical skill can elevate other areas of your musicianship and understanding). This puzzle grows throughout your musical life, revealing your own unique picture of music as shaped by your tastes, experiences, and effort.

The appeal of finding the one thing that can unlock music is understandable. The world of music is vast, and navigating it can feel overwhelming. Some of the courses, books, and videos being advertised might even offer helpful information or guidance. But none of them are the be-all and end-all. Just as you need more than one jigsaw piece to build a puzzle, you need to learn and work on more than one thing to make the full musical picture make sense.

And that’s all part of the fun. There’s a reason why putting together puzzles is a popular hobby, and why unlocking doors is not.