The Joy of Playing Music
When we think of the joy in playing music we might imagine a group of musicians playing together, getting into the ‘zone’, smiling and laughing. We might imagine a soloist playing something beautiful in quiet contentment. We want to partake in this joy, but we have to practice first, and getting through that practice session is difficult and not so joyful. Right?
Not quite. We can be joyful in all areas of making music if we only choose it. Taking pleasure in making music is quite different from enjoying listening to music, although both can coexist. Making music is an activity which harnesses the attention of our brain kinaesthetically, aurally, visually, emotionally and even, in some cases, spiritually. When this happens, we can feel almost at peace in each moment and this is the sensation we describe as joyful. This, however, is only one aspect of joy within making music.
Overcoming challenges can also be a very joyful experience. When we achieve something we once thought would not be possible, this can lead to a feeling of satisfaction. Playing with other musicians is also another area where joy can be experienced. Musicians playing together often describe a feeling of connection which bonds them together, this happens due to the synchronization of movements, rhythms and harmonies. Performing to an audience can also be a joyful experience, when we are able to connect with an audience (and they are able to connect with us) on a level beyond verbal communication.
Joy can be experienced at every step in the practice room – there are so many successes and gains we experience in every moment of practising, if we only celebrate it, when it happens.
This brings me to the second part of my blog post today. If there are so many opportunities to experience joy, why don’t we?
We can often stop ourselves from experiencing the true gifts that music brings by focusing on judging ourselves. When we judge ourselves or try to imagine how others might judge us, we build a wall between ourselves and joy. We will then find it difficult to experience joy when playing music with others or when performing to an audience, or even, when practising alone. It is such a common problem and one that we can each overcome by turning our attention away from the judgements and towards joy instead. The more we do this, the easier it becomes. That is why the most important thing, whether it be practice, an exam or a performance, is to have fun!