First off, I realize the irony in reading (and writing) a post about unplugging your devices… on a device. Whatever. You can shut this stuff off when you’re done reading.
Playing the guitar is awesome for many reasons – but one of the biggest benefits is often forgotten: Playing the guitar allows you to completely unplug from the world and enjoy some time in the present. Like reading a good book, practicing yoga, or relaxing with a cup of coffee in the morning before the rest of the family wakes up – playing the guitar is the perfect way to remove yourself from responsibility and take time to relax.
Reason #1: It makes you use your brain.
Browsing the internet for hours. Commuting every day to and from work. Sitting in meetings all day. These are mind numbing. I mean literally – I feel my mind getting numb (is that a thing?) as I do any of those things. Playing music snaps my numb and dumb brain out of it.
Learning a new song is like learning a new language (but totally easier I would think). It forces my mind to work in ways that I don’t always get to do: I need to figure out new riffs or chords, I have to memorize the order of patterns and progressions, I listen to make sure the sound is correct, I force my carpel-tunnelled fingers to do things that they don’t usually do (I mean really, when else in life to you actually use your pinky finger?). I love and hate that music does this to me.
Reason #2: You don’t have to use your brain at all.
Yup. That contradicts what you just read. But it’s true too. There are a songs that I can play and sing with my eyes closed and half asleep (and I have often done just that). I’ve played the songs and chords so much that the muscle memory of my fingers do all of the work, and my brain can meditate on other things, or just shut down and listen to the music.
Reason #3: Scheduled relaxation time.
Lastly, I want to talk about why guitar lessons in particular are an excellent way to unplug. It took me a long to before (as a teacher and coach) I realized one of the primary purposes of music lessons: to have a scheduled time for relaxation/enjoyment/self-improvement.
I used to think that my role as an instructor was to continuously further the skillset of my students. While for some students, that is 100% the goal (and I’m happy to help), what about those students who seem content just to happily play (even if their progress isn’t through the roof). The students who admittedly practice only when I am there with them? Was I doing something wrong?
No. Not really. After stressing about my lack of ability to motivate these students… I actually spoke with them as asked them about their goals and their expectations for lessons, what I learned was surprising and awesome: These lessons (the hour or so each week) were simply a scheduled time that allowed these busy adults to unplug from all of the stresses of their life and work and family and friends, to just simply sit and have some “me time”. That blew my mind. I was (and am still) so proud to be able to provide this type of relaxation time and release.
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(Photo Credit: Todd Ehlers)