General Question

wundayatta's avatar

Musicians: what's it like for you when you make music?

Asked by wundayatta (58722points) January 21st, 2009

First, a little background about your typical music-making situation. Is it with others? Or by yourself? In front of an audience, or alone, just for yourself?

What is your relationship to your instrument? Have you come to treat it like it was a person, or do you treat it as a tool?

Now, when playing, what happens to you? Is it all a matter of perfecting your work, or do you get lost in the music you make? Do you have spiritual experiences? What are they like? What keeps you going over the years?

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25 Answers

loser's avatar

It is the most spiritual high I’ve ever experienced! By myself, in front of and audience, doesn’t matter. And if it’s something I’ve written, it’s even better!

TheBox193's avatar


I want to show it to everyone, then turn around and fix and make it better.

tennesseejac's avatar

Im a drummer, so unfortunately I need other people to “make music”. My drums are very important to me, but I don’t treat them like a person. I sit down and start playing a beat and whoever Im playing with just joins in or if its with a band they usually bring some sort of time signature to the table so my job is pretty easy. I do get lost in the music sometimes but its not really “spiritual” because I have to concentrate and pay attention to the other band mates so much that I can’t just let everything go (unless it’s a straight beat the whole song).

Vinifera7's avatar

I’ve seen the word “spiritual” at least three times on this thread already. Can someone explain what that means?

aprilsimnel's avatar

@tennesseejac – Drummer? Do you know the Amen Break?

tennesseejac's avatar

@aprilsimnel : i cant look at the link right now because im at work and we have “surf control”, but ive never heard of Amen Break. Is that a band?

loser's avatar

The “spiritual” part is king of difficult to explain. I feel like I’m one with my instrument, the audience, the world, actually. There’s no issues, there’s no garbage, like nothing bad is happening anywhere in the world. The closest other word I can think of is, peace. But that doesn’t really describe it either.

Vinifera7's avatar

So you define “spiritual” as an intense euphoria and feeling of connectedness.

Let’s see if everyone else defines it that way. Otherwise, it’s not a particularly useful qualifier.

Kiev749's avatar

When i make music i get lost in it trying to perfect the craft. I try and let my audience have as much fun listening to it as i do performing it for them.

judochop's avatar

It feels good!!!? There are different levels of it though. Some music just makes me feel okay but if it’s on and the crowd and everyone is feeling it then it just takes you away to another place.

jonsblond's avatar

So many questions daloon, I don’t have the stamina that you do to answer so many. ;)

When I play my instrument, I do it alone. It’s a personal thing for me.

melanie81's avatar

I’m a classical flutist, so I play in all different settings….solo, by myself, background, with a small group, with an orchestra, as a soloist, etc. But – BY FAR – for me, the most uplifting, spiritual experience is when I’m playing with an orchestra. As a flutist, I have the best seat in the house…right in the middle of it all! To be surrounded by such great sounds and to be able to blend with it is great…and then when you have a solo, it’s like everyone around you “paves the way” to let you shine. It is a wonderful experience :)

My relationship with my instrument…hmm…at first, it was a beast. It took a lot of work to get used to it when I first bought it almost 3 years ago. But now I wouldn’t give it up for the world. When I got my Master’s degree in performance, my teacher was very methodical, so the instrument was definitely more like a piece of metal than an outlet for my emotions. I am working to get away from that and develop a more personal relationship with it, so the sounds just flow from my soul (rather than my brain).

I’ve already written too much, so I’m gonna stop here!

Jack79's avatar

I’m sorry to disappoint you guys, but music for me is just another job. I do take care of my guitar, in the same sense that a taxi driver makes sure to put oil in his car’s engine. My instrument and other equipment are just tools of the trade. And even though I enjoy this job more than others (I am also a teacher and a translator), it’s still just a job for me. I do it for money. I have been lucky in recent years to at least be able to sing stuff I like. And I always try to have a good, human relationship with my audience, cracking jokes, talking to them during the break and so on. Of course I generally have small audiences so that’s easy. I don’t know how I’d do that if I were filling up stadiums.

cyndyh's avatar

Music is like sex. It’s a very in-the-moment activity. There are a lot of different ways to do it and feel about it, at different times and places, for different purposes, alone or with others. I love the music I choose to make.

tennesseejac's avatar

@cyndyh I want to make that kind of music

cyndyh's avatar

LOL! Just do it and keep doing it. You get better the more you… um… practice. :^>

rockstar's avatar

Most of my songs have come from writing alone in my room with just my acoustic. Not all the time though. Some have come out in jam sessions or just when I am doing everyday activities. Can’t really explain how it feels for me. Its kind of like a sense of accomplishment mixed in with like a natural high. When I write it’s usually because I am dealing with something or some emotion and when the song is finished it almost feels therapeutic. Ha, not sure if any of this makes sense but it is hard for me to describe.

wundayatta's avatar

@Vinifera7, you wrote:
So you define “spiritual” as an intense euphoria and feeling of connectedness.

Let’s see if everyone else defines it that way.”

For me, spirituality is connectedness, and it’s cool to see other people describe it that way. It’s when you are connected to other people in some way where you seem to be all thinking and doing the same thing. This is especially the case when you are doing completely improvised work.

There are times when it seems like we are all reading the same music, but, of course, there is no music written down. I feel like I’m in a kind of perfect pocket. I just know that whatever I do will be perfect; match perfectly. My inner critic that is always wondering if I’m doing it wrong disappears (that’s the coolest thing for me).

This leads to a very interesting feeling. I wouldn’t call it euphoria, although it is related to that. Euphoria, to me, is a kind of wild goodness, and this feeling is constrained and stable.

Cyndyh compared it to sex. I think that is an apt comparison—that moment of orgasm and just afterwards, when you feel totally complete and totally accepted, and everything is right in the world. However, while music is great, and I’d rather be doing that than any other kind of out-of-the-bed activity. Sex, for me, is still better.

cwilbur's avatar

You know how in Zen Buddhism, people practice meditation for years and years so that they can experience the moment, without thinking of what’s happening next, without thinking of what happened two minutes ago—just being right there, in the moment?

That’s what performing music is, for me, at its best.

cyndyh's avatar

@daloon: Isn’t it great that we don’t have to choose between the two. The world would be a much sadder place if that were true.

@cwilbur: It’s very in-the-moment, yes. I think there’s a reason people call it “playing”.


ashmanovski's avatar

@cwilbur: Have you ever reached a meditative state? I’m not questioning you in terms of doubt, I’m just rather curious. Because to me, performing music I have written myself for large audiences is nothing alike the state of meditation (which I rarely manage to reach without a flotation tank, but I get there once every now and then even when in the living room).

To me performing for a crowd of, say 500 people, and really be in connection with them and have one of those performer-crowd moments, is more like sitting in a small cozy room with 20 people and tell them a story, and have them 100% completely hooked. That intense feeling, in which EVERYONE is giving every piece of attention they possess towards you, just as you give them your every piece of attention by delivering the music at its highest potential. It’s as if they are reading your mind, and you are reading theirs. It sounds cheesy but you are actually connected with them to a maximum level.

However, In contrast to being in a meditative state, in which you experience the ultimate definition of nothingness, performing live and have one of those moments is a likely experience but on the very opposite side of the spectrum… so I kinda still get your point :)

cwilbur's avatar

@ashmanovski: I’ve never meditated with the goal of reaching nothingness, but always with the goal of being fully present in the moment—“all places are here, all times are now.”

wildpotato's avatar

@melanie81: I know what you mean! It’s such an exuberant feeling to play in a large group. I love the time when everyone has done their solo and you feel the whole orchestra gathering itself to plunge back into the theme together. Another of my favorite things is playing clarinet duets, again because of the joy of harmonizing. Woodwind quintets are great fun too – can’t help but make beautiful music when you have flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and French horn in a room together. But I mostly play alone at this point in my life.

When I know a piece really well and can play it without thinking too much about the technical aspects, it’s like my fingers just know what to do and I let them go. It is a wonderful feeling, and somewhat trance-like – though I’ll stay away from questions of meditative states and spiritual experiences.

I love my clarinets; they have much sentimental and practical value – but though they are unique, they are still tools, because I would play on better instruments if I had the option to. But I’d still keep my current clarinets around. Letting my rented bass clarinet go back to the shop was painful.

fathippo's avatar

I’m inexperienced, so i write stuff by myself (no audiences or whatever), also i’d love to be able to make music with other people that i connected with in that ‘spiritual’ way that you feel with music, but i’m a bit shy i guess…
But yeah it is like going into a trance a lot i guess (when you learnt it and can play it naturally) and i can either get high with it and butterflies or whatever or calm and sad or whatever…
But because its so connected with emotions i guess sometimes it can make you feel a bit bad when you are writing stuff, (mainly only if with vocals though) becuase i dont know it just seems to reflect everything about me i dont wanna think about, but with just writing music with the piano or guitar it makes me feel so grateful for music and like you are able to string together all these beautiful things
I hope one day that i’ll be able to express everything so fully and amazingly like it feels/ sounds like when i’m listening to other people’s music that i love, that would be awesome man! Oh and as for relationaships with instruments… i would say that i can imagine all the amazing potential to have for building such beautiful worlds, and kind of long to be able to do it myself… so they’re something i feel like i want to work with to master so i can release everything i need to (sorry if this sounds really stupid, im having a hard time explaining…) =)

chocolatechip's avatar

Here’s a non-corny answer for you: It’s entertainment. Like watching TV or playing games, but there’s an extra component of satisfaction, because you’re actively engaged in producing that entertainment, and not simply an observer.

Of course, it also depends on the kind of music. Emotional pieces of music immerse you more in the experience.

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