Welcome again to the infrequently funny, hardly humorous and rarely entertaining self serving Flute, Guitar, Mandolin, Lute, Cello, Violin and other instruments Newsletter.

I was up the other day and a bit depressed. That happens to everyone now and then, more to some, less to others. So I was thinking about meditation which I have done in the past, and also at the same time, thinking about the musical phrases I have been repeating with the mandolin and the guitar. I have a piece memorized, and hopefully will be recording it soon, but it's going to take me some time to get it up to speed and really, really know it. It takes me a while.

Music is incredibly complex, and it takes a long long time to really learn pieces. I think I have a much better sense of it now than when I was younger. If you think you are a bit slow learning tunes, think again... You are most likely learning at a good rate. We tend to accept progress easily and dwell on mistakes.

I keep hearing meditation is good for depression and many other things including concentration. I just read something that said walking was an aid to creativity. Then we also hear it's good for health. And so is other exercise. The news stories I have heard recently are that sitting for a long time is very, very bad for us humans. Exercise is good, but not so good if you sit for a long, long time even if you exercise.

I also read a several stories that indicate that playing music uses the entire brain. I believe the studies said that it was the only thing that does. Some activities use one part, some other parts... But playing Music uses it all. I noticed that I can't think about what is bothering me hardly at all when I'm playing. I can't talk unless the piece is super easy. I can't really do anything but play and think about the music.

So... I guessing that playing music is better than meditation. I believe (no scientific evidence of course) that playing music is the best meditation we can do. It changes the brain and creates new pathways, gives us a leg up over Alzheimer's helps our health and our moods, and also excites us. In addition it gives us something to do. I am almost never bored. I always have something to do... And it's good for me. I think playing music is the best meditation and mind exercise that we have available in this world... But then again I'm prejudice. I have spent my life at this and it's my constant friend and frustration :-)

So the question comes up, a form of meditation. All right, so how do we actually get better. The answer is I have no clue. I have been playing for classical guitar for 48 years and I still have no clue. Oh well, simply, you play and you get better. If you put it in the closet and store it you don't get better. This goes for flute, guitar, lute, mandolin, and I'm sure every other instrument there is. After years and years of thinking I won't get better at a piece, and still feel that way, I have some hints.

While we don't usually seem to see the correlation between playing and getting better, it has a lot to do with the mind. For example, we have to know what is coming up. This happens by both listening and playing. If we can anticipate what we are about to do, often we can do it correctly. I remember as a kid listening to LP records. I remember hearing the album over and over, and eventually my mind would actually play the next tune in my head before the piece started on the record. When we play the music, a similar thing happens after a while, we anticipate both the melody that is coming up and the finger movements. We do get better at coordination but the path to that is through the mind.

Why we are so easily frustrated, or perhaps I shouldn't assume that you do, is a mystery to me. I just want to get better faster and when I don't I assume that I am not getting better. But over and over I keep getting better at whatever I play. It's a mystery.

One thing that can get in the way is just playing too fast. When we play too fast we fail to notice many things and we go a little too quickly for the mind, which then interferes with the anticipation.

A teacher can help if they can find pieces you love to play that are within your skill level, which for a teacher is usually difficult, or at least it was for me. I had a tendency to suggest pieces that were too difficult... And then there was the fact that sometimes someone would hear something they really wanted to play that was beyond their skill level. Of course that is better than just trying to play a tune that doesn't float your boat that someone gives you. The best is to find something that you love and that is in the ball park. Then the fun begins. And how do you know that is the piece for you? You say to yourself, I want to play this just one more time... Then one more time and one more time....


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