Hi! As an introduction to this 2-part topic series, I will introduce a bit of how some of my friends see me as a person.
A lot of people often know me as the person who can play the piano, who can play the guitar, who can play music by ear, who can program, who can draw, who can design and develop video games, etc. And 99.9% of these was gained only through self-education: I taught myself. And I will share to you how I did it.
This topic will be something which have been ingrained in my lifestyle ever since as I can remember, autodidactism and how I became an autodidact.
Autodidact you say? What’s that?
“An autodidact is someone who is partially or wholly self-taught.” [Stephan Stansfield, 2014]
“Autodidactism is self-directed learning that is related to but different from informal learning. In a sense, autodidacticism is “learning on your own” or “by yourself”, and an autodidact is a self-teacher.” [EdTechReview, 2014]
I am an autodidact. Yes, I am a self-teacher: I teach myself. And I can share to you how.
An Autodidact Boy
Having no musician relatives in our family bloodline and having no formal music education, I have managed to teach myself to play the piano, the guitars, drums, violin, and as a person who was originally tone-deaf, have managed to teach myself how to play by ear.
Apart from music, I taught myself how to develop mobile apps, how to create, design, and develop video games, how to lead, and other small things.
With this topic, I am going to show you my personal techniques in how I acquired what people believe to be my talents without formal education.
I have decided to share this topic not to boast, or to show how special I am, but in hopes to encourage people. I am one of the few people who believes that talent is overrated. I want to let people know that things can be learned even without formal education, without perfect circumstances (remember that I was a tone-deaf, but now an ear-playing musician) or even a teacher (except yourself).
These techniques that I will share to you may not be exactly solid science, but these are personal techniques that worked for me, and to my surprise caused by my further study of this topic, has also been used by other people around the world.
First step is to define what you want. This is clearly one of the most important step, but often neglected.
What do you want to learn? What specifically do you want to acquire? And why?
It is of utmost importance to define it so that you can see the end-goal of what you want to achieve and greatly minimize the tendency of you giving up on the skill. It is also helps to be specific. “I want to be able to play this music piece,” is significantly better than “I want to be good at the piano.“
As a childish elementary (even up to highschool years) boy, I have always sought attention, acknowledgement, and appreciation from my parents. I yearned it. That was my earliest motivation of the reason why I wanted to learn the piano, because my sister was praised because she can play it. As far as I can remember, that was the earliest step of me becoming an autodidact. That was my motivation: to get praised and acknowledged. And that was the earliest reason why I learned to play the piano.
A skill in reality is not just one skill, but a collection of subskills that make up that skill.
For example in playing the guitar, a subskill would be how to attach strings to it, how to tune it, how to use and move your strumming/plucking hand, how to use finger strength, chord memorisation, (and the list goes on). The key is to break it apart, and focus to learn on the smaller subskills that make up that particular skill. Observe, observe clearly, research enough, and break it down. Even better, write down the smaller subskills that you have to learn. If a subskill is too difficult, break it further to smaller subskills. Also in this way, you’ll gain a greater understanding of how the things work together, thus granting you more mastery over it.
It has also been of great help to use imagination and mental sight. Imagine yourself having acquired the skill/talent already. Imagine the end-goal: the result.
If people have been using imagination destructively (worrying, doubting, etc), surely we can also use it constructively. And this what some people call “visualization”.
In my love for music, I decided to learn the violin. Learning a particular technique called vibrato had been one of the most significant days of my learning experiences. My teacher said that the majority of violin students have only manage to acquire this skill after months (some even years) of practice. But after showing up a week of practicing it, I surprised my teacher by showing him my “infant vibrato”. What I did, I was visualizing the vibrato technique almost every hour. When I am taking a bath, when I am travelling, even when trying to get to sleep. I imagined it. And because of that, a technique that would have cost me months and months of practice just took me one week.
I am not entirely sure how rare autodidactism is, or even what percentage of autodidacts exist in this world, but some notable autodidacts worth mentioning of their achievements are the following:
Leonardo da Vinci, etc.
I believe that if a musician can come out of a tone-deaf, then an autodidact can also come out of anyone.