Byron Marks: Music For Mental Health

Byron Marks: Music For Mental Health - DOUBLESOLID

Music Makes Time Stand Still

There is an old saying; “Music soothes the savage beast”. I would agree with that statement, however, not only because it sounds good to the ear. Soothing the savage beast takes a lot more than a cool song on the radio. Music is much more than just the sounds it makes. And the savage beasts, well, we are just as complicated as Beethoven’s symphonies or Eddie Van Halen’s “Spanish Fly” solo.

I have been a musician since I was thirteen years old. In that time, I have seen both in myself and in others, how music can affect someone at a very deep level. Music can take you back to the first time you heard the song; what events were happening your life, the way you felt, the smell of the air. Often, we can hear one note of a song and with lightning speed we visit that moment; where we were and how that song made us feel.  Music can literally make time stand still.
My family moved to Italy when I was five years old and for the two years we lived there, I didn’t have a lot of friends. Most of the kids I went to school with lived on the Air Force base and we lived off base. When I wasn’t hanging around with them, which wasn’t often, I was on my own and had to entertain myself. This is where I met music.
I’d always been a music fan but in Italy music was my companion. I would sit for hours and listen to the radio. Sometimes I’d listen to my dad’s stereo, and it would make me feel things, remember things and time would stand still. I’d find myself getting lost in the lyrics allowing the music to speak to me in a way very little else did. Though I didn’t see my peers often outside of school, I was never alone. I had music.
Years later, when we moved to New Hampshire I was too afraid to go out and meet other kids in the neighborhood. I stayed n the house for most of the summer. Music again was my companion, and I would listen to it for hours for hours and hours. I didn’t feel alone. I had my friend, my companion, Music. My best friend was right there with me. Spending those hours listening to music planted a seed that has continued to grow throughout my entire life.
Picking up a guitar for the first time was a feeling I will never forget. I couldn’t play anything but there was a definite feeling of joy whenever I’d pick up my guitar. I didn’t know anything about expressing emotion through music. I knew there were songs that resonated with me on a very deep level, but I hadn’t yet made the connection that I could do that same thing with music.
I started writing music of my own which sparked that same joy I experienced when picking up my guitar or listening to the radio for hours. The music I was writing was sparking that same feeling. I followed that feeling, I chased it through my music, but it wasn’t until years later at a show that my band was playing that I saw how much of an impact music can have on others. Music wasn’t only my best friend; others were just as moved.
My band was playing at a club. When we got started people were hanging out by the bar and in the back by the pool tables not paying us much attention. That was normal. However, by the second chorus into our first song, those eyes were on us. They were paying attention!
Something in the song we wrote struck a chord with them; pardon the pun (or not). I witnessed our song stopping time for a group of people who just moments ago didn’t know we existed. Our music caught their attention and they were feeling it! It was one of the coolest feelings to be on the other side of the music watching just how it can grab hold of you and take you to another place, change your mood, and even connect us to one another.
Have you thought about how music stops time for you? What song brings a smile to your face even on the worst day? What song speaks to you on a level where time stands still for you every time you hear it? Are you like me and hit the back button to listen to the same song a million times when driving alone? What song makes time stand still for you?
The beauty of music is that it allows the writer to express things that they may not be able to put into words. Now of course there are songs that are rooted in pain and heartbreak. Can you imagine what the writer was going through when they wrote it? Can you relate?
I know there are a lot of songs like that for me, most definitely.
I can say from my own experience that writing a song when feeling down or frustrated helped me to feel better. I got those feelings out and even if nobody else liked the song, it was freeing to be able to release my feelings into the world on my own terms.
Being a guitar teacher, I get to see that same thing in some of my students. One of my students is a busy lawyer with a stressful job. He has said many times over the years that he looks forward to his lessons as he can forget all about his job and the stress that comes with. He can make time stand still so he can take a breather, with music.
Other students although not all lawyers have expressed the same feeling about their lessons. Being able to focus on something and put the outside world on hold for a little while is what so many of us need. My students get to watch themselves learn then make their own music. Whether they write music of their own or play music they love, it gives them such a sense of satisfaction and it is my biggest reward as a teacher.
Whether listening to, writing, or performing music it always helps us all to feel a bit more free; free to sing at the top of our lungs, play air drums, and even change our mood. Therefore, music is extremely important for our mental health! Music can lift you, fulfill you, comfort you and even turn the day around with just a couple beats. Learning music can challenge you and push the limits you think you have. Playing music can fulfill your need to express yourself in ways you can understand. Music soothes the soul and eases the mind. 
How amazing it is to think that someone right now may be writing a song that may affect and change the lives of someone they will never meet. Take a moment and think about the music that has influenced you personally. Does it make you want to dance around your house, sing at the top of you lings, have a good cry, or reflect on fond memories? We all have a soundtrack to our lives, what’s on yours?
I am a guitar teacher and I’m proud to support folks and help them feel the power writing and playing and music can have on their life. Maybe you want to give lessons a try. Maybe you want to learn to play so you, too can express your feelings and emotions words never seem to capture. Maybe you are looking to stop time a bit with your own music. If you are, I’ll be here ready to guide you on your journey. But whether you take lessons or not, pay attention to what you’re listening to. How does is make you feel? Where does the music take you? What song makes time stand still for you?
Byron Marks

Byron Marks is a professional musician and guitar teacher in Manchester, NH. If you want to learn how to play guitar and play music you love, contact Manchester NH Guitar Lessons 603-336-3480 today!

Instagram @manchesterguitarlessons
Facebook @manchestermusicmill

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If you are in a mental health emergency, please call 911. For mental health resources click here.


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