“Life can become boring when the spark of creative fire is not lit in the soul of our spirit.”

We all listen to music.  Many of us dream of playing an instrument, yet most of us don’t.  How do we move from being only consumers of music to becoming music creators?

A “sound check” of the status of music making in America shows how common this is.    A 2006 Gallup poll indicated that only 7.6 percent of Americans over the age of eighteen had played an instrument in the past year. That’s 92 percent who felt they were not musical!  The same Gallup poll found that eighty-five percent of people wished that they could play an instrument. Guess who is among this majority? President Barack Obama, who told Barbara Walters in an interview of Ten Personal Questions that he wishes he could play a musical instrument.

If music is such a universal language, why are we so tongue-tied?  For many people, music has been a challenge.  All it takes is one critical statement from some authority figure to silences us.  We get told we “can’t carry a tune in a bucket” or that we should “just move our lips” in the choir concert, and we stop making music.

Guess what? Sir Paul McCartney was kicked out of the choir.  Luciano Pavarotti was told he needed to change his sound to be more like the “operatic greats.” At the age of fifteen, George Gershwin was told it was too late to start playing the piano. Imagine how many McCartney’s have been lost because of musical criticism that silenced them when they gave up on their music.

Creativity is our birthright, an organic medicine of healing. No matter where these limiting beliefs originated, you are the one who can remove them and take action!  Otherwise, you may never express the song of your soul that wants to be sung. As the old saying goes, don’t die with the music inside you.

The Science of Creativity – Mind & Body

In a study using functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to look at brain activity, surgeon and jazz pianist CJ Limb compared improvised piano playing to a rendition of a rehearsed piece of music.  The results showed that when musicians used their own creativity, a very specific small area of the brain’s frontal cortex — the medial prefrontal cortex — became activated. This part of the brain functions in self-reflection, introspection, personal sharing, and self-expression; it is often thought to be the seat of consciousness. The medial prefrontal cortex area is also activated when we talk about ourselves, telling our personal story.  Simultaneously, a deactivation occurred. The two larger areas of the frontal cortex — the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — were deactivated. These areas deal with self-monitoring, judgment, and self-criticism. It’s a paradox; the larger parts of the brain inhibit our self-expression, while the smaller part reveals the greater self.  No wonder it’s a challenge to express ourselves creatively in music.

Barry Bittman, MD, echoed the importance of creative self-expression in a study.  He used subjects who drummed in a drum circle designed for wellness as compared with another group who only listened to drum music. All subjects had no prior musical training.  They were complete novices! By screening out experienced drummers, the study clearly demonstrated that we all have the capacity to express ourselves creatively through rhythm. Results showed that active drumming resulted in greater biological changes compared to just listening to music, a result created through exercise, self-expression, and a sense of support.

Are you ready to begin to be a creator; not just a consumer?  Try these guided practices and awaken your Creative Spirit through sound.

1.  Dance to the Beat of your own drum

Drumming is an immediate portal into musical expression.  Everyone can be successful immediately.  Whether you are more comfortable drumming or dancing; both are great tools for awakening your musical creativity. Listen to the free play alon the track at  Select Rhythm (Chapter 3).  Scroll to the bottom and play the last two tracks: Reviving Rhythms and Beauty Groove  play-along tracks.  Get out a drum, rattle, or homemade percussion sound and play-a-long, improvising the beat that only you can play.  Each track is more than seven minutes, giving you time to get out of your head and into your drum.  Remember, there is no right or wrong here; simply the joyful feeling of self-expression.

2.  Tone your note

Toning comes from “tone,” a single note that is an inner sounding.  Give yourself permission to sing your note, whatever it may be, and let it resonate your whole being. Trust yourself. Don’t think about it.  Just take a deep belly breath and exhale a note.  Now, sing the same note only louder!  Repeat. When you complete the toning of your note, allow yourself time to sit with the vibration.  Feel the resonance of creativity, of musical freedom reverberating through your body, mind, and spirit.

Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC is an author, music therapy consultant to REMO drums, and founder of UpBeat Drum Circles.  Her new book, Music Medicine (Sounds True, August, 2012) includes more than 40 guided practices and 50 audio tracks of healing music.

Edited by Jeff Newman