Monday, July 11, 2011

Playing Music With Others - Demotivating?

I'm currently in an unsure state when it comes to the music I'm trying to learn to play.  I have my own approach, which so far has met my creative needs and interests, although it doesn't seem to mix  well (in my mind at least) with the normal approach that players of traditional music undertake.

It seems like I'm in a de-motivated state right now, constantly on the verge of giving it up entirely, or at the very least taking an extended break.  As weird as it sounds, I think this stems from attempting to play with others.  There are oldtime and Irish jams in the area that, presumably, I should attend, or want to attend, because it's pretty much the same type of music that I play.  However, due to whatever reasons I can't just show up and play tunes at these things and have fun like others do.  For me it's a constant chore and the anxiety and stress leading up to attending one of these jams causes me to just sit around and watch TV instead of practicing or preparing.

Because I can't play a single tune by ear (any tune I play without looking a the tab I've simply memorized; when I play it all I'm doing is going through the motions), in order to participate at one of these jams I have to have all the music in front of me.  Since the nature of sessions and jams is spontaneity, playing music that was historically passed down by ear, then I fundamentally don't fit.  And because I know I have the wrong approach I have all these self conscious things that kick-in at this realization.

However, when I just sit around the house by myself playing tunes simply for fun, without any thought of ever playing them with others or in public or as part of a jam session, I have the most enjoyment from playing music.  Of course I occasionally waver from this outlook and get my hopes up that something will fundamentally change, but then the cold hard reality kicks in keeping me awake at night.

There are two jams looming on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, but now, with only a couple days to go, being less prepared even than I was a month ago, I'm content to remove these obligations from being things I have to do.  What a relief this seems as I type this.  Perhaps without that uncomfortable feeling hanging over me I can then get back to playing what I want to play, doing it the way I want to do, and so on.  Assuming that this still sustains me.  I truly did imagine that I would some day be attending jams and stuff, but since my learning has never gone down the path of picking up tunes by  ear, it really hasn't turned out that way.

My job now is to be content with that and just get back to playing music for fun, for my own enjoyment.  This sounds kinda like a kid not knowing how to play nice with others, and that may be true, but I'm an adult and I can choose to do this however I want.  If I want to march to the beat of a different drummer then so be it.  For some reason people assume that just because you play music that it has to be a social activity, or that you are playing for an audience, or something.  That may be true if I was pursuing it as a career or a more serious hobby.  But the truth is I pretty much suck at it, I'll never make any money at it, so why bother doing anything with it except what makes me happy?  Why does it have to be more than that?  Why can't playing music just be like reading a book?

I also have other interests that I need to pursue, such as focusing on fitness - running, walking, hiking, exercise.  In fact I need to write more on these topics.  Or writing in general.  Or just something.  I feel like I've kinda put myself out there with this whole "I'm learning to play traditional music" profile and I need to reel that in somewhat.

Rather than a group music setting like a jam session, I'd be much better in a small ensemble that gets together on a regular basis and practices its material.  But even that would probably end up being too much.  Who knows?  I can back and forth over this.  This whole act of typing this article has been to combat insomnia more than anything else.  I woke up in the night with bad dreams and couldn't go back to sleep.  Then your mind starts to think of all this stuff and you can't turn it off.  So I got some of this off my chest, hopefully I can go back to sleep for a couple more hours now, and then tomorrow I can start fresh and/or hone in on the best way to continue to pursue this hobby.

This was all written sorta stream of consciousness with no editing...I may go back and revise but for now I'm publishing then trying to get some more sleep.

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