Enjoying music: Listening or playing - take your pick!

Young lady listening to music

I have yet to find a person that cannot enjoy music.

Their preferred styles and genres may differ, but all people have the inbuilt ability to enjoy good music. Their tastes may differ as to what constitutes “good” music, but if you know their likes and dislikes, you can quickly set the right musical mood.

Likewise, no two persons have exactly the same taste, which lends itself to cross-pollination.

I have a friend who introduced me to Mahler as he always had some music of Mahler going, even when he was studying.

Now Mahler is heavy on an empty stomach, but with time you learn to savour the chap and start appreciating the subtle expectations built into his arranging. In the non-classic pop genre, the same can be said of the arrangements by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Man’s ability to be able to appreciate different styles and forms of music makes it possible to broaden your music taste and appreciate a wider range of music and sounds. That is why one can even appreciate the sound experiments done with elastic bands and motorcycle gangs! (Let alone using a real canon for the 1812 Overture).

Nowadays it is commonplace to see people travelling with sophisticated riggings on their heads whilst listening to their favourite music. It is often said you don’t need a degree in music to enjoy it - just listen.

The music produced by the sounds of nature is of course in a class of its own. It isn’t written by hand but contains harmonies and sounds that are astounding. Just think of water at the sea or a flowing river for a soothing effect, or bird sounds in the middle of the jungle night.

One tends to forget that modern technology makes it possible to conjure up a full orchestra in your bedroom, whereas a few years ago that was the prerogative of the sovereign!

The first piece of advice to someone that wants to enjoy music more is to broaden the genres you are listening to.

Jazz and Fusion music immediately comes to mind, as an area that has been neglected. You will notice the intellectual or rational part of your brain get more exercise in abstracting the music and if you listen long enough you will surely get to like it a lot!

The next thing you can do is to learn to play an instrument yourself or learn to play in a new style or genre.

Knowing the technique needed to release the right saxophone sound adds to the enjoyment of a saxophone piece.

On the Hungerford pedestrian bridge on the River Thames in London, there is a lone saxophonist waiting for you, so he can release his pent-up frustrations of the day with its meagre takings.

And boy can he throw some riffs!

He becomes the master of the bridge and you cannot decide whether seeing him play or hearing him play gives the most pleasure.

Seeing a full orchestra playing has the same effect, as you look at the different sections competing as it were one against another.

The Flamenco guitarist’s finger movements enchant even the most sceptic passer-by.

What a maestro!

There is one such guitarist which can be experienced at the fountain end of the steps to the London Art Museum. (The Hungerford bridge is just down the road on the Thames - if you want to see the saxophonist.)

Music is part and parcel of many other disciplines: dancing, theatre, movies, dining, and even leisure activities like ice-skating.

Enjoy them all!

But there is no comparable enjoyment to you yourself being the Maestro and relishing the surprise looks by your friends and colleagues.

This takes extra effort and a keen ear. You have to ensure that you can play at least one or two “hits” faultlessly and with uncanny skill.

Usually, buskers focus on these speciality songs and play them all day long - to the chagrin of the outdoor merchant next door.

Yes, you can talk to the busker - many of them are not averse to sharing trade secrets, especially if they realise that you are also an artist.

But you don't have to stop at one or two, you can really start specialising on the genres or time or style periods you really enjoy. And you can do it with different instruments.

It has been proven that really enjoying your own playing has immense health benefits as to improving your mood (feeling good about yourself), brain stimulation, the release of anxiety, improving your mental health, happiness, concentration, and having vision, purpose and joy. (See my article on the 6 reasons why playing the piano is good for your health as an example!)

And the best way to go about it is to have structured lessons and consistent assistance.

You will find yourself doing dancing and singing naturally with your instrument, as you live in your newfound wonderland of music.

Never allow yourself to get discouraged, and keep punctual to prepare for your lessons and the exercises the teacher have given you, and you will be amazed at your quick progression!

Remember music is a very natural way to increase cultural cohesion and co-operation with others so do not view it as a difficult discipline as you can easily become part of a local group or band and meet many people the easy way.

And there are a lot of opportunities to participate in a group setting e. g. a local church choir or band, the social club or a cover band.

And if you become good at doing what you like, it could become quite a handy freelance activity, and you might one day be the teacher-maestro who are helping others to discover this wonderful world.

So do not delay.

The first step is to choose the instrument you would like to play.

Then develop your voice as well as this instrument.

You might not like your voice at first, because you are not used to your own voice. If Susan Boyle didn’t start singing at 57, the tigers would have stolen her dreams away. (According to cheatsheet.com her net worth from her singing since she turned 57 is £40M).

So make your musical dreams come true!

Whether you are a music lover or a musical maestro-to-be let nothing stand in the way of your dreams!

If you have never played, you are simply at exactly the right place to find the perfect music teacher for you in London!

Article by Stefan Joubert

Stefan Joubert is a master guitarist and music educator specialising in adult music education.

He is also the founder and director of S & C Guitar, The London Guitar Institute, The London Singing Institute and Stefan Joubert Guitar School.