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  • Kraig Brachman

Free and Inexpensive Music Explorations in Calgary


Music is magical. It can foster creativity, help brain development, create community, it is an important part of any culture. It can also be expensive to participate in. Bringing as wide of a range of music into a house is never a bad thing, but it's important to support musicians financially. Going to concerts and live performances by professional musicians provides a good night out, but tickets are pricey and most venues are not ideal for all ages. Good musical instruments are expensive, and learning to play the darn thing can quickly add up.


So, what's a cost conscious family or person to do?

In Calgary, we are blessed with our rich musical community; we have lots of free summer concerts, festivals like Sled Island and the Calgary Folk Music Festival; we have the amazing CKUA or the fiercely independent CJSW. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Part of this great community also means easy access to music at all levels.


Listed below are a few suggestions of ways you can engage with Calgary's musical offerings without the cost that is normally associated with it.

Go Support Calgary Buskers


Adding to the atmosphere of Downtown, Calgary Buskers are licensed performers who play for tips. Most congregate around Prince’s Island Park, and you can see a curated selection on Stephen Avenue Walk; you can head down and listen to their playing for free. If you like what they are doing, leave a tip – anything you can afford. Even simply applause or a “good job” between songs is appreciated.


For more info, head toThe City of Calgary's webpage on buskers

Attend an All Ages Open Mic

The open mic is a time-honoured tradition where newcomers to sharpen their skills alongside longtime professionals looking to work out their performance in a live setting. Standard open mics in Calgary are 15-minute sets, open to all ages. There are some variations, it’s best to speak to the person running the show head of time.


Some open mics for everyone:

Listen to Your Favourite Artists for Free and Ad Free:

We are living in the age of streaming, and with that is a caveat of living in the age of the subscription service. Either pay a monthly fee, or access various platforms with ad interruptions. You can sign up to Spotify for free, where you have a limited amount of skips and have ads between songs. The best deal for Spotify is to get together a few people and go in on the family plan, where you can have up to 6 people on the same account.


For a different ad free route, the Calgary Public Library gives you access to Freegal Music with your library card. You can “stream music for 3 hours a day and download up to five free songs per week. Listen to curated playlists or make your own.”

Borrow a Musical Instrument From the Calgary Public Library


Yes, you read that right, you can borrow a musical instrument from the Calgary Public Library: guitars, basses, ukuleles, banjos, oh my (plus more than I am willing to list, I recommend clicking the hyperlink to see the entire selection). A musical instruments are an investment, and if you are a first-time buyer/player, it can be a bit of a gamble; is the commitment there to use it, is playing music worth the time to learn?

Well, you can now borrow musical instruments from Memorial Park Library for free with your Library card and photo ID. Try before you buy, and I would recommend buying used before buying new; head to the CPL’s website and browse their selection of instruments; rent/place a hold on the one that catches your eye, and give it a go!

And what do you do once you have said instrument? Well, keep reading below!

Learn to Play a Musical Instrument With Online Lessons

You got your instrument, let’s say bongos, you got your bongos, and now you want to learn to play. Well, the Calgary Public Library is here to help again! Download the Libby app on your phone, sign in with your CPL card, and go to the “Extras” section on the home screen, tap the “Artist Works” section, and then “get.” This will open your web browser to the ArtistWorks website, and you now have access to lessons for all kinds of musical instruments and styles!


Click here for all the info on CPL's partnership with ArtistWorks.

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