Confessions of a Musician

Carl Abbott discusses his "essential steps" to playing music.

by: Carl Abbott

I hesitate to use the word musician for I am perhaps the furthest thing from that, at least in regards to innate talent of the musical variety. I make up for that lack with perseverance, stamina, and drive (with a side of general ‘craziness’ thrown in, I suppose). One of the most telling signs that I’m not a musician is that I don’t like listening to music, any music, for more than a few moments. It’s not that I hate music, it just gets in the way of hearing the ambient background noises of life which I prefer to hear. It is ironic then that I’ve always aspired and struggled to play music.

Here now are some essential steps I’ve taken in my ‘journey of a thousand tones’:

–First and foremost, though I lack musical talent, I don’t see those with musical talent any happier with their music than me. That says to me one thing loud and clear: the more my expectations are in line with where I’m at now, the more I can enjoy my present moment, regardless. Wishing for more only makes what I have feel like less.

–Part of my problem was over-complicating and over-thinking it. When I don’t know what I am really doing the tendency is to over think the issue. I’ve solve that by taking the simplest approach to musical possible.

–I hold to consistent repertoire of solid, time-tested songs to sink my teeth into over years. I’ve found it may take me a decade of singing a song to really know it and express it fluently.

–Playing other instruments, at least for a time, helped me know more deeply my own favorite one (guitar). All the stringed instruments follow the same fundamental principle, so trying them all helps see the forest through the trees, so to speak. Another bonus: the opportunity to discover another way to express music. Each instrument has its own voice.

–Finally, and equally important to dropping expectations, is playing music with others. This is what really makes music enjoyable. Music is a language in its own right, and like speaking any language, talking to yourself is not much fun. I know many folks believe they should first learn to play before going out and playing with others. No, no, no! Just think if children did this when learning their native tongue. We’d never learn to speak! The truth is, the quickest, easiest, and most efficient way to learn is by playing music with others. So far, I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. Well, maybe not beyond my dreams, but certainly well beyond any degree of success I’d enjoyed before getting my act together. Actually, I really must credit my sons for helping me get my musical act together (see bio), not to mention just generally playing music with other folks.