So you’re an adult and you want to learn how to play an instrument

Written by: Kyle Novak

“I used to play an instrument when I was younger, but I quit.  I really wish I would have stuck with it.”

“I always wanted to play and told myself over and over that I’d eventually get around to it.  Now I’m so busy with work and family that I don’t know if I have enough time.”  

“I just retired and have the free time I need to dedicate to the music I’ve always wanted to play, but I haven’t played in such a long time/never played before.”

Have you ever said one of these lines or heard them from someone you know?  Most likely the answer is yes.  Music and creative expression are such important aspects of many cultures, it’s no wonder people want to take part in performing

The possibility of picking up an instrument is always in the forefront of your mind, but you understandably have questions.  If you struggle with doubts about whether you’re qualified to study music and worry that you missed your window, know this:

Don’t let your age and past experience discourage you; it’s not too late to learn how to play a musical instrument!

  • Embrace your enthusiasm

Congratulations on saying yes to bringing music into your life!  This means you have already taken that difficult first step.  Yes, there will be moments of hesitation and doubt – which is why many fall into the easy trap of just saying no and then looking to justify never trying in the first place.  Undertaking this new endeavor is a source of excitement and the fact that you are doing something to better yourself and fulfill a personal goal will provide you with a constant source of motivation.

  • Find your instrument and accessories at American Musical Supply

AMS is here to take all of the guesswork out of buying an instrument, and we have exactly what you need to get started playing acoustic or electric guitar, bass, drums, or piano.  We have an inventory of hundreds of educator and technician approved instruments from the best brands in music with all of the accessories you need for day-to-day use, maintenance and protection.  You’re Pre-Approved for our exclusive 0% Interest, 3-payment plan, so you can start learning on your budget and your schedule.

  • Find a dedicated space in your home free from distraction

Practicing your instrument at home requires focus and a committed routine.  When setting up a personal music space you will need a place to comfortably sit, an area for your music and instrument stands, and a storage space for your accessories, sheet music, and lesson notes.  Having access to a nearby electrical outlet allows you plug in amplifiers, practice aids, and a light source.  Put up decorations to add a personal touch to your space and help put you in a musical mood.  Most importantly, silence your device(s) for the duration of your practice.  Text messages, e-mails, social media alerts, and the temptation for unfocused internet browsing are distractions that need to be eliminated!

  • Find a private teacher

Having a teacher is incredibly important for the beginning student.  They can make sure you are using the proper technique, eliminate potential bad habits, and help you develop a focused practice routine through well-defined curriculum.  There are a number or great independent music studios near you that have teachers who cover every family of instrument out there.  Contact the studio and schedule a time to meet the owner/manager, the teachers, take a tour, and go over their lesson policies.  Research their areas of expertise and credentials.  Check with the studio to see if you can take a trial lesson with a particular teacher to see if everything is a good fit.  Many studios hold student recitals and help provide outside performance opportunities while their teachers have great connections to the musical scene in the area.

You may see advertisements floating around for music lesson services that send a teacher out to your house to work with you in person, touting both the comfort and convenience factor.  In my experience, travelling to a dedicated second lesson location (such as a studio) for music is more productive than having someone come to your house.  Unless your practice area is very isolated, it’s easy for little distractions to sneak into your thought process.  The noise of children, pets, and technology creeping into your lesson space and worrying yourself with the events happening in the rest of your home can truly keep you from having a focused learning experience.  Also, teachers in these programs can easily become fatigued, flustered, and unfocused as a result of demanding travel schedules and tiring commutes over the course of an entire day as they move from home to home.   Again, the situation is different for everyone, so make sure you take a look at your own schedule and home layout before committing to anything long-term.

  • Practice and play daily, even if only for a short while.

Regular practice is the key to memorization and retention of physical muscle memory, most importantly in the earliest stages of learning.  We want to dispel the myth that you need to set aside large amounts of time to practice every single day without exception.  This rigid, more demanding approach works with a certain type of student, but its failure to account for alternative types of learners is what often leads so many to quit in the first place.  The truth is, you do need regular practice to improve your skills, but it is quality that is much more important than quantity.  Focused practice for 15 minutes every day is considerably more effective than a haphazard once-weekly cram session.  So when should you do your practicing?  If you’re a night owl simply plug your headphones into the keyboard or amplifier so you won’t disturb family, roommates, and neighbors and enjoy a late evening practice session.  Some people are notorious early-risers and benefit from getting practice in before they start the rest of their day.  We’re all unique, so there is no universal method that works for everyone.  Everybody has different schedules and times of day when we are most efficient, so it will take some individual experimenting to find out what works best.  Don’t let “being too busy” become a convenient excuse for you not to practice.

  • It’s okay to be frustrated, but don’t let it linger for long periods.

Difficult music, complicated techniques, and confusing new concepts can cause frustration.  The truth is that all musicians get frustrated at times, but you can’t let it linger and overwhelm you with negativity.  The reality is, whenever we start something new we’re not going to be very good early on, and well. . . most adults don’t take very well to being bad at anything.  We have developed a level of skill through experience and study when it comes to the activities in our day-to-day lives.  So how can we overcome our frustrations?  Think young.   Part of why young children learn so effectively is that they realize that they are working with an expert and will follow them without letting their insecurities distract them from attaining knowledge from the lesson.  So think like you’re young, engage your teacher (as an adult, it’s so much easier to communicate your concerns with a teacher!), commit to your regular practice, and you’ll be well on your way to overcoming the adversity that is the cause of your frustration.

  • Remember to enjoy the journey and keep your long-term goals in mind.

I want you to always remember that learning to play an instrument is the beginning of a lifelong journey.  Remember, you’re here because this is something you have always wanted to do, not because you’re being forced by an outside presence.  Keep looking forward, stay committed, don’t be overcritical of yourself, and know that you’re making positive steps each and every time you pick up your instrument.

 

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