Did you slap the bass in high school jazz band? Were you a budding piano genius as a child? Maybe you played in a Kiss cover band in college for free beer at the bar? If you used to play music regularly and have lapsed into a decidedly unmusical life, maybe it’s time to dust off that part of your brain and jump back into the fray. Recent studies show that brain plasticity is much more malleable than the scientific community previously believed, which means that although you may feel as though your music skills are long gone, they’re really just sleeping – and it’s not that difficult to wake them up.
While as a child your parents may have invested significant amounts of money in a piano, a bass guitar with an amplifier, or a gigantic tuba for you to honk away on, in 2018, musical equipment is much cheaper if you’re just looking to get your feet wet again. MIDI trigger keyboards, for example, go for a couple hundred bucks – you can just run it through garage band and play piano using any number of sounds from their significant library. Fender’s more affordable line of guitars – Squire brand – also makes it easier to pick up a new instrument without going into debt, and some Dan Electro brand guitars are also quite affordable. Furthermore, since the advent of online services like Kijiji and Bunz Trading Zone, you could potentially get a steal of a deal, or trade your old toaster oven for a ukulele! Another strategy is to run down to your local Long & McQuade music store and rent an instrument – renting an instrument is very inexpensive, and you can rent to buy if you decide you want to pursue your musical journey further, so you don’t feel like you’re throwing away your precious paycheck.
Okay, so now you have an instrument, how to re-immerse yourself in music and recapture the magic, bottle the lightning. Well, this of course depends from person to person. If you grew up playing piano, learning music theory and reading Chopin by sight, you can buy some sheet music. The Canadian musician Jason Beck (AKA Chilly Gonzales) released a book of sheet music called Re-Introduction Etudes, with some rudimentary tunes that explore a myriad of musical concepts and styles – a super cool and helpful book! If you played in a stoner rock band in college, you might want to get some buddies together and jam out while sipping some beers – just don’t get carried away if it’s a school night. If you played music by intuition, rather than learning theory, just try and loosen up when you play and you’ll stumble into a good idea eventually.
You can also pick ten simple songs by some of your favourite musicians and learn those. There are very few things that boost the confidence like belting out a Bruce Springsteen hit or a Joni Mitchell song. While you might argue that learning cover material will stagnate your own voice, this is not the right way to look at it: tapping into the music of your heroes will ignite your own personal style, and if there’s a little something borrowed in there, it’s no problem: good artists copy, real artists steal!