Over the past several weeks, social activity has ground to a standstill due to the spread of the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. What started as a postponement and cancellation of a few large-scale events, like South By Southwest and Ultra Music Festival, has evolved into the termination of virtually all gatherings of over 10 people for the foreseeable future.
Up until early March, millions of people found joy in nightly journeys to bars, clubs, and larger venues full of music, dancing, and spirits and brimming with life. In fact, for countless people, live music is life. Chances are, we all know someone who travels across the country and world for the unmatched audio/visual/social experience that comes with live music entertainment. With the ongoing pandemic causing varying levels of global quarantine, many are struggling to cope with the reality of social distancing. While some may have hobbies that remain intact, like video gamers and… knitters (?), others are not as lucky.
To help you maintain a level of relative sanity during these strange and trying times, here’s a collection of music-related activities to explore while you await the brighter days to come. Nothing replaces the high of a live concert experience, but hopefully, these ideas will help bridge the gap between now and whenever a sense of normalcy arrives once again.
1. Learn An Instrument
You love live music, right? Well, how about learning to create it yourself? There are plenty of online resources that can help with this endeavor. MasterClass offers professionally taught courses by musicians like Carlos Santana and Herbie Hancock. Udemy has a variety of beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses to help you hone your skills in instrumentation and music theory. For guitar players, Fender Play offers highly rated course material with an easy-to-navigate app suitable for all skill levels, and Instrumental Global has put together a handy guide on how to learn the guitar at home here.
That’s not to mention all of the artists launching their own online instruction programs, from the Marc Brownstein‘s (The Disco Biscuits) Live Lesson Masters program featuring members of Umphrey’s McGee, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Lotus, and more to band-centered programs launched by groups like Lettuce and Snarky Puppy.
“But wait,” you may be thinking, “This pandemic caused my place of employment to close down and I’m broke!”
Well, of course! You are not forgotten. YouTube has millions of contributors and countless of hours of free content available. No instrument? Try the drums! All you need to get started is a couple of sticks—or even spatulas—and some pots and pans. If you’re feeling particularly crafty, you could follow Jack White‘s lead and make a guitar of your own for pennies on the dollar.
Jack White – “Who Says You Need To Buy A Guitar?” – It Might Get Loud
2. Learn To Use A DAW
Maybe hand-ear coordination isn’t your strong suit, but you still want to create music. Got it. How about learning to use a digital audio workstation (DAW)? A DAW is an electronic device, software, or a combination of the two that musicians use for recording, editing, and producing audio files. While software can be used in conjunction with a variety of hardware devices, all the extra gear is not necessary to use many of these programs. Applications like Garageband, Audacity, Pro Tools, and Abelton are highly-rated services that offer free versions or trials, some of which are available on mobile devices.
Moog and Korg, two of the world’s leading companies in the modular synthesizer market, have recently made their mobile apps available for free due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. There is no better time than now to take up an interest in digital audio production.
3. Write A Song
Ok, you’ve spent endless amounts of hours learning your new instrument or DAW, so what now? Write a song! Not only can the songwriting process help you develop your playing ability and knowledge of your instrument, but it will also help kill time before the next Phish show. Or, you know, Miley Cyrus. Whatever floats your boat. We’re not here to judge.
You probably won’t create the most complex arrangements with your first composition, but the feeling of hammering out a new song—a song of your own—is sure to lift the spirits during these dark days. Once the months of social distancing and self-quarantining are behind us, you’ll be able to show off your new talent.
4. Clean And Restring Your Guitar
There’s bound to be plenty of guitar players reading this. You’re overdue. You know you are. Do yourself a favor: Go to your guitar case, open it up, and be honest with yourself about what you see. Get closer. See that? That is the brokenhearted, downtrodden, joyless look of neglect. Those are some rusty strings! Gallons of finger sweat from hours of quarantine practicing have left your strings in terrible shape. That fingerboard is a goopy mess too.
Here’s what you’re going to do: First, take off those barbed wires masquerading as guitar strings. Next, grab the fretboard cleaning solution that Aunt Cathy got you for Christmas 4 years ago from the bottomless pit of your case pocket and rub that baby down. Get all the nooks and crannies. Then, find some linseed oil and lather her up. Finally, take those strings that you were going to put on “next time” and get ’em on there. You’ll be sliding and gliding up and down the fretboard like Apolo Ohno during a gold medal race in no time.
5. Jam With Friends…Virtually!
So, now you’ve learned an instrument or practiced using a DAW. You’ve also written a song and made sure your instrument is in pristine shape. Since you can’t be within six feet of others, it’s time for a virtual jam session! Due to latency issues, you’re probably going to want a wired internet connection, but applications like Skype, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, or even Facebook Messenger can help you connect with friends at the push of a button. While it may be difficult to jam in real-time, sharing tunes and collaborating via video chat is easier than ever.
Even if you haven’t learned an instrument, you can still “jam” with friends, and maybe even go viral at the same time! Many people have been taking to the internet to share some humor and music over the past couple of weeks, including artists like Andy Frasco, who led an “I’m So Excited” “super jam” with a group of musicians, all of whom filmed clips of them singing The Pointer Sisters‘ hit from the safety of their own self-quarantine locations. Frasco introduced “the dance naked in your house to pointer sisters challenge” on Twitter last Friday (3/20) and his video featured clips from Brendan Bayliss and Ryan Stasik of Umphrey’s McGee, Marcus King, Shira Elias of Turkuaz, Karl Denson, Jennifer Hartswick, and more. Check out the full video below. Maybe, as your creative juices start flowing, you’ll come up with a viral idea of your own.
Andy Frasco “I’m So Excited” Lipsync Challenge
6. Discover New Music
Remember all of those times when you asked your Facebook friends for music suggestions, and then you ignored the hundreds of comments that poured in? Now is the perfect time to start listening. For music lovers, connecting with a new band or musician is like finding lost treasure. Apps like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud can show you the music you never knew existed.
You can also subscribe to Live For Live Music‘s Monthly Mix, a playlist curated with care every single month. It contains everything from the old to the new, the beloved to the obscure, and the silly to the sentimental. For example, this month’s mix contains choice cuts from artists like Nile Rogers, Gorillaz, Sturgill Simpson, The Floozies, Radiohead, ZZ Top, Pixies, and many more. As you listen, read along with our “liner notes” to find out why each song was selected.
Live For Live Music Monthly Mix
7. Tune In To Livestreams
The bars, night clubs, and music venues may be shut down, but nothing can stop artists from creating. Countless musicians have begun webcasting performances from their self-quarantine locations. Third Man Records launched Third Man Public Access, in which the company live streams daily performances from its Nashville location. 11E1even and nugs.tv recently joined forces to create a virtual festival dubbed Live From Out There, which will feature performances by artists like Holly Bowling, Goose, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Magic Beans, Twiddle, Aqueous, Kitchen Dwellers, and many more over a six week period. Even bands like Phish, Umphrey’s McGee, The String Cheese Incident, Dead & Company, and Widespread Panic have announced archival couch tour streams while fans navigate this new world without live music. JamBase also has a running list of quarantine streams that you can check out here.
In addition, Live For Live Music is now streaming archival sets and live sessions via Facebook every day. Follow us over there to stay tuned in.
8. Watch Music Documentaries
Music documentaries are a great way to pass the time during a quarantine. Sometimes, listening to music is not enough, and learning about the stories artists who create it is a great way to connect to the music in a more meaningful way. Luckily, popular streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and even Youtube have no shortage of quality content. We recently published a piece containing some of our favorites and included links for ease of access. The list consists of Long Strange Trip, a documentary on the Grateful Dead, Ken Burns‘ Jazz, Springsteen on Broadway, Stop Making Sense, a chronicling of the Talking Heads‘ run at Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, CA in 1984, and many more. Check out our list of “25 Music Documentaires & Concert Films You Can Stream While Self-Quarantining” here.
9. Read A Biography
If you’re anything like this writer, you might already read a lot. Many don’t, however, and that can all change during the COVID-19 quarantine. The days of book reports and summer reading may seem like a distant memory. Reading, however, can actually be a fun, informative, way to pass the time while you’re locked down—especially if you enjoy the content. Tim Newby‘s Leftover Salmon: 30 Years of Festival! will help quicken the adjustment to quarantine life, as will Life, a Keith Richards autobiography, and Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan, by Alan Paul and Andy Aledort. Bookstores may be closed, but online retailers are likely to remain open during the pandemic. Drop your device and pick up a book for a change, why don’t ya.
10. Mid-Day Dance Break
Perhaps all of this learning, reading, and watching is making your legs restless. Many people are dealing with pent up energy by engaging in at-home physical activity, but you might have to get creative with shelter-in-place orders in place and gyms closed all across the country. It may be impossible to head out on the town and boogie down to your favorite musicians, but a midday living room dance sesh can get your endorphins flowing and blood pumping—and break up the monotony of your new work-from-home life.
Not only that, but dancing has plenty of health benefits that are amplified during this particular pandemic situation. Dancing can help with heart and lung health, agility, and weight management. Additionally, since many have already been stuck inside for days or weeks on end, the improved muscle strength and flexibility is sure to keep you loose while you wait for this all to blow over. So, make sure to close your laptop sometime this afternoon, crank some of your favorite tunes as loud as you can (without disturbing your neighbors), and start shakin’ what yo mama gave you! Now, you’re ready to take on your afternoon with your blood pumping.
When all else fails, mindfulness and meditation can work wonders. You may believe that meditation and music aren’t directly linked, but Wu-Tang Clan‘s RZA challenged that notion last month with his newest project titled Guided Explorations. The six-song project sees RZA convert the meditative methods he developed for Camp Tazo into song form, aiding his students in exploring their minds and discovering new truths. The album is available on all streaming services and can provide you with much-needed mental clarity. Even if RZA isn’t your jam, a little bit of meditation could go a long way in maintaining sanity during a quarantine that seems to have no end in sight. Mobile apps like Headspace and Calm have hours of guided meditation sessions ready for you to stream.