When it comes to music lessons, parents ask numerous questions about how to get their child started. Questions like “How often/long should a student practice?” or “Is it okay to learn more than one instrument at a time?” are very commonplace in our line of work. Or how about the ever popular “I want to put my child in music lessons, but what instrument should I start with?” In fact, we get so many questions, we wrote an article about when you should start music lessons for your child.
Often, these questions lead to conversations about the parents own musical experiences growing up. In these conversations, a reoccurring theme tends to surface. Time and again, the parent will often regretfully divulge: “I should have stuck with it.” (the second most common being “I wish I’d had the opportunity to learn an instrument when I was young”).
Nearly as prevalent as these conversations is the dogmatic belief that after you reach a certain age, you’ve “missed the boat” on learning an instrument. Well, we are here to inform you that’s not the case! In our years of experience, we have found that yes-you CAN learn an instrument AT ANY AGE! Music boasts a great deal of benefits for students who are actively engaged in taking them. Amongst those benefits are:
- Learning to play an instrument is great exercise for the adult brain.
- Learning to play an instrument will benefits your brain more than any other activity.
- Musicians are less susceptible to brain degeneration.
- Music helps ease pain and anxiety in patients recovering from surgery.
- Music can help persons cope with mental health disorders.
From a more practical standpoint, learning an instrument will bring an element of fun into anyone’s busy life. With the daily responsibilities of work & family, it’s important to sprinkle in fun activities like music to keep our minds and hearts engaged. And, if you are learning the same instrument as your child, it will better equip you to be able to help them practice at home. But, don’t take our word for it. Here is what some of our own adult students have to say about their experiences:
“I have been taking guitar lessons for almost 4 years now with SMMC at the Huntington location. I recently started taking voice lessons from the Mission location 4 months ago too! For guitar, I was thinking about taking lessons for a few years before I signed up. I eventually got tired of pointlessly noodling around on my guitar without making any progress! I knew I lacked the skills I needed to improve as a guitar player, so I decided to sign up. I’ve started to write my own music and I felt the need to sing my own songs, so that’s how I wound up deciding to take voice lessons in addition.
The most challenging aspect for me is patience. Sometimes I feel I should be farther along in my songwriting. After I reflect on what I have accomplished, I realize I am right where I should be. I practice at least 30 minutes a day, sometimes more depending on the task. If I am writing a song, I can spend hours at a time.
To anyone who wants to learn but is hesitant to start, I would say do not hesitate. There are so many great things about learning and playing music. One aspect is you can play your instrument by yourself, a pair, or in a group. You can collaborate with others, work by yourself, or both. Another aspect is the creative endeavor. Coming from a theatre background, designing sets and lights, music allows me to fulfill the creative side of my brain. There is something inherently positive about the creative process that just simply makes me happy. Learning the parts of a song (whether a cover or your own), putting together the pieces of a song, and then playing an entire song from start to finish is deeply satisfying. The sense of accomplishment cannot be understated.”
“I grew up taking piano lessons and still play to this day (far less than I wish I did!) Besides piano, the violin had always called my attention. It’s an instrument I always wanted to play and one day, I decided to just to start taking lessons. I knew it was a much different instrument than the piano and would take persistence, but I’m so glad I had the courage to just make the call and set up some lessons. As a professional actor I think it is very important to be versatile. Already being a singer and having played the piano, I wanted to find a way to be even more diverse.
The most challenging aspect has been making the time. Both for my weekly lesson and practicing at home. As an adult, I have jobs, inconsistent schedules, or “life” that pops up and I have to deal with on the day I’m supposed to take my lesson (or practice at home). I try to make my lessons a priority and I even try to set a practice schedule at home. Even if it’s just 15 mins a day.
If you’re considering lessons for yourself, JUST GO FOR IT. There is no time like the present and no one but you can take that step. I’m so glad I did. Don’t make it something bigger than just trying it out. If it’s not for you, then you tried it! Great! If you find out it IS for you – how wonderful!”
“I have tried for years to learn. Started and then stopped numerous times. The Center opening a facility down the street from my photography studio was a sign to finally accomplish learning guitar! I have tried self-teaching methods and YouTube videos, but they don’t work for me. Having an instructor show you the details makes all the difference. For me, the biggest reward is the progress I’ve made. The most challenging aspect is to stay motivated to practice and not get lazy!”
“My started taking lessons when my children were taking lessons at SMMC. I had wanted to take lessons for some time and I figured I should take lessons while my kids took theirs. If I didn’t do it now, I knew I probably never would! I also chose to take music lessons because music has been a big part of my life. My favorite songs revolve around big guitars and frantic drums so I wanted to learn to play some of that. Taking the lessons has been humbling and I have so much more appreciation for people who are good players and songwriters.
Although my progress has been slow and I can’t practice as much as I’d like, I’m happy that I can actually play some of my favorite songs (not as well as the original of course!). I started with zero experience, so the fact that what I play sort of sounds like a song is good for me! As a 46 year old, I’ve come to learn that it’s never too late to learn new skills. It keeps you curious and open minded. My instructors have been great and have opened me up to things involving music theory, classical and jazz techniques. It’s great to learn both the technical as well as the artful/creative aspects of music. My music lessons are one of the highlights of my week!
The most challenging aspect has been finding the time to practice. With work and family life, it’s been difficult to get in as much practice as I would like. But, even if I can squeeze in 15 minutes, I try to find the time. To anyone considering to start, I’d say it’s fun and challenging to pick up a new instrument, no matter how old you are. I’d hate to just fall into middle age and continue the same routines. In some ways, it’s good to be child-like and try to learn a new skill and see what sort of wonderful sounds you can create!”
Thank you to everyone for sharing their experiences! It sounds like everyone wants to practice for more time than their schedule allows, but it’s great to hear that with even minimal practice, progress is made. It’s very true that all it takes is 15 minutes per day to build facility over time. The other piece to the puzzle besides the minimum amount of time needed is when to practice. Everyone’s schedule is different, but finding the right time to sit with your instrument uninterrupted is something to plan for. It boils down to just those two things and if you’re able to get down can lead to big payoffs in learning to play.
Hopefully reading this article inspires some of the other parents out there to stop sitting on the sidelines and book a music class! Our roster of degreed music teachers are ready to work with anyone at any age or skill level. Make 2023 the year that you finally pick up that new skill!