Learning music has a wide range of benefits that can change your life. Apart from being a fun stress-reliever, music not only improves your health, but also enhances your cognitive function. While it might be true that children have an easier time learning music, you are never too old learn to music.
In this article, we’ll give you some tips to get you started with learning music as an adult. We base these tips on the advantages and challenges you face as an adult learning music.
Advantages and Challenges of Learning Music as an Adult
Learning music as an adult has its perks over learning music when you’re young. We should make full use of these advantages for effective learning.
Advantage 1: Deeper understanding of music
As you mature into an adult, you have a deeper understanding of music both analytically and emotionally.
Adults tend to have an easier time understanding music theory than children. Chord progressions and common motifs may sound unfamiliar to children but adults who have spent their lives listening to a variety of music will find them easier to recognize. In addition, adults find it easier to relate to the feelings that underlie music compositions.
Adults have the necessary maturity and relevant life experiences to empathise with the thoughts and messages that songwriters want to convey. While children might have competent technical ability, they might not understand the deep passion and longing that underlies songs like George Michael’s Careless Whisper.
In a similar vein, the emotions in classical music are more accessible to adults. For instance, some of Chopin’s work like Prelude in E minor conveys deep melancholy that might be lost on younger learners.
Advantage 2. Greater drive to learn music
It is commonly said that 10000 hours of practice is needed to master any craft.
Likewise, learning music requires patience, discipline, and sustained interest. As an adult who (most likely) pays for your own music education, you are most likely learning music because you want to, and not because your parents are forcing you. With your motivation, you will find it easier to stay committed to music practice and develop mastery. Children are less likely to have this discipline.
It’s not all roses though. Learning music as an adult comes with unique challenges that children do not usually face. We should work around these challenges.
Challenge 1. Commitments
We are all busy. We have our jobs and careers to build, aging parents and growing kids to take care of, friends to keep in touch with, and chores to do...the list goes on and on. While we might have the motivation to practice, our responsibilities can make it hard to find the time to practice or commit to regular lessons
Challenge 2. High expectations
Sometimes, we have unrealistically high expectations for ourselves. We hope to play as well as our favourite musicians or talented friends within a short time. However, these musicians have put in many years of practice to get that good at their instruments. To avoid disappointment and frustration, we need to recognize that it takes time to attain mastery of our instruments and set achievable goals.
Challenge 3. Physical restrictions
While some of us might be able to put in hours of practice each day, we might eventually experience pain, especially when we first start learning music. Stiff necks and shoulders as well as bad hips can stop us from putting in the amount of practice we desire and become impediments to learning music.
8 Things Adult Music Learners Should Do
Keeping in mind the advantages and challenges we’ve outlined above, these tips will help you get the most out of learning music.
1. Identify what kinds of music you like
It is only natural that we would want to play music that we already enjoy listening to. As adults, we most likely have developed clear music preferences. We are more emotionally engaged by some types of music than others. This isn’t usually the case for young children as their music preferences are still being shaped.
Learning music that we like keeps us motivated to continue practicing. Go through your music library and identify the types of music that you like. You might find it helpful to start from a particular artist, composer, or genre. Next, find out what you need to play that style. One good way to do this is to look for song covers on Youtube. Sometimes, you might even find links to sheet music in the video descriptions.
You should also identify what exactly you like about the music. If you like Guns and Roses, do you like Axl Rose’s melodic singing? Or are you enamoured with Slash’s guitar solos? Perhaps you like the rhythm provided by the drums and bass?
2. Choose your instrument carefully
If you find that you have specific preferences for particular genres of music, you should choose the right instrument for that type of music.
Some instruments are more suitable for some styles than others. If you’re a fan of rock and metal, you might prefer to learn the electric guitar or the drums. If you like classical music, the piano or violin might be more interesting. While it is possible to do covers of classical music on the electric guitar and renditions of metal headbangers on the piano, you will find it more engaging to learn an instrument that fits your preferred genre of music.
You should pick an instrument that suits your lifestyle too. Do you have the space to have a piano in your home? If you are constantly on the move, picking a more portable instrument like the clarinet might be preferable. If you have thin walls and cranky neighbours, a digital piano with adjustable volume might be most suitable.
3. Be open minded
While you have a preferred style of music, it’s important to keep an open mind to new types of music.
For instance, even though you might be interested in pop piano, learning and listening to Baroque music can’t hurt. You might get new ideas and even grow to enjoy it. You’ll be surprised to find out that there are popular jazz renditions and metal covers of Bach’s music that you might appreciate.
Furthermore, mastering Baroque pieces can improve your skills. For example, practicing Bach’s three-part Sinfonias can train your ear to identify melody lines and improve the dexterity of your fingers as you play multiple melodies at once.
4. Clear distractions
Practice time should be sacred. There should not be any distractions while practicing. You should not be cooking soup, discussing projects on Facebook Messenger, or helping your children with their homework as you practice. When you practice music, you should be entirely focused on honing your musicianship.
This requires some degree of self-discipline. Consider placing a timer in front of you as you practice. Make sure you keep practicing until the desired time has elapsed. Another thing you can do is to create a conducive practice environment. Have a music corner or room in your home without anything to distract you. There should be no computers, mobile phones, or crying babies in your sacred place for music practice.
The good news is that you should be able to actively take steps to minimise distractions. As you are learning music because you want to, you have the determination to get the most out of your practice sessions. Children will need more supervision with this.
5. Set a schedule but be flexible at the same time
If you intend to “practice as and when it’s convenient,” you’ll probably end up getting very little practice.
You should set a practice schedule to help you keep up with your learning. Practice sessions should be regular and timed such that distractions are minimised. Getting help from your partner or spouse to minimise distractions for you goes a long way, especially when kids are involved.
Practice sessions do not need to be too long. Around 30 minutes each time is sufficient. If even 30 minutes is too long, you can look for multiple free periods in your day in which you can practice from 10 to 12 minutes, which corresponds nicely with our average adult attention span. You can also plan for multiple “music breaks” in the day, to destress before gearing up for your next task of the day.
While you should schedule regular practice, you should remain flexible as well. Sometimes, you might have more important things to do than practicing music. It could be a medical appointment, your child’s concert recital, or a friend’s birthday celebration. You should be flexible enough to have a “Plan B” if you have to miss your practice session. Have alternative arrangements in mind. You can practice at a more convenient time, or have a longer session the next time.
As you plan your practice schedule, have some idea of what you want to achieve in each session. To master any piece of music, you need a specific plan with measurable outcomes. If you’re intending to master a long sonata, it helps to break the piece into smaller bits, and master the piece bit by bit. You might find our guide on planning practice sessions useful.
6. Be realistic and patient
You can’t become Jimi Hendrix overnight. Neither can you get to a level of proficiency to jam with your friend who has been playing in bands since they were twelve. It takes years of practice (and many setbacks) to get as good as your favourite musicians. But with regular practice, you can get to a respectable level of competency which will impress not only yourselves, but also your friends and family.
If a piece is way beyond your level of proficiency, consider looking for easier versions of the piece. There are many simplified versions of famous pieces available online and in books. Check out our free sheet music for beginners here. Beginner piano books tend to feature abridged versions of classics like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu.
7. Make getting your posture right your priority
Practicing music can involve getting into uncomfortable, tense positions. Beginner violinists tend to experience jaw and neck discomfort as they twist their neck to hold their instruments in place, while drummers are at risk of back injuries if they have poor sitting posture.
It is important to adopt the right posture to stay free of injuries. Getting your posture right at the early stages of learning music will not only keep you injury-free, but also help you learn and perform better. Be sure to find out what the right posture for playing your instrument is. Check out our posture guides for piano players and guitar players.
8. Embrace technology
As an adult, you have the financial independence to buy smartphones and tablets, and their accompanying applications. There are many apps today that can enhance your learning of music. Instead of buying a physical metronome, why not just download an app for free? Check out our favourite apps for piano, guitar, and drums.
Lastly, why not learn music online? Committing to regular lessons with a teacher might be tough, given your hectic and unpredictable schedule. With online lessons, you can take your learning with you on the go, and learn at any time, any place. Learning music online tends to be more economic too!
Learning music as an adult need not be difficult. It’s a fun and healthy pastime. If you’re ready to start learning music, why not give Liberty Park Music a shot? We have courses for piano, guitar, drums, and music theory.