Rock songs aren’t always about sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, or…baseball. Sometimes, they’re about age. It seems like a few decades since Jay Leno joked about The Who’s farewell tour (one of the first ones) and how the lyrics to My Generation should become “I hope I die before I get really, really old.” With the New Year upon us, let’s consider some physical issues involved with gigging as a local part-time musician over age 40-ish (i.e., no roadies).
Physical limitations are the–pardon the term–granddaddy of concerns. Some become more likely in midlife. Hands and fingers can get slower, making it difficult to play as quickly as before. Bones and muscles in general can get sore earlier, so even if your hands are in good shape, your back can tighten, or knees, elbows, shoulders, can make it difficult to support your playing.
One thing about the wear and tear of middle age: they can be great motivators to change your lifestyle. In addition to making (small) changes in diet, I’m in the gym a few times a week these days. The big difference is that my workouts now are largely done to maintain function and/or protect against further degradation, whereas in the past they were more improvement oriented. I’ve found that strengthening exercises have helped a bit with the tight back that I typically get standing after 3 sets.
In addition to musculoskeletal issues, if you haven’t protected your ears from decades of standing too close to amps, drums, and PA speakers, your hearing might be impaired. I’m somewhat surprised that I’m the only one in my two bands who regularly wears ear protection. Depending on your rehearsal space’s configuration, you might not want to save them for gigs. If so, consider keeping a pair in your instrument case, rather than thinking of them as something you pack only for a gig. (One of my bands rehearses in a rather small room, with a a PA speaker in back of me.)
If you read from charts and have less than perfect vision, you might notice a change in your eyesight. This may require the use or adjustment of corrective lenses. Ditto if you need to watch your fingers or if you often adjust effects/pedals on the floor or on an equipment rack.
Sleep habits can also change with age. You may find that that pre-gig nap you once considered a luxury has become a necessity. Also, you may notice an interaction between lack of sleep and muscle soreness, especially after 1:00am load-out.
What issues have you encountered that I didn’t cover? Maybe a future post will discuss the non-physical aspects of the older musician.
Have a happy and healthy 2014!