Music Is So Much More Than A Listening Pleasure

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Musicianship By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Music » Musicianship
Last updated: 10/08/2017
Tags: guitar, learning, memmory, music, music healing

I remember when I was about 12, my friends Paul and Gary, the twins from across the road were getting their brand new shiny Eko guitars in the mid 70’s; Paul had a 6 string and Gary had a 12 string version. I remember thinking just how cool those instrument were. 

I begged my mum for a guitar, but she had been widowed and we were very poor. Eventually for my birthday, she took me to the local music shop. Because we didn't have much money we were shown some guitars in my mothers budget. I knew nothing at all about guitars and chose an orange to black sunburst coloured steel strung acoustic one. 

I knew nothing about guitar setups. The height of the strings from the fretboard at the higher frets was ridiculous. It was virtually impossible to play anything from the 5th fret upwards without having the strength of an army at your fingertips; but I loved it. I learned how to tune it. It was like playing cheese wire. My fingers bled. But I was determined and had an insatiable desire to create music, even at such a young age.  My mates showed me a few basic chords and I thought I’d arrived. I tried to work out some songs from the old mono record player with the tiny inbuilt speaker. It was so hard to hear things clearly, but I was determined. 

One of the twins then got an electric guitar. Oh my gosh! I thought it was awesome.  It was a Columbus copy of a Gibson SG. I remember it well. Then a miracle happened. He decided he wanted to play bass and offered to sell me the guitar.  I sold the acoustic to a younger mate and with my paper-round money, I stumped up the cash. I had no amplifier; but that wasn't going to stop me; I bodged up a home made lead so I could plug it into the auxiliary input on the old radiogram. It sounded awful. But it was better than the old acoustic guitar. I had arrived!

My mum decided that if I was so keen. I should learn properly and managed to scrape up enough money every week for me to go to a local guitar teacher. I was so excited I couldn't wait. I remember going for my first lesson in the tutor’s converted garage basement. It was a dream come true. There were proper instruments. Big Fender amplifiers, a drum kit,  a Gretch white falcon and a Fender Jaguar guitar, alongside real expensive classical guitars. I was in heaven.  My teacher set my guitar up to the best he could get out of it and I started to learn.

There was no guitar tablature in the 70’s; well, not that I was aware of anyway! He was mainly a classical and jazz player. He must have been a real musician because he had a cool beard and talked about a man called Frank Zappa quite a lot!

I started to learn about scales and new chords and lots of techniques I didn't know existed. It was quite hard sometimes because I would have to learn tunes I'd never heard of. There was no internet in those day and all his music was written out by hand. It was like the musical equivalent of a doctor's handwriting. But he was a real musician and I hung on his every word.

I remember getting home and looking at the hand written music and scratching my head trying to make heads or tails of it. It was hard work, but I wanted to play so desperately. He was a brilliant musician and very patient with me. I was sometimes too embarrassed to say that I had struggled with the piece he'd given me to learn and just let him move on to a new piece at the next lesson.

He taught me about these strange scales called pentatonic scales and even stranger things called modes. Sometimes I struggled and just hoped he wouldn't test me on then the next lesson. Over time I started to make sense of all these things. I used to think he had the best job in the world.

Over the years I studied under some other fantastic tutors who specialised in certain musical areas. Also some great guitarists who were, perhaps, not so good at teaching as they were at playing. As someone who had done quite well, but struggled to learn at times, I wanted to come up with ideas and methods that would improve on my own learning experience by some of those great musicians I looked up too.

I have come to realise there is far more to music than just a good tune that makes us happy. Music is a universal language and has the ability to move people emotionally; it generates memories and feelings. Nobody really understands why listening to music can trigger such profoundly rewarding experiences. It helps our memory work better. 

The discipline of learning a musical instrument is a good aid to anyone's education and intellectual development. It's been shown that those who take up the challenge of an instrument at an early age generally do better at school. Music cognition is one of the first brain functions to emerge in infants, which is why we sing to our children and interact with them even before they can speak and walk. It's also one of the last to go in people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. It's been proven to be beneficial in this area.

Music affects deep emotional centres in the brain, the chemical dopamine is released into parts of the brain when we listen to music.  The area of the brain that is responsible in the expectation of pleasure. When certain parts of a piece of music that we are familiar with are expected the brain releases this chemical which gives us pleasure. 

Research has been carried out and when analysing the brain scans of participants, it was discovered that when they enjoyed a new song enough to buy it, the chemical dopamine is released. 

Findings also suggest that when people listen to unfamiliar music, their brains process the sounds through memory circuits, searching for recognisable patterns to help them make predictions about where the song is heading. Features such as a familiar beat or melodic structure will more likely make people anticipate the song's emotional peaks and enjoy it more. The dopamine hit comes from having their predictions confirmed.

This is why music conjures up old memories and emotions. People can hear the same song over and over again and still enjoy it. The emotional hit off of a familiar piece of music can be so intense, in fact, that it’s easily re-stimulated even years later.

Music helps stimulatethe brain, and helps the brain to remember things. Some people use music to help them remember specific things.

I suffer with chronic pain and spent several months with a psychotherapist studying pain management techniques involving self hypnosis and other pain relief techniques, but the thing that helped me cope most with pain was music and the chemicals released in my brain helped me to cope with the pain far more effective than any of the other techniques that I had been trained in.

Some people use illegal drugs that release the same chemical. Who needs drugs! This is free and healthy. There are a lot of wonderful people out there in the world of music. Music is so much more than a listening pleasure. 


Dave Brown Folk Guitar Teacher (Sheffield)

About The Author

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