Beyond the obvious ‘prepare for a long slog, be patient, and appreciate baby-steps’, what can help us to learn a musical instrument after we have passed through the magical childhood years, where learning anything seems so simple?
The easiest hurdle to tackle is time. While everyone has a different scheduling strategy that works for them, try for a certain amount of time each day and a certain number of days each week to practice. Practicing on more days for less time is much preferable to practicing once a week for three hours. Break it up! Play for a few minutes in the morning and then again for a few minutes at night, right before bed.
The difficulty of learning an instrument and our personal expectations really go hand in hand, so come up with goals that take into account current ability, available time to practice, and desired results (as in, where do you want to be in one, two, five years). It might be helpful to say, ‘I will finish this introductory method book in one year’. Another goal might be to perform a simple holiday tune at the family get-together in a few months.
Don’t be afraid to adjust goals as necessary! If finishing that method book in a year becomes impossible, plan to finish in two. If that holiday tune turns out to be too easy, pick a more difficult one. Remember, music is supposed to be fun and rewarding! Creating circumstances to keep it that way is paramount.
It can be extremely difficult not to judge ourselves too harshly, especially when we have an idea of how we want something to sound, and we can’t quite make it happen. Ever heard, ‘patience is a virtue’? Of course – now repeat that as many times as it takes to be okay with your progress, even if it seems much, much slower than you imagined when you first embarked on your musical adventure.
One final tip for those wanting to improve their musical playing abilities: listen to music. Lots and lots of it! The more music we listen to, the smarter our ears become. The smarter our ears become, the easier it is for us to play our instruments. If you have just picked up the tuba, listen to a lot of tuba music. Try and find the pieces that you are working on, too – this can help greatly, particularly with a brand new piece of music. As you get more comfortable playing your current piece, switch it up and go listen to something else - maybe you’ll find the perfect piece for your next musical adventure!Get started on your musical journey today!