Over the past couple of days, I’ve been dabbling in a bit of graphic design. I had to convert my work’s logo (which we’ve only ever had in a small JPEG format) to a vector format so that we can make a nice banner for our general meeting. What this involved was basically re-creating it in Photoshop and then converting it to vector format in Illustrator. Looking back at the process, I can relate parts to learning a piece of music.
First of all, when I started, I had to get the big parts in, to get the overall sense of the picture. Easy and quick, I could get in the big parts and then not have to worry about them. Once they were in place, it started to look like the logo. Then, I added in the smaller parts. These took a bit more time as they were a bit more fiddley, but once they were in, it really looked like the logo. I then went and zoomed in as close as I could get, taking my smallest tool (the pencil) and fixed up lines and made everything straight and clean. Then, after bringing it into Illustrator, I was able to add in the text (which the logo has never had before) and position that – completing the picture.
How does this relate to music? Well, when we start learning a piece, we can’t start with the details. If I had gone to recreate the logo pixel by pixel, I’d be here till next July – not useful when the banner is needed in the middle of October. Yes, we can go straight into the details, but it’s more important to get the big blocks done first. You need to get an overall sense of the piece before you delve into the details. Once the big blocks are in, you can start using a finer brush to put in the smaller pieces. At this point the piece is looking more like the piece. You might be able to get through it without stopping, but there are still a few mistakes that we need to fix up. Then we can delve into the details and really work on those little things to make it perfect. However, when we’re doing this, we need to remember to zoom out and look at the big picture as well – otherwise we could be thinking we’re making progress, when in actuality we’re heading in the wrong direction.
And the great thing about it is that the more you do it, the more you don’t have to do the little things. What I mean by that is that you get used to the sorts of things that you would be doing, and when you come to a similar situation, you remember how to do it and it becomes a small part instead of a tiny detail. It comes earlier on, allowing you to look at other details in that final stage which takes you to the next level.
And then finally, once the details are in place, then we put the gloss on it. We put those final touches on while looking at the whole piece – what are we going to do while performing it? These things are done at the end and make the whole performance – and all that work beforehand – complete and worthwhile.