Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A few thoughts on music, learning music and a message for beginners...

above: logo for Vh1's Save The Music Foundation

Okay, this has been bothering me for a while but I was reminded about it recently. Today I was helping fifth graders try brass instruments at a local grade school. During a break between classes, a colleague of mine who was showing students Trumpets came over to me and said, "I really hate it when they struggle to make a sound and say 'since I am not instantly amazing at this I will give up.'"

I tend to agree with his sentiment. I have heard from people very close to me that "...I am not musically inclined."   This bothers me very much, and I will explain why. 

Music is a skill. Just like other skills it comes easy to some and might be more difficult for others, and just like other skills, developing musical ability requires work. From learning to read music to playing an instrument or singing and developing your aural skills it's all just practice and work.  

I am not claiming that there aren't gifted people whom music comes easier to. I am also not claiming that for some playing music seems like an insurmountable obstacle. I just want to communicate this message to people who struggle while in the beginning stages of learning an instrument: don't give up. 

It is so easy to be lazy in what a very smart man called our "3 minute microwave" culture. In the age of the internet when you can have almost anything very quickly it is very easy to give up when you aren't instantly Arnold Jacobs when you pick up a Tuba for the first time. 

But don't give up. If you are a parent with a child in band or orchestra, don't let them quit. Find out why they wish to quit and talk to them about it. Help them have fun with it. If they don't like the music at school, help them find music that is fun. I think that is the most important factor: Fun.
It sounds kind of stupid, but I don't care. If you are having fun with your music, you are doing something right. I think that some of the students who have trouble initially don't understand how much FUN they can have learning and working on music. This is true for older folks too. Don't be scared of music, just jump in and have fun with it. 

This rant is officially over. Just my goofy opinion. Let me know what you think in the comments section, or send me a message via facebook or email.

(yup, even for this...)
(why? because I like them)


  1. I TOTALLY agree! I think you hit the nail on the head. Our current culture not only preaches instant gratification, but kids nowadays are also told "everyone's a winner." Kids get praise even if they do nothing nowadays. So many kids today don't know what it's like to truly fail at something, and then have to try to get better (like trying a trumpet, not getting a good sound, then having to improve upon that). Plus playing an instrument is not exactly self-explanatory! We just need to be encouraging and fill students' heads with GOOD SOUNDS (recordings, demonstrations) while they are learning to play.

  2. YES - Struggling is how we improve and LEARN. It is also how we develop problem solving skills.