Do you have musical “domain knowledge?”

Do you know the term “Domain knowledge?”

The term, which I first heard in 2014, refers to how well you know a specific area of interest. For instance, a 10-year old piano student of mine is a sports fan. Actually, he’s much more than just a fan. He lives and breathes sports. He plays several sports during the course of the year. He wakes up early in the morning to watch a sports television show to catch up on the daily sports news. He knows the jersey number of players on every team and in most sports. He can glance at a game on TV and effortlessly name every player involved in the play and tell you about each individual’s history and background, including which college many of them went to or if they went directly to the pros. In short, he has “domain knowledge” about sports.

We musicians need this too.

What music interests you the most? Is it jazz? Then read everything you can find on the subject, from books about Louis Armstrong’s origins in New Orleans to interviews with your contemporary favorites. And along the way, listen to absolutely everything you can. A lot. Find out who plays piano on each Charlie Parker recording. Who plays drums? How do they sound together? Does the drummer Max Roach play differently with Thelonious Monk than he does with Clifford Brown? If so, what is the specific difference.

Or perhaps you like gospel music, or blues, or classical. Do the same with whatever style you want to play better. Research, listen, analyze, absorb, repeat.

Mozart had domain knowledge. He was a genius, but he also studied everyone else’s music to learn from them. How do we know this? He said so, in his letters. Mozart wrote that no one else worked as hard as he did to study everyone’s music.

Elton John has domain knowledge too. His record collection is legendary.

“Domain knowledge.” When you speak to great musicians, you realize that this is what they have. If you want to truly play your favorite musical style as well as you’re capable of, you’ll want to have domain knowledge too!

If you’re interested, take a look at my complete list of video lessons.

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