Sometimes we stream music and other times we just want to play our own. Why?
Let’s consider who becomes a guitarist. Mostly folks who learned music at an early age and have continued playing. Many of us still have thoughts of playing the guitar, wanting to embrace this portable instrument that allows one’s own vocal addition. Not fully convinced that the guitar is forever gone from us simply because we never learned it, we may return to the idea of playing but remain dubious of whether we capable. Still, we prefer to believe that the peaceful easy feeling coming from playing the guitar is anyone’s experience.
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Music For the Mature Brain
Neuroscientist Gary Marcus in the video at the end of this section considered himself inept on the guitar all his life prior to giving it one more chance. By then, through is wife’s feedback he identified his weaknesses (rhythm and timing) and learned to play at age 40.
Another neuroscientist, professor Julene Johnson, of the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California found that musical training for adults (over 60) has a beneficial impact at any age as it contains all the components of cognitive training. Good news indeed for anyone who would consider the words age, brain, fully mature, and past failure, to be antithetical to learning music. If we believe that age, brain, fully developed and such are words that ought not be associated with music learning, we may be condemning ourselves not just in this one potential endeavor but limiting the brains’ ability to continue its development.
Music for Self Expression
Another way that music is beneficial is for self-expression. What if along with switching on the TV or streaming music, playing one’s guitar is an option. Here is what it could mean. Expression of one’s inner self, unchained. Throughout our day we wear a hat or hats that don’t fully reflect our true selves. When, for example, as a manager or the front line customer service agent, we are on the phone with an irate customer our response is based on business conduct while our reaction suppressed. Yet, outside of the confines of that company environment, ours and the customer’s reaction might be different. We may even find common ground because many times a customer’s complaint has little to do with the ‘point of contact’ and much more with management decision, policy or products.
In another situation, one may be a case intake specialist at a law firm. One feels certain that the person calling in has a case with strong merits. We take it to the attorney and having to return to the customer with a different persona and forcefully say ‘sorry, we cannot take the case.’ Having listened to the ethical details we had overlooked that the case isn’t a class action lawsuit, no one died, and no irreversible injury happened and therefore no large monetary judgment to make it worthwhile. You become like everyone else at work which is not necessarily bad. If businesses don’t set criteria they may fail. Still, another piece of the real you shuts down.
Emotional Release Or Consequence
In a more positive situation, we may have heard some good news. Perhaps a desirable contract was signed; false medical diagnosis discovered before the start of treatment; unexpected money showed up in the mail, and so on. These happy moments never seem to linger as long as the uneasy, detestable emotions from a bad experience.
When we return home though, is it always sufficient to passively enjoy the entertainment readily available at the press of a button. What happens when the music eventually stops streaming. In most cases, we are back to the same state of mind that we had when the music started.
With the guitar, some of that tension would have dispersed as we let the music guide that outflow.
“Since the inner nature is good or neutral rather than bad, it is best to bring it out and to encourage it rather than to suppress it. If it is permitted to guide our life, we grow healthy, fruitful, and happy” (Maslow 1) But, if this essential core of the person is denied or suppressed, one becomes ill sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes immediately, sometimes later.
Country star Marty Stuart stated that “beyond making a living, the guitar makes you happy. To me it was designed for happiness, sorrow, and emotion. There’s something about when you’re lonely and pick up a guitar and make yourself grin. . . All the loneliness disappears” (Humphrey 1). He went on to say the guitar gets him a lot of attention from the girls.
But, if that is true, why have so many musicians in this generation died through suicide. That discussion is beyond the scope of this topic. However, the following charts published in the Washington Post reveal that suicide is associated with music genre. Musicians in metal and Punk groups had a very high suicide rate.
We gather that the music was not having the same effect on that group as it had on all the other groups. The population suicide average is approximately 7% and we can see that the other bands were under that number except for Punk and Metal which were at 11% and 19% respectively.
The Washington Post concluded that some issues contributing to the statistics were “factors inherent in the popular music industry (such as the ubiquitous presence of alcohol and other substances of addiction, irregular hours, touring, high levels of stress, performance anxiety)” (Humphrey 4). It is apparent that the music was seen only as performance with them having no time to enjoy same when off stage.
Practice at any age . . . the Key to Succeeding
We return to New York University’s psychologist Gary Marcus who in the following video clip shares some tips on how he learned to play the guitar at forty years old. He debunks the teaching that once a child has passed a certain age the opportunity to learn a new instrument closes. He detailed the experience from zero talent to sounding musical after two weeks of fully emerging himself into daily practice.
2Gary Marcus is director of the New York University Center for Language and Music and the author of Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning. He fulfilled his lifelong desire to play the guitar which previously seemed a lost opportunity.
There are a few basic self-sufficient skills for which we tend to feel lack if not already present in our lives:
- Ability to make our own nutritional meals to foster the body’s self-maintenance long past what we typically consider old age
- the mindset we possess that determines our mode of financial sustenance
- an expression that allows what we are on the inside to surface, unfiltered
All these are tied to our continued healthy existence, are well in our control and important enough that when missing we feel the need for there fulfillment
Guitar Brain Surgery
2Abhishek Prasad played the guitar through his brain surgery, sometimes referred to as the guitar brain surgery. Painful hand spasms had gotten in the way of him playing the guitar. Under anesthesia, doctors kept him awake seven hours while operating on his brain. They monitored the spasms while he played. The successful surgery cured his fingers 100%. Apparently, the need to preserve the ability to self-express was dominant in Prasad. The portable, peaceful easy playing guitar contributed to the positive outcome.
We can buy a guitar or dust and restring the forgotten one banished to the attic years prior. We never lost the opportunity to play. We instead lose a piece of our soul every time we ‘act’ instead of ‘be.’ The affirming feeling of allowing our own expression belongs to everyone, even those who thought they might have forever lost the opportunity.
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- Humphrey, Mark. “Fingerstyle Guitar NEW DIMENSIONS & EXPLORATIONS VOLUME THREE.” Fingerstyle Guitar, 2013, pp. 1–38., www.fingerstyleguitar.com/.
- Maslow, Abraham H. Toward a Psychology of Being. A Psychology Classic. Start Publishing LLC, 2012.
- You Won’t Sound Like Santana-at First, Zócalo Public Square, 3 Mar. 2012, www.zocalopublicsquare.org/.
- Man Strums Guitar During His Own Brain Surgery, 21 July 2017, www.vocativ.com.