You take an exercise. So simple you can barely call it that. It’s almost just a reflex. Let’s say you have a pair of stick and you strike a surface. Once on the right, once on the left. You got a piano, you put your hands over the keys, you move one finger. Bing! You get a sound.
No problem, right?
Now let’s do a little variation. 2 sticks, one strike each, but now speed up and move just the wrist. On the piano, one note at a time, going up and down the keyboard. Ah! Do I see beads of sweat on your forehead? No worries, it’s normal. You’ve just met a little musical game called “Variations”.
What fun! Variation is that thing that makes you question the very knowledge you got on any given concept. Yes, that thing that shakes the foundations of your sanity.
Let’s take another example.
For the ones who don’t know what it is, I am talking about a common sticking in drumming that goes: RLRR LRLL. So far so good, yes? Oh, you want to try it? Ok, go ahead, I’ll wait here.
Got it? Good! Fun right?
Now, let’s keep that left hand on your lap, for example, and, if, like me, you are facing your desk, and make your right hand hit random objects as you keep the paradiddle going. It’s a little variation. Nice, isn’t it? What? What is it you say? Oh, it’s not easy at all, it stings the eyes a bit. Yes, I know. I had the same problem. Sometimes, when I practice music, it is nothing else but solving problems. That’s the power of variations.
Variations is an old concept in itself. Mozart, for example, has done variations on a French theme called “Ah vous dirais-je Maman”. They’re quite famous!
I am a music teacher, meaning that I always have to have one more variation than my student on any concept. Is it cruel? No, absolutely not, it’s for his pleasure and entertainment.