Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Taking An Approach is like learning Music Theory

Reading Harris' "Taking an Approach" was actually quite interesting to me. It kind of connects some dots that had been forming in my mind from the other chapters we've read from him. I don't know how many of you know much about music or music theory but I will attempt to explain it as best as I can.

We've all heard about those artist who just picked up an instrument and learned to play it on their own. The famous Jazz (I apologize to Joey's blogger) musicians who didn't even know how to read a sheet of music much less tell you about music theory. They just have this natural talent that comes to them, they feel rather than know what notes are best to play here or what sounds best. 

Then there are people who learn how to play in a more academic style. They start off with learning to read the notes on the paper and which notes are what on the instrument. They learn about scales, chords, the circle of fifths, majors, minors, half steps, whole steps, fingering, pitch, sharps and flats and all this other stuff about music theory while they are still just barely learning how to play Mary Had A Little Lamb. (This may be the voice of experience...I play the piano and sing btw) 

But then when you take the natural musician and teach him(or her...we really just need to come up with a neutral pronoun...seriously) the theory behind his music and show him that that neat little trick he does to make that awesome sound actually has a name, it opens up his world of music and makes it a little brighter. While it doesn't really affect his skill or make it any better it makes him more thoughtful about his music and makes it easier for him to share his talent a teach others. It also makes it easier for him to learn from other great musicians.

This is what I feel like Harris is doing with his book. (Not that I'm saying that I'm some amazing writer or anything but just that he's showing me things that I already do in my writing and giving them a name) "Taking an Approach" is a chapter that really begs us as writers to take a deeper look at our writing and recognize what we're doing. He's asks us to take a second look at the stuff that comes instinctively and ask ourselves why we wrote it that way, what has influenced our particular style, why did we choose that word or this sentence. What made us decide to organize our paper this way rather than that way. We are looking and the theories and influences that are at the foundation of our writing. When we learn to look at our own writing in this way we also learn to look at others writing in the same way and by doing so we can learn to incorporate their styles and approaches in our own writing...with our own little twist on it, of course. 

I think writer do this all the time, even without know the "theory" behind it. I've noticed in the blogs I follow on the Huffington Post that even thought they are not writing "news" per say a lot of their writings follow that particular style...I'm sure if I knew the bloggers personally I would be able to reference specific thing they read and how that style is reflected in their writing. But I do believe, especially the writers on the Huffington Post, read a LOT of news because, like it or not, that style is fairly prevalent in their posts. 


  1. I really enjoyed your comparison (I'm very involved in music myself) and the different way the you explained what Harris is doing in this chapter, and his entire book really. All of these terms describe things we've probably been doing in our writing all along but never thought to separate and define and put a name to.

    1. Im glad you liked it! It was really just a random thought I had as I was reading the book. It made me think of my days in Jazz Band when we would study music theory...a lot of times while my teacher explained stuff it was like a light bulb would switch on every time he showed us something that we did when we played and what it meant in music theory.