It was about five years ago. A member of my wider family, a young man and a freshly minted father came to me with challenging questions. Could I critique his new music compositions and possibly give him some advice?
This young man (let’s call him Brian) knew that in my past I had been working for years as a music critic. And that I was a musician with years of experience in playing, recording and producing various types of music.
What Brian didn’t know was that in the meantime my relationship with music and especially with the music criticism has changed. This change definitely saved our relationship.
Because in the old days I would have quite negatively evaluated his first steps in the music making realm. That would have affected not only his willingness to continue, but also Brian’s part of the family relationship with me.
So with my new acquired ‘open’ music mind, I started with questions instead of judgements and critiques. Why did Brian want to make music? How did he make music without any music education or experience? What were his expectations? For whom he wanted to make and play his music?
As it turned out, Brian was looking for a mental escape, to put it bluntly. He had one small child and another on the way. His wife had lasting health issues, and he had worked in a demanding technology position. He loved his family and his job, but came to a realization, that he needed to do something else, different, on his own. Something what would fulfill him and helped him to cope with other challenges life was throwing at him.
By a stroke of serendipity, he discovered possibilities of the electronic music. It offered him a great combination of his beloved computers and creativity.
He was well aware of his limitations due to the lack of the traditional music education. But his goal was not to impress anyone else, only himself. So he didn’t mind tedious work on his music compositions, without using anything else just a computer and the computer keyboard. And a suitable software.
The truth is, Brian was not that unique in his effort. To prove it, let’s pick two names from the very end of the music dictionary – Hans Zimmer and Joel Zimmermann. Zimmer is one of the most successful film music composers of our times. He claimed to had studied piano as a child for only two weeks. But he was determined to make it in the music industry and learned on the job – from the best.
Zimmermann is better known as the famous Canadian DJ and music producer Deadmau5. Although he had studied music in the past, he claims that he can’t play piano anymore. So he uses computers and technology for his hit dance tracks.
As I was aware about possibilities music technology offers, my suggestion to Brian was simple. You need to be clear why you want to make music. If your goal is to be creative and enjoy yourself, there is no music critic in the world who should judge your music. Because that is where you go to find your freedom, your energy and peace of mind while you work on it. In the moment your finished track is out, that music piece has already fulfilled its goal. And everything else, what could come on top of it, is an added bonus, which you may neither seek nor expect.
My other advice to Brian was to listen carefully to his favorite composers and learn from them. It is a long process, but every small successful step forward brings a huge satisfaction. And that is the best way how to learn and grow, while having fun at the same time.
I also suggested, that Brian should consider using a professional music software from Apple, with which I have a very good experience. But this was met with an utter refusal. He loved tinkering with his computers and technology and was one of those geeks, who swear on not touching anything with the ‘fruit logo’ on it.
And that was the end of our discussion with Brian, about the music making.
I haven’t heard about his musical activities for years, until a couple days ago. While browsing my FaceTime account I found an interesting discussion under Brian’s post. Also a link to his music on the SoundCloud. After clicking on it I was pleased with a smooth and pleasant music. In those five years Brian has learned and developed substantially. He clearly knows what he is doing.
Brian is ‘painting’ music collages. Combining musical tones and rhythms with various non-musical sounds and noises. He is not pushing music boundaries, but he is evolving and enjoying the experience. That is clear. And on his way he has amassed almost two thousands followers – listeners and similar music makers. They enjoy listening his music and learn with and from him.
(Brian didn’t give me a permission to reveal his identity or to link here his music.)
This short story is a good example of how computers and electronic music can become beneficial for music making or musicking. Although I was not successful in persuading Brian to go the easier way with Apple computers and software, I strongly suggest to consider them to anyone yearning to start making their own music.
(Disclaimer – I have no affiliation with, nor support from Apple. The only thing I have is a lot of good experience with Apple products.)
In my previous post I described fuyara – an interesting Slovak acoustic wind instrument. Fuyara is greately suitable for someone without any music experience, to start playing music, a.k.a. musicking. But I understand, that not everyone has the possibility, space, and privacy to play an acoustic musical instrument.
For those, who want to start musicking and want to do it anywhere and anytime, without disturbing others, my first choice is to recommend GarageBand. It is a free software application included in every Apple’s iPhone, iPad or Mac computer.
I have been really surprised, that even some musicians I have spoken with, didn’t know about GarageBand. Although they have been using an iPhone for years.
Maybe the reason is that GarageBand doesn’t cost anything. So people don’t expect there could be any substantial value in it. What a huge misconception! This application has literally everything, what someone needs to start making music. Any genre, live or pre-programmed, classical, dance or ambient, electronic or acoustic, solo or with a group. Everything is right there.
If you want to try GarageBand and have an Apple device, that should be all you need. An iPhone with attached headphones lets you start musicking immediately. You can do it in a bus on your daily commute, on an airplane, or in your bed.
If headphones are not your thing, simply use speakers on your Apple gadget. Or connect it to bluetooth speakers or a home hi-fi audio. And immediately you have a concert stage in your living room.
GarageBand even allows syncing together up to four Apple devices. That way everything plays synchronized and sounds better together. You can invite your friends for a music jam and have a lot of fun, without needing to learn much about music and practicing. But you still need to learn how to listen to each other and how to play together and not against each other.
So how you can start playing with GarageBand?
All you really need is just one finger as a bare minimum. The application offers various music instruments, from strings through guitars, keyboards, drums and recently added world (ethnic) instruments. There are different techniques to play those instruments live, or automatically in a loop. Solo, chords or accompaniment.
Available is a vast library of sounds, loops, drum kits and live loops. You can also record audio recording of your voice, other instruments or any sounds and noises, using iPhone or iPad microphone. Everything can be combined, mixed and manipulated in many different ways with the aim to put together music compositions, songs, sound collages, and dance tracks.
But again, Musicably’s main goal is to have you start making music and not to start producing music recordings and become famous. The final output of your music session is not important if you don’t want to make it such.
What is important is your experience while making music, if musicking mindfully. If pure music listening doesn’t give you that peace of mind, or that emotional outlet you are looking for. If you are not comfortable or satisfied with meditational applications.
And if idea of sitting still and focusing during a mindfulness meditation doesn’t excite you either, try mindful music making. Find the GarageBand application on your iPhone or iPad and bravely jump right into the vast ocean of sound. There is nothing you can break or damage. Only take a good care of your hearing and don’t go too loud once you find your groove.
GarageBand is one of many similar application and software programs, that you can find on the Internet. I write about it, because it is proven by time and experience. You can find other applications like this, that may better suit your needs or your devices.
Important is what they can do for you, their benefits. First, being on a smart-phone they are always with you. The moment you start discovering their abilities, you are already being creative. But once you allow yourself to get immersed into self-produced sounds, melodies and rhythms, once you learn how to stop judging yourself and to encourage your imagination to keep going further and further, you are already on a never ending path of mindful musicking. Try it!