Music education articles and blogs espouse the benefits of learning to play an instrument at a young age. We know that musicianship aids in brain development, empathy, and the development of social skills, and may set young students up for a lifetime of positive response to music in many forms. What is less publicized is the many ways in which picking up an instrument for the first time later in life can bring joy and excitement to the lives of adults. For those who are thinking about pursuing the dream of learning to play music as an adult, here are seven tips that will help you make the most of the experience.
1. Open your mind and be teachable
After years of developing professional skills and learning life lessons, it can be difficult for some adult beginners to play the role of student again. However, if you want to grow as a musician, you must make sure that you put yourself in a teachable mindset. Seek out an accomplished instructor whose skills are demonstrably better than your own, and allow him or her to guide you through the process of learning to play. Closing your mind to learning from another adult will only hinder your ability to make progress and ultimately, frustrate you further.
2. Know what you enjoy
One advantage that adult beginners have over their younger counterparts is that they have had a much longer period of time to develop personal music tastes. As an adult who wants to learn an instrument, you should go into the hobby knowing what type of music you like, and let that knowledge guide you toward choosing an instrument that really speaks to you. The more that you enjoy an instrument, the more likely you are to follow through with lessons and practice, thus increasing the likelihood you will become proficient. Do yourself a favor and spend more time thoughtfully choosing the type of instrument that you want to play and less time cycling through different options just to find one you think you should play.
3. Apply self-discipline to your practice
Another advantage that adult beginners have over young beginners is that as a whole, adults have a more developed sense of self-discipline, which allows them to persevere independently though difficult periods of instruction. Make sure to remember the value of self-discipline if you reach a point in your lessons where you are struggling to improve and feel tempted to give up. Hold yourself accountable for routine practices and know that, with enough practice, you are capable of success. Self-discipline will also be important in your ability to make time in your schedule for practice alongside the demands of work, family, and social life.
4. Set realistic goals
While certain beginners may have a more natural ability to play than others, it’s important for all adults to pursue a new instrument with a realistic goal in mind. Go into the process of learning an instrument knowing that the goal will take ample time and effort, and even then you should not expect to become a virtuoso. The more flexible you are about your goals, the more likely you are to be satisfied with the progress that you make, and the more enjoyable that learning an instrument will be.
5. Understand the necessity of patience
In conjunction with setting realistic goals, it’s important for adult beginning musicians to never underestimate the role that patience plays in the process of learning music. It’s important to remember that fundamentals are not beneath you as an adult learner. People of all ages need a strong foundation on which to build their musical proficiency. Additionally, recognize that there is no way to speed up the process of learning, and don’t feel defeated if your progress is not moving along as quickly as you would like. Don’t worry about struggling with concepts, and don’t give in to fear of failure. Give yourself time to grow into your abilities, and celebrate every musical milestone of your success along the way.
6. Find likeminded people to practice with
Children often learn instruments in group settings, and the community element of that experience can have a big impact on their enjoyment of the process and the development of new skills. When you’ve practiced enough to feel comfortable with your basic abilities as a musician, consider seeking out other amateur adults in group music workshops or local jam sessions to further your abilities. Playing with others not only teaches you the nuances of working together as a group to produce a sound, but it also can provide a reassuring sense of community and an opportunity to make new friends.
7. Remember that you’re never too old to learn
Never think that you are too old to pick up an instrument for the first time. While music may be easier for a child to learn in some ways, there are many qualities exclusive to the adult set that make pursuit of an instrument much simpler. As an adult, you are much more likely to understand abstract concepts, more likely to stay committed to learning an instrument, and more likely to truly appreciate the skill, because no one is forcing you to learn. Stay focused and enjoy the process without giving your age a second a thought.