The Woodshed

The Marvelous Mystique of the Musical Mind…


Over the years it's often occurred to me that musicians, like other artists, are gifted, or fated, with unique and unusual capacities for thought. Well duh, you say. Yes, but have you ever actually identified to yourself what it is that makes us view, or hear, the world differently from our more left brain oriented brethren? Have you ever sat down to question as to the ways in which these tendencies might be developed further developed in yourself? Practice? Listening? Studying the sky at night?

Psychologists, of course, have had a field day trying to quantify and qualify the capacity of the musically fixated. Have they succeeded? Well, books such as John Sloboda's "The Musical Mind" go a long way toward answering many of the more academic aspects of music capacity and drive. But has he, or anyone else, captured the essential ingredient(s) of musical thought or intuition? Exposed the kernel of aural creativity? You know, why musicians think the way they do.

Well, I'm not saying the answers to such questions can be elucidated in one thread on the GDP in one or two afternoons, but I do believe there may be some here who might shine some real light as to the making and makeup of the musical mystique. How we think the way we do. Hear the world with a different ear. Feel the vibrations of life. Taste tones. Why we would still rather play our guitars than spend all our waking hours texting on those little hand held gizmos that everyone else in the universe is currently so enthralled with.

So why not join me in one final little pre-unplugged adventure, and let's see if we might bounce around a few theories as to our own peculiar way of exploring and creating the world around us in sound. If nothing else, we might stumble across a technique or two, a thought process or two, that someone here is using naturally, that may in turn help us understand and better our own personal way of musical mind building.

Okay, you start...

2're back.

I hate long goodbyes.

3're back.

I hate long goodbyes.

– crowbone

We can hope, but he does say that this is a pre-unplugged thread.

I haven't tried to study this subject too much but in my case have been surprised that music is a powerful force that will make it's way out eventually.

I started making music late in life as arthritis started to slow my main activities, (Board-sailing and water-skiing), and then 13 years later I got busy with other life events and nearly stopped music completely. Here lately the music is demanding time and efforts again though it hasn't been by way of a conscious thought process.


I think, perhaps, some of the "credit" might be given to the music itself... it truly is a magical thing. At least to those who love it. Whether they play it or just listen to it. Music can heal.


ruger9 (Love the handle) is on to something. Do we make music because we're compelled to by our own Creative Processes?

OR do we REACT to music we make and are just genetically lucky enough to be able to make music?

Y'know, these thoughts seemed more cogent before I wrote them down....


Making music is like a path of initiation to the mysteries....if you pay enough attention to understand what's going on. It's deep. On a materialistic level, when you play music, you use more of your brain than any other activity (watching TV is the least, BTW....less than sleeping). People have also been bonked on the head and become musical geniuses. When you play a gig, you create community...a group of people with a common interest or purpose. That's what keeps me playing through my musical/existential crises. But my first big one caused me to hang up my guitar for 7 years. Until someone should play again. We used to love to come out and see you.


I don't play because I want to, I play because I HAVE to. I can't NOT play. It's as necessary as breathing.

I started picking out songs on a xylophone when I was 3 or so. Kept it up with a Schoenhut toy piano the next year. Folks got me a real piano when I was 5. Been at it ever since. I play by ear. I was told that I can't be taught because of it. I pick up songs while they're playing. My folks would hear a song on the radio and tell me to go play it. So I did. I can jam along with records, CDs or even the radio. I can retune fast enough to jam along with anything I hear. I've had people ask me to teach them how to do it. I can't even explain it to myself much less show someone else how to do it. My daughter picks up lyrics just as fast, but for me, lyrics don't matter that much. It's the music that counts.

It is said that "music hath charms to soothe the savage breast." I can tell you that certain songs can give me cold chills and goose bumps. Some can bring tears. Linda Ronstadt's "Silver Thread" is one of them. Sometimes it can be certain chord progressions. It varies. Beethoven's 9th, 4th movement, "Ode to Joy" is a great example. Something just "clicks" inside and the cold chills start. I get a rush just hearing the wolf howl at the beginning of Deep Purple's "Hush".

Music goes beyond words, beyond rational description. What moves one person may not work for another, but almost everyone is affected by some kind of music, even if it's a bird's song or the laughter of a small child.

What a terrible place the world would be without music.


Quoted for Beauty and Truth:

"Music goes beyond words, beyond rational description. What moves one person may not work for another, but almost everyone is affected by some kind of music, even if it's a bird's song or the laughter of a small child."

Yes, Slim.



“Music is the fourth great material want of our natures, — first food, then raiment, then shelter, then music.”
―Christian Nestell Bovee

“Divine sound is the cause of all manifestation. The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole universe.”
― Hazrat Inayat Khan

“Whatever your life's pursuit -- art, poetry, sculpture, music, whatever your occupation may be -- you can be as spiritual as clergy, always living a life of praise.”
― Hazrat Inayat Khan

"The vibrations on the air are the breath of God speaking to man's soul. Music is the language of God. We musicians are as close to God as man can be. We hear his voice, we read his lips, we give birth to the children of God, who sing his praise. That's what musicians are."
--- Ludwig van Beethoven

"Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents."
--- Ludwig van Beethoven

10're back.

I hate long goodbyes.

– crowbone

Fluidity of thought, expansiveness, openness to the unexpected, and emotional generosity for instance, these are all elements I've observed in the naturally musical. Furthermore, once identified, they are traits that can be nurtured and refined. Leading the individual ever deeper into the process of a more creative experience. Boredom, impatience, short sightedness, intolerance, an unwillingness to participate, these traits may also be embraced and followed. Though I'm not sure that they necessarily do much for developing musical capacity...


BTW, great responses so far gentlemen...


I was playing drums in a reggae-ish band last night with a bass player I have never met. However, we played so tight together it seemed as if we had known each other all of our lives. He felt the same way because we were both gushing over each other's playing last night after the gig. I knew exactly where he was going to go at every moment and I could tell he knew where I was coming from too. When a band is truly communicating and connecting on this higher level the sum is really greater than the parts. The performance turns into a spiritual experience for the band and for the audience.

I think women and girls are attracted to guy musicians because it seems musician guys are in tune with our emotional core more than most men are. In previous generations when emotional guys were looked down upon music probably gave them the excuse they needed to explore their emotions.


Great post Buddy. And it hits on the very thing that I've always felt my to be my own greatest musical motivation. The desire to communicate at more deeply satisfying levels than words alone can ever accomplish. And hey, if women are attracted to you because of it, then that works for me too. All the more reason to keep exploring...

Thanks again to everyone who joined in on this thread, and on the one explaining my Dial-Up dilemma. I leave you now in midstream to follow/lead this one into the future for me. Keep in mind that it is after all, a wood-shedding post, and meant as nothing more than food for thought to stimulate on that level...

For those who cannot abide uncertainty, or who didn't actually read the OP of the Dial-Up thread, I'll say this: Bye.

To the rest, take care of yourselves and each other. With luck, I hope to see you all again at some not too distant juncture, perhaps in the fall. Until then have a great day and a most enjoyable and musical summer...



I have had music in my head ever since I can remember. It's a lot easier now to produce the sounds I hear than it used to be because playing an instrument has been a challenge, over the years. Now I can hang with some of the best and stay together well enough to fake it if I have to. (wink)

If you were to post a succession of pictures like a video and play them, then play the same video with music behind it, you'll find emotions evoked in those viewing/listening will change depending upon the type of music played in the background.


I've just always played music because it's fun. Before I could play any instruments, around 3 years old, I'd sit on the couch for hours just holding a stack of records. No idea what songs or artists, they were records and that was enough.


I've tried to analyze the ins and the outs, the whys, and the wherefores. And all it gave me was a huge case of frustration. In the end, I have to say with Iris Dement, "I think I'll just let the mystery be."

I love being in bands. I love being part of choral groups. It's harmony singing that really gets to me. Or sometimes it's a really hot band that gets to me. Being in a hot band can nearly bring me to my knees.

And there are pieces that can bring me to tears. Parts of Handel's Messiah for example, especially the exuberance of the Hallelujah Chorus.

Another example, Buddy Emmons' steel guitar intro on Judy Collins' recording Someday Soon just makes me fall in love all over again.

There are singer/songwriters, one in particular whom I've seen maybe three, or four times. His name is Bill Staines. Every time I see him, I think to myself "Yeah, I wanna do that when I grow up." And here I am....I'm doing that.

Do I think I'll ever stop? Nope. I couldn't. And why would I want to? I'm having way too much fun.

I sometimes joke when people ask me where I get my songs. I say to them in my spookiest voice "It's the voices, man.....I hear voices."

I once read an article about research comparing the artistic brain, and the schizophrenic brain. When the artist is in the midst of the creative process, the same area of the brain was all lit up in yellows and reds as the schizophrenic in the midst of a psychotic episode. Holy mother of pearl!

It's too powerful, too amazing, too astounding to analyze. The mystery of music making is much too far beyond me to comprehend. I can explain the circle of fifths, I can explain why a lyric written one way works better than another way. But the deeper questions of where did that come from; from what depths of the human soul or psyche does the music originate, I haven't a clue. I'm not overly religious, but maybe this is the Divine part of humanity expressing itself.

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