Thursday, October 01, 2015

Music is Becoming Social Again (#DevLearn)

During this week's "Ukulele Learning" sessions at Devlearn 2015 my copresenter Shawn Rosler showed a chart with whole, quarter, and eighth notes and asked who had ever struggled to learn music this way. A lot of hands went up, accompanied by some headshaking and grimacing. He then led us on a fun activity based on this image.

One of the takeways for participants, I hope, is that learning music can be fun, especially when shared. 

Not all that many years ago, before Mr. Edison invented his wax cylinder, music was something you had to go somewhere to hear unless you played an instrument yourself. Churches had pianos and organs, and communities had local gatherings of musicians both impromptu and planned, amateur and professional. People gathered together to listen and play. It was social. Then mass produced records brought teenager dance parties and whatnot, and if you listened to records at home, well, others heard them. 

In the 1980s music took a turn with the advent of "personal listening" devices like the Walkman. It was great for not subjecting others to your musical taste, but it also shut out those who might be interested. 

Now, with the proliferation of new tools, music is becoming social again.  Songs you listen to can be auto-published by products like Spotify. Others can like it, share it, be reminded of a favorite song, or go check out something new themselves.  You can create collaborative playlists. You can share playlists.  

A wonderful recent development: As the ukulele becomes more popular, more and more open ukulele jams are popping up in cities and even suburbs everywhere. They typically welcome novice players, usually offer something in the way of introductory lessons or support -- sometimes just the promise of starting with easy 3-chord songs-- and are usually filled with amateurs just wanting to gather and play and be happy. 

One of my favorite aspects of the uke jams are the way they are age-agnostic. Jams I've been to welcome and even embrace young players. Here's a guy who comes to my local (Durham, NC) jam and stays as late as his dad will let him:

And here's a first-person video from a fellow relearning after many years:

One of his YouTube-based teachers: 

Music is a great mood lifter and memory-enhancer and helps increase the brain's neuroplasticity, important as we age. Take up an instrument. If you already play, find a way to share it more. Find a community. Have fun! 

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