After a long day of classes, I turned on my MacBook this evening and was met with a mysterious visitor. A curious little file, appended to the ubiquitous .band extension, sat waiting in the middle of my sparse, otherwise pristine desktop space. What could it mean? This file was created in GarageBand, but I have no recollection of throwing anything together in that program for weeks. And the filename… “Brother Gregory?” Remembering the name from an inside joke between my girlfriend and I, my mind suddenly makes sense of the puzzle. She must have made a little song sometime during the day, and left it for me to discover. I open the file, hit the space bar, and my ears are awash with the glorious concord of strings and brass. Life is good.
To any stuffy musicians inclined to huff and turn away, I say boo. You must know that my girlfriend is a studio arts major, and a fine one at that. My artistic capabilities are restricted to three-line animal sketches and primary school longhand (nothing beyond four-letter words and my first name, thank you). Exposure to someone with her abilities can be a little intimidating at times, but I can’t help wondering what it is like inside her mind. Wrap your head around this concept: a life, an existence where paintbrushes don’t feel like awkward, over-sized crayons in your inexperienced hands… and your still-life fruit drawings looked like, well… fruit. instead of dinosaurs or whatever your poor, sympathetic mother told you she saw on your canvas. What would it be like? What would you eat for breakfast? Are waffles an artist thing, too, or do they prefer pancakes?
The point I’m trying to make here has nothing to do with carbohydrates before lunch. What I am trying to say is that it does my heart good to see people from all walks of life enjoying music: more specifically, creating without inhibition. Those like my girlfriend, without the slightest nibble of formal musical training, certainly wish from time to time they could write, share, or just listen to the little ditties in their head. Even just throwing together some sort of drum track is oftentimes more than enough. After sharing my favorite components of and thoughts on her composition with my girlfriend, she expressed her humiliation at having to use the pre-recorded loops in GarageBand. She felt that it was sort a cheap shortcut, or means of cheating the system, because she lacked the knowledge and experience requisite for autonomous composition. My response: Why?
No matter what sort of music you make, or the steps you take to get there, you should never feel embarrassment or shame. I couldn’t care less if my girlfriend wrote the loops or recorded the parts in her composition. What makes me happy is the initiative to create music. In being too self-critical, and comparing herself to musicians with more experience than her, my girlfriend missed that, without her unique, innate aural and compositional skills, she would not have been able to make her piece as advanced or interesting as it was.
GarageBand is just one of the many tools people can employ in their compositional quest, especially if they may not have much musical experience. Something as simple as re-mixing a favorite song, or tossing loops into a GarageBand mix, can inspire and direct an individual’s potential interests and life path. The next time you feel ready to criticize another for using “cheap” compositional methods or “shortcuts,” consider their level of experience and why you really feel that way. It never hurts to step in another’s shoes. As conscious and mindful human beings, we must help aspiring musicians to the best of our ability. Negative criticism hurts, and it is the last thing anyone needs when they make themselves vulnerable in sharing their creation(s). Thanks for sticking with me, dear readers. Stay safe, happy, and, as always, feel free to leave a comment below.