I like to play the piano. And when I say “play”, I don’t mean perform. I like to do something I call “noodle doodle”. I don’t have a particular place to go or a particular song I’m trying to re-create. I just enjoy moving my fingers around on the keys and listening to what happens.
How do songs get created? Just like this. Not by trying to perform other people’s compositions. Instead of re-creating Beethoven’s music, I’m creating Betsy’s music.
There is something interesting about how music is taught these days. We are taught how to play other people’s music rather than discovering our own. We are taught the basics of how to operate the instrument and then given sheet music (another skill to be learned) in order to perform someone else’s music. There are several skills that have to be learned before you can even begin to make music. Then there are the dreaded recitals, where you must perform in front of others.
Writing isn’t like this. We don’t expect writers to learn how to hold a pen and then have them copy out the text from “Dick and Jane” as a warm-up. We don’t have recitals where they handwrite or type some famous author’s work in front of an audience. With writing, you write what is in your head and heart. Playing a musical instrument should be the same.
For many people, a musical instrument inspires “blank page fear”. They see it and don’t know what to do. Where to start? Then what happens next? How will it sound? One way around that fear is to play when other people aren’t in the house so they can’t hear what you are doing. Another is to use headphones with an electric keyboard. You can delight in your discoveries all you want without worrying that other people are hearing everything, including the parts that don’t sound too great.
Playing music is like driving on a road without a map. You are guaranteed to find new places that you like. But you are also guaranteed to find a few dead-ends too, and you’ll have to back-track to get out. This isn’t a mistake – it is part of the process. Give yourself the permission to play and discover your own song.