Learning How To Play An Instrument: Things To Get You Through
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I play a few instruments, and many times I have been asked questions related to this. How did I learn to play it and so on and so on.. I can not tell you how many times I have heard someone saying: “Oh, well, you started at an early age, that is why you’re so good at them”. And that is true. I did start learning to play instruments at an early age. There’s a certain truth in this if you think about it this way: Young children’s brains are still developing, or as science calls it – they are characterized with plasticity. Their brains are like sponges. They absorb everything and they absorb quickly.
So yes, this makes it easier for them to get better at learning an instrument. I have met many people who get because they’re a little older and they think they can’t do it.
The truth is, learning how to play an instrument isn’t that defined by age as much as it is defined by how much time you spend practicing. It’s the time spent getting to know your instrument that makes you better at it. So, as someone that hasn’t been a child with a plastic brain for a while now, and as someone that still has a huge amount of curiosity around instruments, here are some things that you might find helpful if you decided that you want to learn playing an instrument:
Lessons, books, teachers, classes..
In the era of the internet these things I believe are not such a huge must. There’s many tutorials online you can find very useful. It really depends on you and how much effort you think you should put in the beginning (this one you definitely know best), so you can get things going.
If you feel like you need to take classes and you can afford taking classes, then that is great as well. If you feel like you can do it on your own, still good. One thing I can tell you (since I never really took classes), is that the connection you make with your totally estranged tool from scratch is very important, and there’s a certain beauty in the process from not having any idea what you are doing, to when you know your thing on your guitar, keyboard, drums or whatever it is that you choose.
Take it easy and take it slowly
Learning how to play an instrument is actually a long process (for ones more than for others). It does start with the silliest things. I assure you. Music is a majestic movement, it has rhythm, tempo, it’s colorful through its notes. It is up to you the methods you’re going to use to practice these things, but one thing is for sure – you will need a lot of patience.
In the beginning you will be stuck between a few chords. You’ll go through them for hours and hours, and maybe days. And that’s okay, that’s how you learn. Take easy and slow steps, you’re in no rush. In the end, each and every second spent on this really does make a difference. Set smaller goals, this way you will stay on track and won’t stress yourself over something that you will easily learn if you practice, anyway.
Pick things you will enjoy playing
Pick something simple and something you will find fun to play in your beginning. A melody you find enjoyable will motivate you to practice longer and to try harder. Let yourself into it. It is okay if it is something repetitive. Something of a few chords that simply vary in rhythm or tempo through the piece you chose. This way I think it will be easier for you to create a stronger bond with your instrument, and a more stable one in time. It will be easier to catch on your mistakes and pay attention to things you need to fix in the future.
Don’t be afraid of mistakes
Mistakes are a part of the learning experience. Not just a part, but also a part you really can’t avoid. Now, these things can easily get you discouraged or frustrated, but keep in mind you will make a lot of them, and stupid ones, especially in the beginning. Just remember that it does get better in time, and that the more you learn the more things open up for you.
Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as expected. Many times as I was learning, and as I was getting more familiar with the sound of the piano for example, I’d have something in my head, and when it came to taking it out, the actual practice didn’t exactly match the idea in my head. In moments like these keep trying and being patient.
The rules of the book
You’ve got the books, the tutorials, the classes, whatever it is that you picked to guide you through your learning. And I’m not saying they’re not important. All I am saying is that it is okay to not be very obedient sometimes. Music is an experience that sets us free, and you should let yourself be fully comfortable with it. So be comfortable with your instrument, it’s fine if you’re not checking all the rules in the book. Amazing things can come out of your head if you sometimes pay attention.
Practice every day
Sometimes the amount of hours are not as important as doing something continuously. When learning how to play an instrument, our body relies on the same thing as when learning how to ride a bike – muscle memory. The more you’re playing – the more your muscles will memorize the right movements at the right times and so on and so on.
To keep yourself in shape, try to practice your instrument every day. The longer the better, of course, but sometimes even 15 minutes can make a huge improvement, especially if you’re fresh and motivated, and willing to give your best.
As time goes by and you become better with learning…
…you’ll notice your muscle memory will take the instrument as you second nature. You’ll think less about hitting the right chords at the right time, and your senses will take over. Take this as a gift from your hard work. It does feel awesome.
Use additional tools
A metronome for the tempo. A recorder to hear yourself afterwards.Tons and tons of apps out there to help you improve your senses, rhythm, movements, tuning.. Use them. They will help you with improving some important things when it comes to your learning. Use all the resources you possibly can.
What I’ve learned from learning
Yes, I know. Tons of articles out there about what are the important things when learning how to play an instrument. Many of them with the same things. But if I can leave you with the most important thing I realized from learning how to play instruments, it is that it affects you as a person on a much greater level than you think it does in the first place.
See, being patient during my practice made me become a more patient person in general. Towards myself and towards others in different situations. Making mistakes while learning taught me not to get discouraged from making mistakes in general. And while playing, I learned to listen better. Especially to myself. Which I think it is a gem if you’re a creative person. It takes you places.