Have you always dreamed of making music? Learning to play a musical instrument is an achievable bucket list goal–as long as you’re willing to put in the time to practice. Here’s what you need to know before you begin.
Choosing an Instrument
The most important thing to consider when choosing an instrument is the type of music you want to play. If you love classic rock, you might go for an electric guitar or bass–or even the drums. If folk music is more your speed, and acoustic guitar will be a better fit. The piano is really versatile, while the violin lends itself more to classical music.
If you just want to strum and sing along to your favorite tunes, I would heartily recommend the ukulele. It might be the easiest instrument to learn–there are just 4 strings! Plus, you can find a ton of resources online to learn new songs and techniques.
Buy or Rent?
The answer to this question will depend on the instrument you chose and your budget. When you’re new to playing, it’s a good idea to buy a mid-range instrument. If you buy the absolute cheapest guitar you can find, you might end up getting frustrated and discouraged because the sound or action is subpar. On the other hand, you don’t want to be stuck with a pricey Gibson if you decide the guitar isn’t really your thing. A decent beginner guitar, bass, or ukulele can run anywhere from $100 to $200.
If you want to learn to play a classical instrument such as the violin, you might be better off renting instead. There are nationwide rental services available, with prices ranging from $10 to $30 a month. I’d recommend renting for 3 months until you decide if the instrument is something you’d like to continue playing. After that trial period, it’ll be more cost effective to buy one.
Should You Take Lessons?
Again, it depends! Thanks to the internet, you can learn to play almost anything through video tutorials and find sheet music or tablature for all your favorite songs. For an instrument with a relatively low learning curve, like the ukulele, bass, or guitar, you can probably master the basics on your own. Those instruments also have the advantage of being 100% playable without needing to read music. You can play them by using simple chord charts or tabs instead, which is great if you’re new to music.
Most other instruments require that you can read music. This is a great skill once you get the hang of it since you’ll be able to expand your repertoire and learn more complicated compositions. However, it’s harder to learn on your own.
If cost is a factor, be aware that most music lessons cost $20 to $40 a session, and you’ll be expected to take weekly lessons.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Whether you choose to learn on your own or take lessons, the most important thing you need to do is practice. If possible, set aside a minimum of 20 minutes every day to practice. The more you play, the faster your muscle memory will develop. If you’ve never experienced it, the feeling of being able to play without consciously thinking about the notes and finger positions is really rewarding! Unfortunately, getting to that point takes time and repetition.
A great way to ensure you practice more often is to put your instrument somewhere you can’t ignore it. Set up your stand right next to your desk or couch, so that whenever you sit down it’s incredibly easy to pick up your instrument and play for a while.
Finally, to stay motivated, make sure that you always have a goal to work towards. Learn new songs, and as your confidence builds, consider joining a club, performing at an open mike night, or even starting a band!