Tuesday, December 13, 2011

5 Steps to Learning an Instrument

It is hardly possible to develop as strong of an appreciation for music without playing an instrument, than with playing.  Contrary to popular belief, learning an instrument can be done at any age and at any level.  Granted, it is certainly easier to learn an instrument when the paper and ink is still fresh, but anyone can learn if they really want to, which brings me to the first step in learning an instrument - "want to".

Step 1) Desire to learn
Many are probably thinking to themselves "well, duh, if I am looking to play an instrument I obviously want to", but the truth of the matter is is that there are multiple levels in desire to learn.  The "desire to learn" that says "I just want something to do as a hobby here and there and so playing an instrument would be a good use of time", is the type of desire that is good for learning many hobbies - but not music.  Music is something that must be done whole-heartedly, without the approach that "I will do it when I feel like it". The desire of learning an instrument must come from the innermost part of a person that truly feels a pull to music.  The person who succeeds in learning an instrument is the one that spends hours and hours of his "free time" practicing, listening to music, reading about music, etc.  If there is no passion your chances of succeeding are few to none.  

Step 2) Practice, practice, practice
Do not fool yourself into thinking that if you have the fire it automatically means you will have the discipline.  Practicing in general is not something that is necessarily always enjoyable (although it should never be burdensome), and it is as never exciting when you are halfway through a piece as when you first begin a piece.  But bear one thing in mind - you will not get anywhere if you do not have thorough and disciplined practicing sessions.  For a beginner you can pass with no less than 30 minutes a day, but if you really want to be good and make it a real part of your life, you should be practicing for anywhere between an hour and a half to five hours.  The more you practice, the better you become.  

Step 3) Find a good teacher
While all your achievements and progressions in music will come 100% from you, a good teacher is often essential in maximizing your potential.  There are oftentimes misconceptions about teachers, so let's get some things straight:  A teacher will not practice for you, make you practice, practice for you, and make you practice.  Once again, a teacher will not practice for you or make you practice.  But a teacher can often give you tips and guides, encouragement when needed, proper criticism, and direction.  Obviously a teacher is much more important during the beginning phases of playing than when you are already competent on your own, but even professional musicians still take lessons.  Make sure to find yourself a teacher that you can relate to well, and is good for your level.  Some teachers are great at teaching beginners but are not skilled enough to teach more advanced students or do not have the personality to do so, and some people are great at teaching already advanced students but do not have the patience to teach beginners.  

Step 4) Live music
This step is sort of a reiteration of Step 1, but it is really crucial in learning music.  You need to really love music.  Your "music time" should not just be spent in front of the piano or cello, but should also be spent listening to music.  There is no limit to the repertoire of music you can become familiar with - Symphonies, operas, piano solos, concertos, romantic, contemporary, etc.  Go to concerts, reading biographies of composers and musicians, and become familiar with the rich culture music has to offer.  The more you learn to love music the more you will find yourself immersed in it.  

Step 5) Don't give up
At some point you will inevitably try to convince yourself that "this just isn't for me".  Do not listen.  Instead of brooding about it, start practicing more or improving the quality of your practicing sessions.  There is no great musician that I know of that never had a phase in his life that he threatened himself to quit.  This is another great reason to have a teacher.  A good teacher will give you the strength to continue playing when you feel that you're just not good enough.  You will never succeed if you do not push through those hard moments in which you just need to go through the actions even if you don't want to.  

With these five steps, anyone can become a great musician and find true happiness in music.

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