Sunday, July 11, 2010

Learning an instrument

I wrote my first “real” song when I was in the 8th grade, but there were many attempts before that. Somewhere in the attic I have an old manuscript book with earlier scribblings. I think of that sometimes, when I see the Louisiana Kids performing, or talk to an adult who says “I always wanted to learn to play the ---.”

We have this crazy idea as a society that learning music is reserved for children and teens. Learning to play a musical instrument does take discipline and practice, and most adults are overloaded enough as it is – who has time? So, parents squelch their own desires in order to provide their children with opportunity to learn. I have 2 teenagers – so I know full well how this works.

Truth of the matter is, it’s never too late. I love the idea that there are more opportunities than ever for children and teens to learn music. When I was growing up, I was blessed to have parents who took my constant begging for piano lessons seriously. Had it not been for that, I would have had no musical training at all, for my school had no music or chorus program, and there were no such things as library-sponsored classes or singing groups like Louisiana Kids.

Now it’s different. There are opportunities out there for children and teens. In spite of budget cuts that affect the arts, there is STILL a lot out there.

But what about adults – and young adults? What of the adult who wants to go back to playing music – or start playing, or begin writing music? There are opportunities out there – perhaps not as many as for children and teens, but they ARE there. We are our own greatest roadblock.

“I don’t have time.” “I’m too old.” “I tried learning --- once; it was a disaster!” “When we sang in school, my teacher told me to shut up and just move my mouth.”

Keep this in mind: No one is asking you to play like a concert pianist. And even a little bit of musical training and knowledge goes a long way.

No time? Little slivers of time are OK. Do what you can. Music should be enjoyable.

Too old? You’re never too old to learn something new, unless you think you are!

Tried learning an instrument before? Maybe your teacher’s teaching style didn’t fit your learning needs. Maybe the instrument wasn’t comfortable for you.

Your teacher told you WHAT? Shame on that teacher! Chances are, the song being sung wasn’t in a good key for you, and it felt too high or too low. Or several kids around you were a little off-key, and those different pitch cues ARE confusing.

No matter what your age, if you want to learn (or advance) musical ability, go for it. Some advice for ANYONE who wants to learn to play: Make sure the instrument is something you WANT to learn, and make sure it’s the right “fit.” That’s a subject for SEVERAL blog entries, so I’ll stop here, and continue on that subject next.