There's never a bad time in life to pick up something new.
It doesn't matter what the hobby is, nor how old you are, or what your skill level or knowledge may be regarding the said hobby. The important thing is to just do it! You will never progress and you will never learn without initiation, so be the initiation!
We went over a collection of wonderful hobbies of which you can master with just about an hour of dedication a day. That's not a lot of time, but it's a heck of a lot of learning to be had!
And part of that collection was focused on hobbies that fall under the ‘arts’.’ So today we are going to go a little more in-depth with one of these artistic hobbies, further expanding on the available potential of learning how to play an instrument.
This hobby is one that you will take with you for the rest of your life, and is one that invigorates both your mind and body, a practice that is spiritual in nature, grounding, and one that is like health food for your mind.
How to Learn to Play an Instrument
When thinking of artistic hobbies, music surely pops into your mind.
Learning to play an instrument is truly so easy, and regardless of what you sound like in the beginning, give it enough time and pay enough attention to the right resources, and soon enough you'll be jamming it up!
If learning an instrument is something you would like to do, then stick around because we got ya covered in this guide!
1. Choose the Instrument
Choosing the instrument you want to play is one of the most difficult aspects of learning to play. When there are so many great instruments out there and so many beautiful sounds of each, how could you possibly choose?
Well, the good news is that once you learn one instrument, no matter what it is, the others become much much easier to also take on. So even if you don't like the first choice, the time you spent learning was not at a loss at all.
So when it comes to the first one, my biggest suggestion is to learn what you think sounds good and what you think you want to play!
If you are someone who wants to learn how to play music, then you have probably had an idea in mind of what you want to play through your musical inspirations, so just go for it!
Sure, certain instruments are easier to take on than others. And if you need ideas as to the easiest instruments to learn, here are a few great places to start!
Pianos are very beginner-friendly, and by learning piano you will simultaneously learn a lot about the music itself. A piano will teach you the basics of reading music, understanding notes, getting a feel for rhythm, and much much more.
It is known that the piano is one of the best and easiest instruments to get into, but it is also one of the most difficult to master. So once you get a hand of your playing in the beginning stages, just known that upcoming difficulties breaching the threshold of playing really, really good takes time!
Along the way you will gain a huge understanding of notes, the staff and clefs, how to read a sheet of music, and music theory in general. With this, the sky quite literally becomes the limit!
Keyboards and pianos in terms of the playing itself are extremely similar. Keyboards, however, provide you an extra element of music that you may be interested in learning.
Because keyboards are electric, you can easily record your music and add extra sounds, helpful for learning to play with other instruments and also if you are looking to get into forms of music production, such as recording yourself with vocals or other tracks.
Slightly more accessible than a piano and slightly more versatile when learning to play, a keyboard is a great way to learn music while simultaneously expanding on other aspects of music.
Between its general popularity and also simplicity, the guitar is one of the best instruments to learn for a beginner. There are endless resources available, guitars are fairly cheap, and you don't have to actually learn how to read music (although it is beneficial to do so) to play.
Instead, you can just follow along with tabs, like on this website, and play your favorite songs by following the finger and fret pattern.
There exist a bunch of different kinds of guitars, including acoustic, electric, and classical guitars. When starting out, your best bet is to learn the basics of guitar on acoustic.
This way, you gain knowledge of chords and scales which can then translate into playing electric guitar. With electric guitar, you will have to also learn how to manage the variety of sounds through amplifiers which adds an entirely new element, and this is much easier to navigate when you already know how to play acoustic.
Ukuleles only have four strings. Although this might limit your potential in the long run, it makes this instrument much easier to understand. The strings are also nice and soft and the fretboard is really small, so this will help you to place your fingers in the right spots in the beginning stages, as you are not working with six strings as you do when compared to guitar.
A simple and really fun instrument to learn, I highly suggest the ukulele as a beginner instrument.
Even if some instruments might be 'easier' than others, if you had an instrument in mind that you love the sound of and that you specifically want to learn, then absolutely go for it.
If you have always wanted to be a drummer, then pick up those sticks and start drumming! Play what you want to play, as that is the source of having fun with it.
2. Purchase the Instrument
Just as with anything, sometimes it's always best to go with cheaper, used equipment when starting out. This saves you money and helps to ensure that the hobby is actually something that you enjoy before investing in the shiny new stuff.
Local music shops often carry a plethora of used instruments, as well as maintaining a lot of information around the instruments, so give them a quick visit! They can help answer any questions you might have and you can see and touch the instruments in your hands before buying.
And don't shy away from big box music retailers such as Guitar Center or Sam Ash, either! All of their employees are extremely talented in terms of their knowledge of playing, and they are one of the best places to shop in terms of quality and quantity of inventory. Plus, with online shopping options that ship right to your door, you can safely and securely shop for your instrument.
Marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace or eBay are also a great place to start, as plenty of people are trying to sell instruments they no longer want, and this provides a very affordable means to purchase whatever it is you may seek.
Just do some research and do yourself the favor of starting with the cheap stuff before moving into more just in case you don't like it!
3. Set your Game Plan
A game plan of learning is essential.
Just like with anything we learn, muscle memory, consistency, and repetition are the key aspects of embedding it into our minds and body.
Sure, you might be able to learn bits of an instrument by picking it up here or there whenever you have time, but you will never become a master at the art.
To ensure that you are going to give your new musical hobby the right attention, I advise creating a couple of one to two-hour blocks a week that is defined as your lesson! Even if all you can manage is 30 minutes of practice a day, the trick to learning music is to play, play, and then play some more!
Now whether that be a real lesson or not, we'll get into it, but regardless the key is to organize your schedule just enough that your practice becomes something ritualistic like work, homework, or anything else.
By setting up a schedule like this, you will inevitably take learning the instrument seriously, and this will do nothing but improve your skill sets at a much faster rate!
Once you gain your majority of music education, it is similar to riding a bike, and you usually won't forget things. So even if you put the instrument down after your base knowledge is gained, it is always much easier to get back into. A little practice and re-education are all you need!
4. Decide How you Will Learn
You can learn an instrument in a few different ways.
If you are one that likes being talked through the process with the help of another, then one-on-one lessons might be your ticket to success, at least in your beginning stages. Having a teacher that can physically show you what to do or specifically answer any questions you might have is always the best way to learn.
But of course, the way of the world has and is changing, and because of such, in person lessons might not be deemed appropriate. Instead, why not try online lessons?!
Online lessons will create a dedicated time block of practice just as in-person ones do, ensuring your practice consistency, and they can be done from the comfort of your own home which is always nice.
That being said, if lessons aren't for you, then you can absolutely learn an instrument completely on your own; and there are so many at-home DIY resources available to help teach you this art, and so many of them are entirely free!
There is literally no better place to begin a journey into music than there is with YouTube.
If you have a question on how to do something, there's a good chance YouTube has the answer, and this couldn't be more true than for music.
Your only challenge, however, is to filter through the plethora of available videos.
My biggest suggestion is to find a channel of tutorials that you like and that teaches you at your pace and level, and stick with that channel as if it were your actual teacher!
To find the right “learn how to play music” channels, go for the videos that tend to have a high number of views with a high rating and lots of subscribers. This means that others have probably seen success from the lessons.
That, and always try and find high-quality videos (look for good audio, nice lighting, nice video resolution) as you can tell the difference in the quality of teaching for those that actually approach teaching as a career (as showcased in their videos) versus those just putting up a quick how-to tutorial for fun.
Although books are a little tricker in terms of acting as a means to help teach an instrument, for some of us they are the absolute best way to learn. It really just depends on your learning style!
That, and books often contain verified information from trusted professionals, so usually, the information in a book is some of the best information you can find.
Just do a little sweep of your bookstore or library and I can almost guarantee you will find instructional books specific to the instrument you are wanting to play, and dig into the reading with the instrument in hand!
Learn From Others!
Even if you aren't setting up actual ‘lessons’, you can still learn so much from others! Talk to the people in your music store, try to find a friend who also knows how to play an instrument. Watch them and see how they play, learn from their varying styles and take notes on the different things that you do. Take the time to find live performances of your musical inspiration and simply listen to what they do and eyeball the strategies that allow them to do it.
Sometimes sitting back and watching can teach you just as much as actually doing something can, and surrounding yourself with others of similar interest will do nothing but accelerate your journey of learning to play an instrument.
Play With Others
More important than simply watching others play is to actually play with others! It can be intimidated when playing with another person, especially when you aren't sure of your skill level, but I have great news.
Most musicians don't care a bit, and instead, this will simply make them want to help teach you even more! But most importantly, music is rarely singular.
It is usually a collection of multiple sounds brought together, and learning to play an instrument also involves learning how to play that instrument with other ones!
Before playing with actual people, a great way to warm up is to play with background tracks that contain other music. Not quite the real deal, but it is the perfect way to begin learning how to match the sound of your instrument with others, and exactly what a jam sesh just might entail!
Once again, YouTube is a go-to source of background tracks, so a little search should give you more than enough to work with.
No matter what, I can guarantee that at the end of your jam session playing with others you will have learned valuable lessons otherwise unattainable, even from a teacher, so don't let this important aspect of learning an instrument go forgotten, especially if the reason being is because you are scared to play with others!
Getting out of your comfort zone is the most efficient way to progress, and it will teach you things that teachers simply cannot.