Why I Like Making Music
Mostly, it’s because I’m not good at it.
This is not me fishing for compliments. I am aware I can fiddle about and get something out of my equipment that is musical, and that it isn’t completely awful. What I mean is that my level of technical competence with the programs and instruments I own is relatively low, and that I am in the process of learning how to use it all, and every time I do, I’m learning something, and my baseline level of competency and proficiency goes up a bit. The learning part of this process is fun for me, as much, and at this point, possibly more than, the music that comes out of it.
And yet you have an entire album of music! Yes, well, and a) that album is crafted from loops made by others, not music I created myself, b) on software from nearly 20 years ago. While I have nothing against creating music from loops (I mean, obviously), it’s a different skill than creating music from instruments, which is what I’m mostly working on now, and the skill I learned using that software in the early 2000s does not entirely transfer to today’s music-producing software. When I picked things up again a couple of years ago, in many ways it was starting again from square one.
My learning curve on music has been relatively slow — we’re talking over years — for a number of reasons, mostly involving time, and how relatively little of it I have for it, but also because of personal inertia (I would have more time if I stopped faffing about on Twitter), and because the joy I have in learning new skills is also counterbalanced by the aggravation of having to learn new skills when all I wanna do is just make music, man. Sometimes the latter wins out over the former and I just stay upstairs rather than descending to my subterranean lair to compose (the music room is in my basement). But I have been making an effort to actually use all the expensive musical stuff I bought rather than just let it sit around. When I do I remember why I bought it in the first place.
The real trap of increasing competence in any hobby, mind you, is that the further you go along, the more you realize just how much more you have to go. I have all these really nifty musical toys that promise that you can use them without having to know music theory, for example, and while they are correct — up to a point — when I use them, at least, what I end up realizing is, yeah, actually, sooner or later if I want to get where I’d like to be with music, I’m probably gonna have to learn fucking music theory. I’m not 15 and have scads of time just to do nothing but play guitar or keyboards until I figure it all out on my own. At my age, learning music theory is the short cut! I hate that. Also, I am seriously considering keyboard and guitar lessons, with an actual person.
Aside from the pleasure of learning things, and it is a pleasure, the other thing I like about music is that it’s almost certainly never going to be anything more than a hobby. I’m 53 and the number of musicians who have debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at that late age is pretty low. I think it’s Christopher Lee (who had a heavy metal Christmas song enter the charts when he was 91), and then… yeah. Let’s just say my expectations for my music are realistic. No stadium tours, no Grammys, no platinum albums. Just me in the basement, occasionally putting something together for myself.
Which is fine! I mean, I do have goals for my music. I’d like to eventually put together a whole album’s worth of music I’d consider good outside the “faffing about” rubric, one that I could play for my actual musician friends and have them be, like, “yeah, that’s not bad at all.” That seems achievable, eventually. Anything else will be a bonus, and unlikely to be something I’ll be giving up the day job for. Which, again, fine. I have a day job. Letting hobbies be hobbies is a thing we occasionally forget is allowed. We don’t have to, in fact, monetize every enthusiasm we have.
Anyway: Music! Fun! Good for my brain! Unlikely to lead to a new career at this late stage! I’ll occasionally pop new music up here when I feel like it. Listen to it or don’t, it’s all groovy either way. I’m mostly doing it for me. I’m not good at it. But I’m enjoying getting incrementally better as I go along.