For many people, the thought of learning how to play an instrument is daunting, possibly entirely out of reach. So often I hear “Oh, I’ve never been musical” or “Nah, I’m too old.”
I try my best to turn those folks around. You see, I am a believer that everyone has the ability to make music at some level. Just listen to your heartbeat – your body is already giving you rhythm right from the inside. You just need a little confidence kick and allow yourself to be a kid again, in a sense. Set aside your adult worries of “ugh, I can’t get this fast enough” or “I’m embarrassed that I can’t seem to make sense of it.” As adults, we can be very impatient with ourselves!
Learning how to think about music and read music starts as a kind of mathematical/analytical process, deciphering how many beats are in a measure and that the second space on the treble staff is an A, for example. These are the foundational bits that can actually, in many cases, be easier for adults to grasp.
Then there are the more creative and lyrical parts of music, understanding phrasing and dynamics and how a song speaks to us through sound. It’s a fascinating process that, when approached the right way with the right teacher, can be an exciting and rewarding experience.
But so many adults don’t even give it a chance! Or, they can’t find time for it because there are too many other pressing things in their lives, like fitting in their fitness class or running their kids to dance right after work. I totally get it.
But isn’t music worth making time for, too? I mean, you’re doing something for your soul and your wellbeing (research-proven health and brain benefits!) that I would suggest can be an equally important part of taking care of yourself.
I have had the pleasure of helping adults learn to make music (on the ukulele and the piano) and let me tell you, it’s an interesting experience because these individuals eventually realize that they are capable of far more than they give themselves credit for.
When they have the patience to work at it, they can, in fact, make music! Yes!
Plus, they’re strengthening their mind with the constant “fireworks” of synapses working overtime to process the strange language of written music and translate it into a set of physical movements that somehow produce sound and song. They’re learning to work with others if they’re playing in a group, watching for cues and staying in tune and in time. They’re connecting with emotional places when a musical line triggers a memory or feeling. We’ve even seen that incredible connection with the inspiring research around the simple act of even listening to music and its effect on elderly dementia. Music lives in a special place in our brains that can remain intact when all else is failing. I think that’s a pretty amazing thing.
Music resonates with us on many levels and across cultural and geographical boundaries – remember Bobby McFerrin’s demonstration of our innate understanding of the pentatonic scale in that TED Talk?
Music making is a unique and truly valuable experience that more adults should open their minds to. I challenge you to consider learning an instrument, no matter your age, no matter the instrument. I can guarantee that if you can connect with a teacher who can support your learning effectively, you will have an amazing experience that you’ll carry with you through a lifetime.