Many people feel the urge to learn a musical instrument after watching a great performance. They may have been impressed by the skills of the performer or were attracted to attributes of a particular instrument – be it the soothing tone of a piano, the expressivity of a violin or the rebellious twang of an electric guitar – as something which reflects their inner voice and personality. They then shop around for an instrument and look for tutorials online. Some may contact teachers for private lessons. After a few weeks, they find out that playing a musical instrument is more difficult than they thought. They start to expect less results from themselves. They procrastinate on practice and only play the easy tunes. The instrument gathers dust as their interest wanes. Soon enough, they look for a new hobby.
Without knowledge, learning music can be a daunting task and it is easy to be misguided. This article is meant to guide you before you begin your musical journey. Here are the 5 things you need to learn music.
You need to be realistic about how much money you are willing to spend, how many hours you can commit for learning and practising, and how far you want to go in your musical journey.
Music is a money pit; there is always something to pay for, be it instruments, books, lesson fees, accessories, maintenance, etc. If finance is an issue, it is strongly advisable to improve on that aspect beforehand because music is not a no-frills hobby.
Mastering this art requires time, patience and consistency. You cannot expect to be a virtuoso after the third lesson while practising 10 minutes a week. Many students lose interest when the task gets more complicated or when they do not sound great. Simply put – no pain, no gain.
You need to think about what you want to do with music. Not every music learner can or should be a professional musician. Nevertheless, one must always aim for the stars. If the expectation is low from the beginning, you will have no motivation to improve. It is human nature to be lazy because our minds are wired for familiarity. However, learning music is about embracing the unknown and overcoming oneself. Music is tedious at the beginning, but it is mentally and spiritually rewarding when one has mastered the art.
Spoiler alert! Learning music is much harder than you think. It is a highly complex activity as the brain has to process aural, visual and kinesthetic signals all at the same time. Progress requires momentum. Music is definitely not a pastime which you can engage in whenever you feel like it.
Every person has a different learning aptitude and every musical instrument has its own difficulties. As a general rule, the more time you spend with the instrument, the faster you will progress. It is recommended to spend around 30 to 60 minutes a day for music learning. The key word here is discipline. It is common to get disinterested when you do not produce a good sound or when things become too difficult, but you have to keep going.
Contrary to the instant gratification of our modern age, music learning requires sacrifice. If you are used to getting things done quickly, you will have to forego old habits. You may need to spend a lot of time and resources for music. You must look for references, listen to recordings and attend concerts. You must participate in activities that can help you grow musically. You also need to be humble and have the passion to improve yourself. Music has no room for mediocrity – it is all or nothing. Therefore, you must put all your heart and mind into it.
In today’s information age, we are blessed with the abundance of knowledge and learning materials. Nevertheless, having too much information makes it hard to distinguish right from wrong. It is essential to find a music teacher who can guide you onto the right path.
A good music teacher is someone who can give clear instructions, analyse your weaknesses, give you the right advice and keep you motivated. Avoid picking music teachers out of convenience and price; honest music teachers are short in supply. Do attend music events, ask around, schedule trial lessons and find out which teacher suits your learning style.
Additionally, stick to only one teacher for a certain period of time. Art is highly subjective; different teachers have different opinions on how music should be played. Learning from several teachers at the same time may cause confusion in terms of playing methods and styles. You may switch to a different teacher when you no longer see improvement in your playing.
You need a conducive place to learn and practise music. In order for music to take place, it needs silence. You need to hear your sound, so noise must be avoided as much as possible. Additionally, you do not want to do your private practice in a room with distractions such as gadgets, television, family members, external noise, etc.
You may also need to do some acoustic treatment to your practice room. Practising in a room with a huge amount of echo may make your playing sound louder. However, you will not be able to listen to every detail of your tone production. As a result, you may not hear your weaknesses, and it will shock you when you perform at venues with little reverberation.
You do not need to spend a lot to set up a practice studio. Fabrics, cushions and furniture can help to absorb sound. Do consider the level of comfort of the room with ventilation, temperature and lighting. If practising at home is not conducive, consider practice studios in your area although they may add to your music learning expenses.
Getting the right tools is a must. When buying your first instrument, it is best to ask the assistance of an expert – be it a teacher or a professional musician. Your teacher may earn commission from the sale but it is better to trust the teacher than the music store salesperson.
I would not recommend buying acoustic musical instruments online unless you really know what you are doing. There are so many factors to consider when buying online: whether the instrument works, where to set it up, whether the shipment will be done properly or whether you can return the instrument if you do not like it. It is best to leave these troubles to the professionals because buying the wrong instrument will cost you. On the other hand, for digital or electronic instruments, you may get better deals online but ensure that you make an informed purchase.
You must also be willing to spend to get the best instrument you could afford. In music, you get what you pay for. Find out how much the average price of a particular instrument is for intermediate players. The beginner’s instrument should not cost significantly lower than the step-up model. When the instrument is priced too low, it is likely that corners have been cut to reduce the cost. As such, it is better to save your money to get a high quality instrument than to choose the cheapest item – and you will also help to save the environment.
Sometimes, you can get better deals with used instruments. Musicians tend to upgrade their instruments from time to time. You can get instruments that are still in great condition at unbeatable value. Some of them may require light servicing and replacement of accessories; some may need a major restoration. Therefore, it is advisable to get professional advice if you wish to purchase a used instrument.
On another note, do some research on the commonly used accessories and supplies to accompany your instrument. You may need a music stand, tuner and a metronome. Also bear in mind that musical instruments require maintenance over time. It helps if you know where to get your music supplies and where to service your instrument.
In conclusion, learning music requires dedication and attention to details. Before you start your music lessons, you need to set your expectations, be fully committed, get proper guidance, have the right environment and possess the right tools.