How Learning About Music Can Teach Us About Ourselves

[Another guest piece by Jess Walter. – AC]

Photo credit: Nappy

No one can argue against how influential music is to a person’s character. Just think back to being a teenager hanging out in their bedroom, immersed in a space booming with band posters, cd’s, and scribbled song lyrics. Music as a concept is vaguer than we imagine, as it’s undergone a long history of complex development, but what stays true is it’s inherent power to shape who are as people and help in defining our character. As said by punk-rock legend Henry Rollins “ Musicians should not play music. Music should play musicians.”

Music and the Mind

It doesn’t take knowing theory to piece apart what goes into the structure of a song. Casual listening acquaints us with elements such as tempo, beat, and rhythm. Even if its subtle, this type of engagement with music exercises the brain’s auditory memory, and its ability to decipher pitch. Making the active effort to deconstruct components to a song can improve someone’s ability to distinguish and identify seemingly abstract concepts. A skill such as this is useful when taking steps towards self-improvement, as it allows you to then evaluate facets of yourself, and recognize what elements are behind your own habits and behaviors. Being attentive of the music you listen to can be a constructive exercise for developing tools of observation and introspection.

Discipline Behind Music Training

Those who dedicate the time to learn an instrument develop endurance for both the body and mind, resulting in the formation of a fine tuned regimen for self-discipline. Becoming a musician is a serious commitment that involves hours of practice, creating a committed routine, and engaging with other players and music lovers who are on their own journey of self-improvement. A significant level of responsibility and drive is required to thrive in the world of music, but the experience is incredibly rewarding and formative of one’s character and disciplinary skills.  

Learning From Our Mistakes

Music can seem like an intimidating passion to follow. Whether you’re learning a new instrument or listening to an unfamiliar genre, it’s inevitable that you’ll hit a point where you’ll reconsider your efforts, thinking whatever progress your making is and never will be enough. But, the truth of the matter is that no one is born proficient at any skill, and anyone who wants to improve puts the necessary work in to reach their desired level. We can only improve as people if we put in the effort to overcome seemingly difficult hurdles.

Music is an essential part of the human experience; only we can create music and recognize its brilliance. By making the effort to truly embody and understand music in its various forms, we gain a greater understanding of our own tastes and limitations as people. Whether a pursuing musician or just a fan, knowing music is knowing the self.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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