For all those musos out there that stuck to their guns playing original music and never made a career out of it, we often find ourselves with a working life that doesn’t compliment playing music. Some of us chose to study sound engineering or work in music retail, and at times I’ve thought that perhaps I should’ve gone down that path, but another passion I have is conservation and environmental land management. So like many other musicians, it can sometimes get difficult to find time to play, then the next thing you know your digital recording studio is collecting dust and your Marshall JCM 800 has had a family of redback spiders move in. With work pressures, family commitments, sometimes it can simply seem that there is just no time to write original music or even practice outside of whatever band rehearsals you may or may not have.
Music has been a major part of my life since I was a child, and I have had parents that were very supportive of my music lifestyle as well as saturating my ears with music from bands like Led Zeppelin, Cream, Black Sabbath and Curved Air. I’m also very appreciative of the opportunity to get piano lessons from the age of 6 or 7 for a couple of years as it gave me some grounds in music theory. I gave up on piano because I liked the sound of blues and heavy music, and wanted to learn bass guitar in high school and played in the school bands (as it gave me a chance to play through an amp!).
After getting into the 90’s grunge music at an age of 15, I couldn’t put down a guitar from then on until well into my 30’s, and picked up other instruments along the way. It didn’t matter how much or how little money I had, pretty much all of my spare cash was spend on CDs, vinyl records, TAB books, effects pedals, amps, guitars, drum kits, harmonicas, speakers and recording gear, and my spare time was spent practicing, going to gigs whether to listen or perform.
Then other aspects of life kicked in and took over, whether it was working extended hours, maintaining relationships, fixing up things around the house or working on cars. I’m not even a parent so I can’t even imagine how hard that would be to juggle as well!
With my most recent band breaking up, I started having more spare time (no longer 3 – 4 hr round trips for weekly practice and gigs) but still found I wasn’t writing new original music, or even practising my previously written material. I wasn’t as happy as I should be, nor was I grabbing a guitar or jumping on the drums any chance I could.
Then I realised I had stopped listening to music properly, where I was unable to immerse myself in it like I used to. With life getting too fast paced I was only listening to music while I was doing other things, whether it was washing dishes, using social media or preparing for work the next day.
From somebody that used to create guitar riffs in my head while writing notes in classes, to somebody that only had music was only an afterthought and put everything else first, I’d hated who I had become as music had been such a source of happiness and contentment. I knew something needed to change so I forced myself to slow down my fast-paced life that was rushing by. It sounds so simple, but once I actually started to listen to music properly again, everything kicked off again. I found I was irresistibly drawn to playing instruments again, creative energies were once again tapped into and original music and lyrics started flowing again. My happiness skyrocketed. Now all of a sudden time just started appearing to play, seemingly to appear out of nowhere.
For anyone else that has felt music slipping away from their lives, or to others treat this as a warning. These following steps are so simple and obvious, and for those in their teens and 20’s these things would likely come naturally but I will list them anyway:
- GO TO GIGS! - If you live in a place that has regular gigs to inspire you that’s the best, but sometimes it can get hard when you live 2 hours away from the nearest band venue. I’ve often lived in really remote places, so found live videos are often the best option but every band wants the punters there so go and help them out!
- ACTIVELY LISTEN -Every now and then, take the time to dedicate listening to one of your favourite albums from start to finish, with no distractions. Avoid social media, turn off your phone, turn down the lights, don’t think about anything else but the music. Soak up the layers, listen to how the bass jams along with the drums, feel how the melodies compliment and change the mood of the underlying chords, try and interpret what messages the lyrics are trying to project and how the rhythmic syllables are working with the music turning the vocal chords into other instruments.
- HAVE A GREAT SOUND - If you spend a bit of time commuting to work, don’t be tight and spend that extra money you’ve always wanted to on that car stereo amp to boost the music so it sounds like it should, or at the very least ensure there’s a nice set of speakers so you can hear everything that’s going on in the music. Nothing worse than having the speakers farting as soon as a decently mixed kick drum punches in. If you’re worried about being consumeristic, or replacing your car down the track, just take the stereo gear with you for the next one. When you’re at home if you can’t afford or justify a killer sound system because you need to spend that money on food or are worried about the kids sticking a fork through the sub, a decent pair of sound insulating earphones can be bought for $80 and sound amazing. That also saves driving neighbours insane if they don’t appreciate your awesome taste in music.
Although everything I have written is common sense, sometimes we can be blinded by the flurry of life and we suffer the consequences. Listening to music shouldn’t cost us our lives, but can potentially save it and make it one worth living.