COVID & MUSIC
While staying home during the coronavirus pandemic, many Australians are revisiting instruments they haven't played since they were kids, and rediscovering the trials and tribulations of learning music along the way.
- Finding the time in modern life to practice playing musical instruments can be difficult
- Being housebound during coronavirus restrictions has given people the time to practise once again
- Subsequently they have rediscovered the benefits of patience, mindfulness and creativity as well as the joy of making music
Ben hated playing the guitar as a child.
"I hated it so much I used to cry in the car on the way to lessons" he said.
"I'd stand at the gate to try and make my Mum or Dad feel guilty as they drove away."
But with all this extra time on his hands during lockdown, he decided it was time to bring his guitar out of storage.
Ben, who has been playing the songs he used to play while at high school, likes heavy metal music.
Revisiting the past
Greg Perry runs music store Muso's Stuff in Bendigo, Central Victoria, and he has noticed a lot of people coming into the store revisiting music as a hobby.
"One of the things we've found ourselves with is time, and there's only so much Netflix you can handle," Mr Perry said.
"A fairly common story is — 'well, if I'm going to be in lockdown, I might as well learn an instrument'."
Dan Jones, who is the author's partner, inspired this story when he started playing guitar again during lockdown.
He revisited the rock songs he used to play on guitar as a teenager, when he formed a makeshift band with his best friend.
It reminded him of how challenging playing music can be.
"When it sounds really discordant, often you lose faith, because the experience of music is fluid and then you're making the same discordant mistakes over and over again," Mr Jones said.
"I have noticed some incremental change though, which is nice."
Learning patience again
Mr Perry said one of the main reasons people stop playing musical instruments is because you have to play badly for a long time before you start playing well.
"If we accept that, you know we pick up an instrument and we go — the starting point is I'm not going to be very good," Mr Perry said.
"This is something that we can all do, it's just a bit of application."
Ben said one of the reasons he decided to pick up the guitar again was to teach his son, who was struggling with home learning, about the process of learning something new.
"Things can be hard, you can make mistakes, and that's part of learning and that's okay," Ben said.
But Ben said the strict experience he had of learning as a child was not necessarily the best introduction to music.
"My teacher was a really hard woman, she never gave praise, every time I made a mistake she would say 'stop, play it again'," he said.
"My partner is a musician and she learnt music by improvising."
"Tinkering away on the piano, strumming away on the guitar — that seems to be a more friendly way into music."
A mindfulness practice
Edmund Weir played the keyboard and the clarinet growing up, and like Ben and Dan, found the process difficult.
So to entertain himself during coronavirus, he decided to take up a completely different instrument: the conga drums.
"It was kind of like a simple way to engage with music, it's not a complicated instrument, it's something I can just sort of go and make a sound straight away," Mr Weir said.
Mr Weir lives alone and has found playing the drums a great release when he is feeling anxious or has been staring at the computer too long.
He puts on a dance music track — like All Around the World by ATC — and plays along.
"It's become a good way to engage with any excess energy I might feel at the end of the day," Mr Weir said.
"It's just a bit of fun."
Rediscovering the importance of creativity
Mr Perry hopes the lockdown has given people time to just be creative again — whether that is with music, or something else.
"I think one of the things in our modern culture is it often squeezes out the creative in people," he said
"We get on with the business of making money, and maybe we forget about some of those really important elements of life.