Learning how to play an instrument as an adult can be daunting, from finding the right teacher to finding time to practice, and even maintaining your confidence. But fear not — just bring out your inner kid! Find out how in this guest post by John Gotsis from Vibe Music Academy…
I’ve always had a hard time being taught by teachers who are younger than I am. Call it pride, call it skepticism, whatever. It’s just tough for me.
I’m guessing most people can relate to the feeling; when we think of teacher-student relationships, we usually assume that the teacher is older than the student. And why wouldn’t we? People who are older have more life experience, and more life experience is better than less, right?
Well… not in every way.
I’ve been teaching music for about five years, and the majority of my students have been children. And though I wouldn’t have guessed it going into it, after all this time spent with these young music students, I’ve found myself learning from them even as they learn from me.
I consider myself a lifelong student of music, and many of my younger students have taught me valuable lessons about how to be the best student that I can be — regardless of my age. Today, I want to share five of those lessons that I’ve learned from those kids.
1. Learn from someone who’s better than you.
What’s with adults always thinking that we can conquer the world on our own? How does that “go-it-alone” mentality turn out in other areas of life? Music is no different. Kids tend to quickly recognize the need for guidance, and adults should too!
There’s tremendous growth that can happen when you learn from someone better than you, and there’s plenty of ways to do it. Private lessons, online classes, masterclass clinics, and simply seeking advice from musician friends can dramatically improve your progress as you learn how to play an instrument as an adult.
2. Bring it back to the basics.
I spend a lot of time going over the fundamentals with every young music student that I have. There are only so many ways to make a major scale interesting, but fundamentals are important for everything we play! This is an important takeaway for adult music students to remember: Even when we feel like the ground-level stuff is beneath us, a strong foundation actually helps us grow faster.
3. Find opportunities to play with real people.
Kids get involved in school music programs, group lessons, summer camps, garage bands, and so on. And adults… play along with YouTube videos.
Slight difference, eh?
Music is meant to be played with others, performed for audiences, and learned from and alongside fellow music lovers. Sure, there’s a ton that we can and should learn on our own, but that’s only skimming the surface of what music has to offer! Consider getting involved in an amateur performance workshop, finding a local jam session, or getting together with friends to play music.
4. Be teachable.
This goes along with point #1, but being teachable goes beyond simply finding a teacher. In fact, this life lesson even goes beyond the scope of music itself. Aldous Huxley (author of the book Brave New World) once said, “Experience teaches only the teachable.” How true is that!
Kids learn by being taught. We can take after them by always remaining teachable.
5. Don’t believe the lie that “you’re too old.”
I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for those who learn how to play an instrument as an adult. They know it’s never too late to learn, making a mockery of the “old dog can’t learn new tricks” cliché.
There’s a great article in the New York Times about a woman in her sixties who decided to pick up the cello after having never played before. Eleven years later, she was performing with orchestras and string quartets and loving every minute of it.
If you’re like me — an adult music learner — then there are plenty of takeaways that we can grab simply by observing the way the best learners in the world (children) learn music. If we stay humble, enjoy ourselves, and don’t buy into to the accusation of being too old, then we will attain the satisfaction that comes from being able to call ourselves “musicians.”
John Gotsis, M.M., Owner and Music Instructor at Vibe Music Academy in Fishers, Indiana, is a full-time teacher and performer. He has worked with the likes of Rodney Whitaker, the Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan State University, and Blue Note Records guitarist Peter Bernstein.