Learning Music

Read This If You Are an Adult Who’s Always Wanted to Learn an Instrument

 Has wanting to learn an instrument been in the back of your mind for a while now?

Is there this one song you’ve always just LOVED and you’ve always wanted to learn an instrument to be able to play it?

You may be just sitting on the fence about wanting to actually learn an instrument. I’m here to push you over the edge and hopefully get you to finally go for it!

Do you say things like, “I’ve always wanted to learn the guitar” or “I wish I would have picked up an instrument when I was little”?

Let me just start off by saying music is for everyone.

It doesn’t matter if you can only play 2 chords on a piano or if you can play “Flight of the Bumblebee” by memory on the violin.

It doesn’t matter if you invested $10k into a 14k gold flute or if you got a more reasonably priced one on Amazon. As long as you play what you are playing with passion, you are a musician!

It’s important to keep in mind that music is for you. 

There’s absolutely no pressure to be great. Learning an instrument is to make you feel happy and good about yourself when you accomplish something! In fact, one of my most favorite things about learning music is working on something a lot and finally mastering it. It really gives you a sense of fulfillment and gives you something to really be proud of.

Learning music is also a great way to set aside time for yourself. 

I get it. In adult life it gets really busy! So it’s easy to forget to set aside time for yourself and do an activity that makes you feel like you are bettering yourself.

Picking up an instrument is a great way to make sure you are getting in that “me time”. I personally enjoy engulfing myself in practicing the piano as a way to meditate.

Admittedly, I myself suck at sitting on a yoga mat and closing my eyes in order to meditate. But playing music brings me to a meditative-like state that makes me just straight up feel good.

My mind is just constantly racing in day-to-day life, so it’s nice to have something that allows my brain to concentrate intently on one thing.

Basically, there’s a million reason why you should finally just go for it and pick up that instrument. You probably know the benefits already (good for your brain, fun, stress-relieving etc.) But when it comes down to it, it’s better to just start rather than spend years wishing you did.

Here’s some advice to get you started:

Find Motivation!

I will admit I am pretty attached to my phone and spend a lot of my time scrolling through Instagram. However, I turned that into a positive thing by following musician accounts that musically inspire me.

So instead of my Instagram feed being oversaturated with mindless aesthetically pleasing pictures, it’s now filled with posts that make me feel motivated and excited to learn my instrument more. 

One of my all time favorite Instagram accounts is this beautiful lady. She is a performance major at the University of North Texas who absolutely radiates passion for the clarinet. What I love about her is that she is more than willing to posts videos of herself practicing, doing musical exercises, and/or learning something completely new–even if it isn’t quite perfect yet. It is so refreshing to see someone who shows the reality of practicing and isn’t afraid to show what goes on behind the scenes of a flawless performances. 

Have Realistic Expectations

 You are probably not going to be able to play like Kenny G after a few months of hard practice (sorry, but that’s just how it is).

Learning a new instrument is a lot like starting to go to the gym for the first time ever; it takes work, time, and you’re probably not going to have your dream body in 6 weeks. You have to start small: five pound weights (the musical equivalent of learning your scales).

If You Can Afford It, Take Lessons

First of all,

it is 100% okay if you cannot afford a private lesson teacher.

For a brand new beginner, it is definitely not necessary. There are thousands of incredible musicians out there who are self-taught. Especially with things like Youtube, you can learn a lot from people online.

The only reason I am advising you take private lessons to learn your instrument is because lessons hold you accountable. They give you a good push.  No one is going to force you to practice your scales if you are on your own. However, if someone is expecting you to have learned a new scale by next week, it gives you motivation.

Lessons also are great for giving you structure and direction, as well more personalized help that you can’t really get from a Youtube tutorial. 

If you can’t afford lessons right now, that is okay too!

 If you are going to learn an instrument on your own, my advice would be to remind yourself to slow down when you practice (since a teacher won’t be there to tell you that). Additionally, do not

just

look up how to play songs. If your search history is just “How to Play Moonlight Sonata on Piano”, “How to play Hotel California on Piano”, “How to play My Heart Will Go On on piano”, and so on, you are doing it wrong. 

Your goal is to learn your instrument, not just how to play a bunch of songs. There is a difference! 

Look up tutorials on how to play a scale or how to read music! The fundamentals will be your key to success. 

Bottom line: if you are teaching yourself, do yourself the favor of teaching yourself music, not just a bunch of songs.

Now Let’s Talk About Obstacles Adult Beginners Often Face

A lot of times, adults get frustrated when they can’t play their favorite song right away.

Often people will make their end goal the starting point.

They will find the sheet music to their favorite song, try to play it, then get overwhelmed because it’s too hard, then ultimately give up.

(I’ve been guilty of this too). 

If you want to learn your favorite song, make that a goal for yourself! It will happen with time, you just have to learn the fundamentals first and work your way up to that point. 

Allow Yourself To Sound Bad 

Yes, this is the painful part about learning an instrument.  

As adults, we tend to avoid the things we suck at. But this is one of those things where you are going to sound bad ten times before you sound good once and you’re just going to have to get over it. (I had to give you some tough love here.) 

The good news is that learning an instrument really teaches you how to be patient, especially with yourself. And that’s actually a valuable lessons music can teach you. 

 We as adults have spent our whole lives learning now to be extremely self critical of ourselves! Kids on the other hand, don’t really have that level of self criticism when they learn an instrument. They will be happy if they play something that somewhat even resembles a song! Let alone resemble a recording of the song they are trying to play. So, don’t be so critical of yourself (I know, easier said than done).

Let yourself be bad. Let yourself suck. That’s what practice is for. It’s to get the sucky-ness out of you so when it comes time to perform, all the sucky-ness isn’t there anymore! Remind yourself that you are not less of a musician or not cut out for music because you suck at first (wether it be learning a new song or a whole new instrument). Everyone sucked at first, you are okay!

Don’t Compare Yourself 

This one’s also hard. But you have to keep in mind that you don’t hear the hundreds of hours someone spends sounding bad before they sound good! When it’s you that’s playing, you

do

hear the hundreds of hours you spend sounding bad before you sound good. I know you’ve heard this cheesy thing before, but you have to refrain from comparing yourself to other people’s highlight reels. Ultimately, your biggest enemy won’t be your teacher, your peers, or someone more advanced than you, it will be your own negative thoughts.
You also need to keep in mind it’s not a race, as long as you are doing better than you were before, you are doing great and deserve to celebrate your achievements in music no matter how small!

Patience Patience Patience 

When you learn an instrument, there will be things that you JUST DON’T GET. Spoiler alert: that’s totally normal!

It’s also totally normal if you know in your head what you’re supposed to do but your fingers just won’t do it! Learning a new instrument means the little muscles in your hands are doing something they’ve never done before. You will have to develop muscle memory and work your body in a whole new way.
Never feel bad about any struggle you run into. They’re all normal and it will pass with patience and mindful practice.

Don’t Make Excuses To Not Practice

A lot of times we as adults feel we are “too tired today to practice”, and then fall into a hole where we say that seven days in a row then end up loosing a week’s worth of practice.

Or we feel we are too busy to fit in some practice.

Or sometimes we just straight up don’t feel like it.

To conquer these excuses, I tell myself I just have to sit down and practice for 15 minutes. That way, if I don’t want to continue after those 15 minutes I can stop and feel good that I at least tried. However, most of the time I easily pass those initial 15 minutes getting lost in the music and I end up feeling glad I made myself at least try because now an hour went by and I didn’t even notice!

Of course, if you are sick with the flu I am by no means saying you need to pressure yourself to practice. I am talking about weaker excuses that you can get past with some self-discipline.

In the End, Your Greatest Advantage When Learning an Instrument Is Yourself

You already want to learn the instrument. The power is already in you. You will amaze yourself with what you can do, you just have to actually do it. Thank yourself for even considering this in the first place. Now go do it, and share this with someone who also needs a push to finally do something they’ve always wanted to!

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4 thoughts on “Read This If You Are an Adult Who’s Always Wanted to Learn an Instrument

  1. Thanks for the great post. I started taking piano lessons when I was five because my great aunt (who was a piano teacher) heard me playing melodies and told my parents to ‘get that girl some piano lessons’. I didn’t enjoy practising what was assigned to me as much as I did making music up. When i was about 10 I begged my parents to let me quit and get a horse instead. (We lived on a farm.) They wouldn’t let me. Thank goodness they didn’t. I can’t tell you how much having the skill to play has helped me. It’s allowed me to have the ability to compose songs and share them. And it’s never ever too late to start.

    1. I am so happy to hear you got that experience and continue to enjoy playing! Rock on Katherine! Hopefully you eventually got that horse as well!

  2. Great post Sally! I shared it to my Facebook page and Pinterest. Hopefully others will read it!

    My favourite point is when you said “if you are teaching yourself, do yourself the favor of teaching yourself music, not just a bunch of songs.” This is so true! And something so many beginners don’t realize. This is why the online courses I’m developing focus on teaching adults through improvisation. When learning piano (or any instrument) you’re going to have to work hard no matter what. It takes time and effort. But you get so much more payback for all your time and effort if you work on learning music itself rather than just learning specific songs. Learning songs limits you, but learning music expands the world of possibilities for you!

    When you learn a few songs, in the end you come away with just that. A few songs you can play. And nothing else. If you take the time to learn music itself instead, you then come away with the ability to take what you’ve learned and use it to EASILY learn as many songs as you want. Not to mention the ability to also create your OWN music!

    So much more ROI if you start by learning music itself!

    1. Hey Rebecca!
      Thank you so much for sharing this!
      I feel like our values truly align in the sense that we both value learning music first before a bunch of songs. I feel like the story on your about page really goes along with this!

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