Sometimes I hear bits and pieces of song lyrics in my head. I find many of them to be particularly relevant, like Dave Matthews asking you "what would you say", or The Who exhorting you to "pick up your guitar and play".

Of course, it’s much easier said than done. There are so many other distractions, as well as necessary duties in life, that there is often little time left for anything unscheduled. As much as I love playing music, I often find that I need to have a goal in mind in order to make time to play.

The adage that practice makes perfect is true, but often misinterpreted. You do need to practice in order to play well. But in order to play at all you must be inspired. Inspiration comes from enjoying what you play. That’s tough when what you play doesn’t sound inspiring. Hmm, a conundrum worthy of exploring…

I have often found that after I've performed in public, the audience members will come and talk to me about the music and voice regrets over not having continued their own music studies. A typical comment would be: "I took piano lessons and quit before I progressed very far, but I still wish to this day that I could learn to play for the enjoyment of music".

Parents may inquire as to the 'proper' age to start lessons, or more mature people might tell me that they are too old to start something new like learning how to play an instrument. Even teenagers and college kids tell me that they've: "always been strongly attracted to music, but all those strange alien-like symbols, the weird theory sounding more like math than art, and the amount of time it takes...makes it much too hard and scary".

Well, if you think it would be wonderful to play music, maybe you SHOULD, no matter if it seems like you're not wealthy enough, or that it would take too much of your time, or you're too old to start.

If you want ideas on how to do it, and want someone to guide you, just consider that you can have the ability to learn fast and to have fun while learning too...by rewarding yourself with a new view point.

You are never too old to learn.

Whether it’s music, language, dance, science, or cooking, if you want to learn something, you can. You can activate your interest and reward yourself with new abilities. Stop feeling sorry for yourself (if you do), and remember that many successful acccomplishments were obtained later in the lives of great artists and musicians. Let me repeat; you’re never too old. If it’s fame and fortune you’re looking for with your music, remember that Bonnie Raitt didn’t enjoy commercial acclaim until she was 40 something, and that's only a single example among many historical ones.

The trick is to find something that inspires. If you fall in love with a song, you can learn to replicate it with your own version or arrangment. This works for drums, horns, pianos, any kind of musical instrument, including new forms of computer-music tools and alternative musical interfaces.

Sometimes you hear a piece of music and it gets into your blood. You find that you are obsessed by it and need to play it. First you learn how to play the instrument. Then you push along, so that you can basically play the tune you were inspired by. Then you play it again, and again, polishing the piece like a fine piece of wood. After a while you find yourself playing it how you hear it, not necessarily how the artist plays it on his/her album. The music finds a way to express itself. And you now have the reward of hearing yourself do it...your own way.

And all because you listened to a song you wanted to play.

Music can bring great pleasure to the listener, but even greater pleasure to the performer. And the audience doesn't have to be more than one person...just yourself!

C is for Conundrum

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  • Paul Alan Bley

    The Creative Passport
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