Book Review: You Are The Music by Victoria Williamson

I’m pretty much as big a fan of the written word as I am of music and the guitar, so I’m always very excited when I see a new book on the subject of music in my local book store – You Are The Music by Victoria Williamson Long-time readers of this blog will know that I’m somewhat fascinated the psychology of music, so this new title really piqued my interest. The subtitle of the book particularly drew me in – How Music Reveals What It Means To Be Human.

In this first book by Williamson, a lecturer and researcher in musical psychology, fellow blogger (and I strongly urge you to check out her blog at and classical guitarist, she takes us through a wonderful  journey of how music influences us throughout our lives, in many different life situations. She also delves into the realms of what it means to be “musical”, what drives us to make, listen to and dance to music as part of the human experience as well as trained musicians.

As musicians we probably like to hear that we’re a bit special. We practice for hours on end, so it’s got to be doing some good for the ol’ grey matter right? According to Williamson (and many others in her field) this is true. On page 80 of You Are The Music, she takes us through how music changes the brain. I won’t give away as to how or why though – you’ll have to read that for yourselves! I’ll just say the benefits can cross over into our everyday lives though and give advantages in non-musical aspects of our everyday lives.

Williamson also takes us through musical practice and musical learning, both “ordinary and extraordinary” as she describes it. There are some fascinating stories of folks having traumatic incidents only to find they have fantastic music abilities where there were really none previously. She also leads us through and devotes and entire chapter to, music and memory – how we go about memorising music to play, how our brains memorise and recall music that we’ve heard and theories as to the purpose and mechanisms behind those tunes that just get stuck in your head and go round, and round, and round – the earworm. A fascinating read!

Williamson’s style is incredibly readable and very accessible and she is clearly very passionate about her subject. I particularly love how she intersperses little personal anecdotes throughout the book, which creates a very endearing approach.  But she is no stranger to communicating her love and passion for the subject of psychology of music having presented a TED talk, the Latitude Festival and the British Science Festival. She’s also written for the NME and her research has featured on the BBC, Sky and CNN amongst other TV channels.

If you’re at all interested in the psychology of music, music in our everyday lives as well as as musicians then I encourage you to go out and grab a copy of You Are The Music



Watch this space for a Q&A with Victoria Williamson herself very soon!

In the meantime head on over to Victoria’s blog at

Learning Classical Guitar And The Mental Approach You Need For Success

I was reading an article on LinkedIn recently that resonated quite strongly with me and reflects my own thoughts around succeeding/ acquiring of skill (something that I’ve discussed with former students of mine too).

Those thoughts are that skills, and particularly skills such as learning and playing the classical guitar, are very much influenced by your mindset and approach to learning. I personally believe that old adage that you achieve pretty much anything if you set your mind to it.

Do You Have A Fixed Mindset or A Growth Mindset?

Folks with a “fixed mindset” (who might say things like “I am a musical person” or “I am not a musical person” or “I have always found this difficult and will continue to do so”), those that think that talent, brains, intelligence, natural gifts, call it what you will, are the answer to learning to play classical guitar (for example), can be their own worst enemy! Folks with a fixed mindset, thinking perhaps that they’re not good at something, like it’s something that’s set in stone, and the ones more likely to give in or give up at the first sign of challenge and difficulty.

Do you have this kind of mindset when learning a new piece? When developing an element of your technique? That’s preventing you from picking up the guitar even?

I seriously believe that a “growth’ mindset is vital when learning the guitar and progressing on the instrument (as it is with any instrument or skill). A growth mindset is acknowledging and appreciating that you’re probably not going to be that flash at something the first time you try it and possibly even for quite a while thereafter. A growth mindset acknowledges, however, that changes and improvements do occur over time – they may be large or they may be incremental, but undoubtedly they will occur. They don’t occur of their own accord though.

I’ve said this many times to past students, and I’ve said similar things many times previously on this blog too – the key to achieving mastery of the classical guitar (or at least getting a reasonable way into that journey) is focussed effort. Yes, talent can help, but it’s really the efforts that you put in, and the knowledge that you’ll improve, change and develop over time as a result of those efforts, that will set you on the path for success on the classical guitar.

For me when I first picked up the classical guitar I came to it with a background playing piano and clarinet, and having trained in classical dance for nearly 10 years. I was immersed in a musical world from a young age, so my “talent” (which was really just repetitive and consistent training and immersion over many years from a very young age – although that sounds rather brutal to put it in those terms!) carried me for a time. After the complete hiatus for a few years I had from playing in my late teens and early twenties, picking up the guitar again and wanting to really take things as far as I possibly could with the instrument, that’s where the “growth” attitude really came into its own.

I understood that a great deal of work lay ahead of me and came to enjoy that fact and the journey I was on. And I still do – my journey is still very much continuing. Part of this was also learning to be accepting of my technique at a given point and being in the moment, but knowing that I still needed to push and continue my hard work and focussed efforts to ensure the path ahead of me continued as I wanted. I was playing my path into view, if you like.

So do you have a growth mindset in your approach to learning classical guitar? Do you take technical challenges on? Do you ponder on how you can develop or overcome a particular challenge? Do you feel inspired listening to others? Do you appreciate that, given time and continued effort, you can play pretty much anything your heart desires?! I like to think it’s true 😉

And this is the article I was reading that sparked this blog post: