Start Playing Music Again – Tips for relearning an instrument
There are many of us out there who took music lessons as a child but stopped when we reached adulthood. If you are experiencing the urge to get back into playing music as an adult, you’re certainly not alone. Here are some tips and food for thought about how to prepare yourself for a successful musical restart.
Finding the right teacher
There are several reputable online resources out there that can help you locate a teacher that will be a good fit for you. As a teacher, I have favored Reverb Lessons, and have had some of my best students find me through that channel.
Be sure to get in touch with prospective teachers and ask all of the questions you feel necessary. We don’t mind the questions! In fact, we would like to hear about all of your concerns, goals, and aspirations as a musician because that helps us prepare and plan your lessons and, therefore, making the most out of our time together. Teachers will likely want to hear about your musical history and experience with your instrument. The more detail you feel comfortable providing about that experience, and why you would like to resume them now is always quite useful information for us.
Be sure that your prospective teacher is amenable to your new goals moving forward. Perhaps now, music lessons and playing music would be a break from everything else going on in your adult life. Alternatively, maybe you are considering getting back into performing at public and private events. Your teacher should be able to aid you in preparing for most scenarios and guide you through that process.
Updating Gear and Accessories
If you still own your old instruments and gear, it might be time to have it checked out by a pro. You can certainly take most popular instruments into your local music store to have them inspected and serviced without any issues.
Guitars, basses, mandolins, and the like (most wood instruments) benefit greatly from regular maintenance, often referred to as “a setup.” Horns and woodwinds might need oil and new pads, among other things, but leave that up to your music store if you are unsure.
At the very least, you will probably want to have a tuner and a carrying case for the instrument. Playing in-tune is important to learning the instrument, and that starts with tuning up before each practice session. That case will also help maintain the structural integrity of the instrument, keeping it “playable” for longer, and making it easier to play it in-tune.
Lesson Content and Planning
Your teacher will be able to help you with planning out a promising trajectory for your upcoming lessons. In the meantime, you might want do some brainstorming about what might keep you interested and moving forward.
Just like when we were younger, adults also need engaging material that interests us and doesn’t always feel like”work.” If there are particular performers or bands that you admire, be sure to tell your teacher about them. It can also be helpful for you to locate the sheet music for a given piece, and have that handy for your teacher.
Even if their music is more complex than you are ready to attack on your instrument, your teacher will be able to distill important musical elements from your suggestions and help you break down those pieces into more manageable, smaller topics to practice.
Whatever your goals in this new effort might be, it will be important to enter into it with a positive attitude and an understanding that you will need to carve out time for this endeavor. As an adult, you are likely more capable than before to handle an instrument and be disciplined enough to maintain a regular practice and playing routine. In terms of practice, I recommend that before you begin lessons, try to locate multiple blocks of time each week to dedicate to both playing music and practicing your instrument (15-30 minute blocks recommended).
There is an important distinction here—we need to play and we need to practice. Those are two separate efforts. Practicing time is dedicated solely to material that is new, under-developed, or requiring a kind of “I’m working on this” energy. Playing time, on the other hand, should be dedicated to performing for fun, like those things that you already know how to play, have totally absorbed or mastered, and that you enjoy. By creating time for both practicing and playing in your week (and keeping those as separate times), your practicing time will be more focused and productive, and your playing time will be more enjoyable and rewarding. Plan this out ahead of time and you will me much more likely to stick with that schedule.
Extra Practice without your Instrument
Lastly, as busy adults, I realize that we might not have an abundance of time to practice or have our instrument handy. Depending on how familiar you are with your instrument, you might be able to do some “mental” practice without your instrument in hand and at any location. With this method, you can imagine the sound and feel of your instrument, doing your best to feel like you’re actually performing (I recommend trying to imagine scales both ascending and descending for trying to imagine tunes or chords). There is no substitute for the real thing, but I encourage you to try it. If it works for you, that’s another few minutes of practice time you can work into your busy schedule!
This post is part of our new Teacher Series highlighting helpful tips for music teachers and students. Today’s guest blogger is Reverb Lessons guitar instructor Timon Kaple. Timon is an accomplished songwriter and performer who teaches from his home-base of Nashville, as well as remotely via Reverblessons.com.