The recent lockdowns across the United Kingdom have been a rather rough time for musicians all across the country. Today, musician and writer Richard Barton gives ¡Dios Mio! eight reasons why being a musician during these lockdowns is the best, as well as the worst.
1: Practice! 😊
You get that sweet practice time, all the time, whenever you want! You finally get to practice those pesky rudiments or scales that have been giving you trouble; you know, the ones that you have been too tired to practice because you’d just gotten home from work and just wanted to relax. We all know that feeling. You can even learn songs outside of your usual genre; lockdown has given us a new lease of freedom and time to explore facets and genres of our instruments that we would usually turn our nose at.
2: Practice! 😞
Playing alone is nowhere near as exciting or thrilling as playing with your band. And, as good as it is that you have finally nailed that triple paradiddle ratamacue, you still feel empty and alone performing it. Let’s face it, we should all technically be expert musicians by the time lockdown is over (if it ever is), but we all know that when you do pick up your guitar, without guidance, you’ll most likely be practising those same scales you always have. But, hey; at least you’re an expert in the key of E.
3: Exploring New Ideas 😊
Have you ever sat there, with your guitar, or your piano, or your tuba and thought to yourself, “I would love to know how to play another instrument, or even experiment with the one I own”? Well, with national lockdown in place due to a global pandemic, now you can! For example, buy that kalimba! Tune your guitar to G# major, or whatever guitarists do! Stick your splash cymbal on your snare drum and make some dirty drum ’n’ bass!
Lockdown allows us to be our most creative musical selves, because, let’s face it, what else are we going to do? Tidy our rooms? Fuck no. We’re going to buy a trumpet with our furlough money so we can piss off our neighbours even more than we already have, and they’re going to have to love it. Coincidentally, that brings me to my next reason lockdown is awesome for musicians.
4: Broadening Your Horizons 😊
Are you a heavy metal glockenspiel player? Have you ever wondered why so many other glockenspiel enthusiasts love classical music so much? Now you can give it a try for yourself! Fuck it; learn classical guitar, jazz drums, disco sax, we have an opportunity here to change the way we play our instruments and learn an entirely new style. Personally, I have been trying my hand at a bit of DnB drumming and a smidge of jazz.
This also expands into recording yourself and maybe putting it on YouTube if you’re confident enough in your ability. Throughout lockdown, I have personally been learning cover after cover spanning several genres, recording myself doing it, and looking back on it. If you’re a super experienced musician or even a beginner, you might have heard this advice already and thought “man, why the fuck do I need to watch myself play when I can just listen to it?”. I was one of those people, but after listening to and watching myself play and posting the footage on YouTube (I’m also a master video editor now), I have noticed way more mistakes and sloppiness than I would have otherwise.
5: Relaxing 😊
Is that not why we all love music in the first place? To enjoy ourselves? With lockdown, there is no stress or pressure to fit your practice in at a certain time because of work and/or your other hobbies. Now, if you’re like me, you’re sat at home with nothing to do, so you sit down at your beautiful pearl Gretsch Renown drum kit and just, you know, enjoy it. We rarely get this opportunity and we may not get it again, so let’s make the most of our instruments while they’re still around and dying to be played.
6: Zoom Rehearsals and WhatsApp Chats 😔
If you’re in a band, you will know exactly what I’m talking about with this one. Communication is dead. Have you ever tried to rehearse via Zoom call with four different people playing different instruments at varying volumes, with delays because none of you can afford to get super good recording equipment? Yeah, so have I, and we all know it SUCKS. Granted, getting to play any music at all with other people is a blessing right now, but I will not miss the awkward WhatsApp chats in which your bandmates are asking you if you’ve written anything new over lockdown and you know full well all you’ve done is learn to play ‘Fur Elise’ on your brand new kalimba. Fuck Zoom and fuck WhatsApp.
7: Gigs 😊
I don’t need to say much on this one, not at all. We all know that first gig back, whether you’re playing or watching, will be fucking legendary. This is a bittersweet point, though, because no one really knows when we will be able to see or play live music again. If you’re in a festival group on social media, you’ll most likely have seen all the people announcing that Glastonbury has been cancelled and praying that their other favourite festival isn’t next. But, music is a rigorous business, and it will still be there after this all blows over; so the one thing that will never die in any of us, is hope.
8: Remembering How to Socialise At a Gig 😞
Oh boy, did you think I wasn’t even going to mention social interaction? Some of us have been stuck inside or furloughed for almost a year now. That’s 11+ months of limited social interaction and learning to love yourself (and your instrument) and your own company (and your instrument’s). That first sweat waterslide we all experience at the first gig post-Covid will be a night to remember, for better or worse. Some of us have forgotten how to say hello to anyone but the postman and the local shopkeeper, never mind remember how to ask people to get out of the way as you make a desperate leap towards your friend at the front, who is currently sandwiched between someone who looks just like ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and the actual ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin.
Words: Richard Barton
Photo: Brent Ninaber