Learning an instrument as an adult...ten months later.

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investingdad
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Learning an instrument as an adult...ten months later.

Post by investingdad » Tue Dec 06, 2016 2:03 pm

Latest update at the back of the thread.


-----
Any folks on here decide they'd like to learn to play an instrument for the first time as an adult and total beginner? As in, you cannot even read music?

If so, what did you try and how did it go?

My daughter has been playing the flute for two years and had her first public recital this weekend. She sounded really good.

My son just started the saxophone in school and is picking it up just fine.

I played the trumpet in elementary school, never learned to read music properly, and decided that I hated it.

However, I think at 43 I may want to have another go. Not the trumpet. In fact, nothing that requires me to blow air. One thing I've learned over the years is that I have a knack for manipulating tools with my hands and fingers...and, even though I understand it may be an awful choice, I'm wondering if the violin may bee a good choice. I love classical music.

So...please, either talk me into it or out of it.

I would be self teaching to start.
Last edited by investingdad on Fri Nov 03, 2017 10:27 am, edited 6 times in total.

corysold
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by corysold » Tue Dec 06, 2016 2:07 pm

I took up the piano at 34 with ZERO musical experience.

My MIL is a retired music teacher and started giving my children lessons, so I tagged along and started as well.

I guess it has gone ok over 2.5 years. I am still very much a beginner, but can play a few songs and have a general idea of what is going on.

I do notice my kids pick up things much faster than I do, though I can learn harder concepts as an adult than they can, if that makes sense.

So they play more naturally than I can, but I can play more difficult pieces for now. I'm guessing they'll overtake me in a few years.

I find it enjoyable, I don't take myself too seriously and I know I'll never probably be even average given the amount of time I'm willing to put into it. But I would do it again if given the choice.

spitty
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by spitty » Tue Dec 06, 2016 2:48 pm

Sounds like you need a keyboard but I have no suggestions on which one. It's easy to start picking around and sound out tunes with one hand, but adding the second hand takes it up a notch. Lessons can be great if you have the time and motivation to practice--otherwise a waste. I took lessons as a little kid from 6-11 and never played again until 55 when I inherited by mom's piano. Re-learned how to read music and started playing from my old kid books she'd saved--and I played seriously for 5 years then hit the wall! It was impossible to memorize songs with an old brain though I tried. Playing is just like reading a book and not remembering what you've read. The sounds were great and I got better at reading faster--but tied to the written music. Just realized I don't have that music brain to really "get it"--and we all know those people. So I'd get some basic books (Ebay?) and learn to read thru music while learning to run thru basic chords. Listen to Don Henley play "Desperado"--it's all chords which you can find on the web and learn to play.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by nimo956 » Tue Dec 06, 2016 3:29 pm

I started music lessons at 28 (am 30 now). I had grown to love classical music since graduating college, and I really wanted to learn to play an instrument. I took piano for a few years in 3rd-6th grade, but I basically had to start from the beginning again, learning to read music. I chose the classical guitar, somewhat on a whim after hearing Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto on the radio. After some further investigating, I found it to be a beautiful instrument with a wide solo repertoire, so I decided to take the plunge.

Some thoughts:
1. I really lucked out by finding a great instructor. He has been teaching for 20+ years and teaches music theory, analysis, and composition, in addition to guitar techniques, classical, blues, jazz and rock.

2. You need to practice consistently, which is hard with working full time. I practice for about 1-1.5hrs at a time, about 3 times per week. A weekly lesson for an hour keeps me focused (especially since I'm paying). My guitar teacher is understanding, since he knows I work, but he still pushes me so that I want to come to each lesson at least somewhat prepared.

3. I think playing a musical instrument is a great creative outlet. Unlike photography, for example, where you need to go out into the world and discover something, music is completely inward-looking, like writing. You never have to leave the comfort of your home (lower barrier to practice/progress).
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by mouses » Tue Dec 06, 2016 3:34 pm

Go for it!

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by Abe » Tue Dec 06, 2016 3:54 pm

When I was a kid, my mother gave me a choice: piano or tap dancing lessons. I grudgingly took the tap dancing lessons. What a joke that was. There was a recital and my cousins never let me forget it. Now I wish I had taken the piano lessons. A few years ago, I bought a cheapo Honer Pocket Pal harmonica. Since then I have picked up a couple of better ones. I have spent several hours watching Youtube how to videos and practicing, but I don't seem to be making much progress. I keep getting this mental image of me, with my cool hat on, playing the blues and impressing everybody, but so far it hasn't happened. One thing I have discovered; it's harder than I thought.
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by Dottie57 » Tue Dec 06, 2016 3:58 pm

investingdad wrote:Any folks on here decide they'd like to learn to play an instrument for the first time as an adult and total beginner? As in, you cannot even read music?

If so, what did you try and how did it go?

My daughter has been playing the flute for two years and had her first public recital this weekend. She sounded really good.

My son just started the saxophone in school and is picking it up just fine.

I played the trumpet in elementary school, never learned to read music properly, and decided that I hated it.

However, I think at 43 I may want to have another go. Not the trumpet. In fact, nothing that requires me to blow air. One thing I've learned over the years is that I have a knack for manipulating tools with my hands and fingers...and, even though I understand it may be an awful choice, I'm wondering if the violin may bee a good choice. I love classical music.

So...please, either talk me into it or out of it.

I would be self teaching to start.



I played the flute in public school and it was fun. I had a piano and took lessons for about 5 years. It was good and enjoyed it, but developed other interests. I sold the piano to a good friend and see it whenever I see her and kids.

Learn if you want to. You enjoy or not.m if not sell the instrument.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by lthenderson » Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:20 pm

I got a acoustic guitar and took all of three lessons before my instructor quit. He lost his job at a nearby factory and had to move away. After that it has been gathering dust for two decades. Now that my daughter is taking piano lessons and getting quite good, I've been thinking about trying to find another instructor to give me lessons again on the guitar.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by dannyboy » Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:25 pm

I can't speak to the value of learning an instrument as an adult, but I can definitely confirm that learning to read and play music is both mind-opening and peaceful. I play the cello, and it's really relaxing to come home and unwind with some baroque or classical tunes. I am by no means an especially-talented musician, so don't think that a lack of experience will take away the satisfaction and relaxation of playing. It's nice to get better, but it isn't the only good part of music.
If you have the time, I would recommend you at least give it a shot. Music isn't for everyone, but it can't hurt to try.
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by MorningTea » Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:39 pm

I can "play" several instruments and I have just started tenor Sax having not played anything woodwind for 40+ years. My advice would be go for it, without doubt. What you hope to do with your music will probably help you choose your instrument and approach. For example, do you see yourself informally jamming with others or are you more likely to be a lone musician at a recital ? Two extremes, not the only choices of course, just intended as kindling for thoughts.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by Ninnie » Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:53 pm

If Bill Murray can do it in Groundhog Day, so can you! :D

CoAndy
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by CoAndy » Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:54 pm

I began teaching myself to play the piano a few years ago. There are some good videos on YouTube. It has gone ok but I just haven't been able to dedicate the time required. Hope to change that soon.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by TSR » Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:55 pm

I'm a big advocate of this sort of lifelong learning, even if you don't get "good." I have played guitar for many years, but have (somewhat) recently been taking piano lessons. It's much, much harder to learn an instrument as an adult, and piano is harder than the guitar. I have a few thoughts:

1. It could be my personal preference, but I think chord-based instruments (piano, guitar, uke, banjo, etc.) are easier to pick up because you can form some basic song structure pretty quickly. This is especially true if you can carry a tune even a little bit when you sing. If you can, definitely go for one of these so you can sing along with yourself.

2. If you go with the above suggestion, I would strongly recommend finding someone who can teach you a more chord-based style, whether it be more pop or more jazz. If you strongly prefer classical, just know that this will be a longer journey (for better or worse).

3. Most melodic (as opposed to chord-based) instruments like the violin have a high learning curve because it takes a whole lot of practice before you can even make a compelling SOUND, much less play a whole piece. I agree with one of the comments above that this sort of practice may be meditative, but, depending on your personality, it could instead be very frustrating. You may have to ask yourself which one you are.

4. I would rather spend more money on an instrument at the start than less. Better instruments will retain considerable value, and you can resell them if it doesn't work out (take good care of them -- for instance, wooden instruments need humidity). Most importantly, better instruments are easier to play. You may want to find a teacher first and then ask what would be a good learning instrument.

5. Regular, focused practice is the key. Not just repetition, but switching up how you attack certain sections. This can be hard, but it's very worth it, and it's a good lesson in other areas of life.

I hope you move forward with this, and good luck!

stuben
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by stuben » Tue Dec 06, 2016 5:21 pm

I'm in a similar boat as you. My DD (8 yo) just started playing the violin a few months back. The music teacher asked me to watch for a few things to make sure she was practicing correctly at home, etc. I'm no musician by any stretch of the imagination but I can play a couple songs on the guitar and can keep a beat on a drum, etc...anyway, long story short...I'd watch her play the notes and then I would repeat the song (using the notes she taught me) back to her to show her the proper tempo and beat. I enjoyed it so much that I've actually been teaching myself how to play the violin now watching youtube videos (same way I learned the guitar).

In other words, what I'm trying to say is go for it! You're never to old to learn something new!

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BL
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by BL » Tue Dec 06, 2016 5:47 pm

http://www.nextavenue.org/arts-medicine-aging/
Playing a musical instrument has myriad positive effects, including dementia risk reduction


This is especially showing the benefits for older folks, but I think the same advantages could apply to younger ones as well.

The article links to this study that seems to show that playing a musical instrument for many years helps ward off Alzheimer's disease and increase well-being:
http://createquity.com/2016/11/engaging-with-the-arts-has-its-benefits/

investingdad
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by investingdad » Tue Dec 06, 2016 6:26 pm

Thanks all.

I'm an introvert. Solitary musical play would be appealing.

Daughter has flute lessons tomorrow and her instructor plays with the local symphony. I will pepper her with some requests for advice.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Tue Dec 06, 2016 6:35 pm

investingdad wrote:Any folks on here decide they'd like to learn to play an instrument for the first time as an adult and total beginner? As in, you cannot even read music?


True story: Eddie Van Halen can't read music. He and his brother Alex swapped classical piano every year as kids. And he did ok as a musician later in life.


Anyways...I did learn guitar as a kid but didn't play for 30 years, picking it back up at 50 years old. I relearned mostly with youtube (seemed like cheating compared to 70's learning with 33 rpm records). I did take some informal lessons given by someone at my work at lunchtime and re-learned reading notes.
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by randomguy » Tue Dec 06, 2016 6:35 pm

investingdad wrote:Thanks all.

I'm an introvert. Solitary musical play would be appealing.

Daughter has flute lessons tomorrow and her instructor plays with the local symphony. I will pepper her with some requests for advice.


Odds are incredibly high that you will suck and will suck for a long time. Guess what most kids suck also. They benefit though by being graded on a curve:) If you have fun and enjoy the process do it. Trying to learn anything (music, foreign language, golf, tennis, dance, wood working,....) new that pushes you is something that you should be doing. Give it a shot and if you don't like it, try something else.

slowNsteady1
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by slowNsteady1 » Tue Dec 06, 2016 6:38 pm

One of my friends did this recently and I respect him to the utmost degree for it. Starting out anything new as an adult is very tough--you feel like a freshman all over again. I think it's a fantastic way to grow as an individual, acquire new taste, observe a different perspective, and have fun! I know that he was a big fan of YouTube and relied on that heavily to learn music theory and tabs. Enjoy!

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by protagonist » Tue Dec 06, 2016 6:53 pm

I started playing sax around age 55. I never played music before and don't have any special ability. I'm 64 now.

This month I am playing 3 gigs.... two with my Latin ensemble and one with my Jazz ensemble. When I am lucky I get paid in pizza and beer. In January I will be in Cuba for a month studying percussion. Every summer I play in a fantastic jazz workshop in southern France for 2-3 weeks in a 1000 year old chateau with a bunch of Brits. Every week I typically play in at least 2 jam sessions. Music transformed my life.

I'm pretty good for a guy who started in his mid-50s, but it has come slowly and with a lot of work...not like if I started as a child. That said, people much better than I am play with me and I have gotten to the point where I can generally hold my own. Oddly (to me), the hardest part for me is reading music- I thought that would come much more easily, but it is like learning a new language late in life.

My advice:
1. Definitely do it. You will not be sorry.
2. Practice your %#(%!$#^ off. It will be very frustrating at times, but eventually you will be very happy you did so, and you will see results.
3. Take lessons. That is critical, not only for education, but for motivation. Find a teacher you really like, even if it takes a few false starts.
4. As soon as possible, play with other people. The social aspect is fantastic, as well as the motivating factors to practice.
5. Take chances. You are old enough to deal with embarrassment.
6. As soon as you know you want to stick with it and have the ability to evaluate instruments, buy a really good one that you love. It will save you money in the long run, and you will be way happier because you will sound better. Good instruments often appreciate or at least hold their value (my tenor sax is worth 3x what I paid for it about 7 or 8 years ago). Cheap instruments lose value if you buy them new.



I'd write more but I am off to a jam session in 10 minutes.

Good luck.
Last edited by protagonist on Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by Fallible » Tue Dec 06, 2016 9:16 pm

investingdad wrote:...
One thing I've learned over the years is that I have a knack for manipulating tools with my hands and fingers...and, even though I understand it may be an awful choice, I'm wondering if the violin may bee a good choice. I love classical music.

So...please, either talk me into it or out of it. ...


Playing an instrument is, at its best, a matter of expressing oneself, so deciding which to play is deeply personal and individual and entirely up to you. Try the violin and as many other instruments as you can. My guess is you'll know you've found the right one when you not only hear its sound, but feel it.
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by Flobes » Tue Dec 06, 2016 11:06 pm

To the OP: Go for it! Making music is good for the heart, the brain, and the soul.

Somewhat recently I inherited a vintage (surprisingly valuable) Kamaka, and so it's my plan to spend winter's dark and snowy days learning to play the ukulele. I found some online lessons, bought books and new strings from Amazon, and then there's YouTube. I haven't played an instrument for many years, yet I'm optimistic that it'll be delightful and fun in all my free time of retirement.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by MossySF » Tue Dec 06, 2016 11:31 pm

Think about kids learning music -- parents FORCE them to practice an hour a day. If you can dedicate similar time and effort, you will make similar progress.

I started with the piano in my early 40's. I do not have a teacher. Instead I went through method books where they slowly increase the difficulty to teach you the basics. After a year, I switched to playing pieces I wanted to play. I usually to pick 3 songs to work on. One at my level, one a bit above my level and one stretch piece. This way I always have something I can put finishing touches on to give me a feeling of accomplishment and keep me going. However, it's the stretch pieces that have really improved my skills. When I first start on a stretch piece, I feel like a total newbie just figuring out what keys to press. But after about 3-6 months, it really starts to come together and then skills learned for that piece make everything else seem easier. Then I repeat with another batch of songs to jump up another level.

It's been about 3+ years since I started and my latest piece is Chopin Waltz #10 (op 69 no 2) which I've mostly mastered after about 2 months of practice. I'm also working on the 2nd Movement of Beethoven Pathetique Sonata -- this one is harder and has taken me 6 months and I'm still not perfect yet on recognizing the section where 4 finger chords invert the flat/sharp key.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by Elsebet » Wed Dec 07, 2016 3:32 pm

I started playing the electric bass in my 30's and took lessons from a jazz bass player near my home at the time. It took a few weeks to develop the wrist muscles on my fretting hand, until that happened I had to limit my lessons and practice time because my wrist would ache very quickly. However I was soon able to play for hours with no issues.

My teacher pushed me to find people to play with, so I found a garage band on Craigslist that accepted me even with my novice bass skills and played with them once a week for years. This was after a couple false starts with less patient groups, so don't give up if your first couple attempts fizzle out. Be super honest and upfront with letting them know how green you are.

I still don't really know how to read music though and learned songs by ear. :)

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by nymeria.stark » Wed Dec 07, 2016 4:07 pm

TSR wrote:It could be my personal preference, but I think chord-based instruments (piano, guitar, uke, banjo, etc.) are easier to pick up because you can form some basic song structure pretty quickly. This is especially true if you can carry a tune even a little bit when you sing. If you can, definitely go for one of these so you can sing along with yourself.


Agreed! Have you ever seen this video? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOlDewpCfZQ Four chords, and all of those songs. :)

That said, I would also recommend the guitar or piano (keyboard), with special consideration to thinking about if you want the ability to plug headphones into it. As a fellow introvert, I know I wouldn't want my family hearing my first painful chords!

Good luck! And have fun. :D

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by jimpell » Wed Dec 07, 2016 4:10 pm

Yes, as adults we can continue to learn whether it be a musical instrument or perhaps a new language. This idea for adult learning ties into the concept of "brain plasticity" which refers to the brain's ability to change throughout life.

I recently started taking piano lesson 2 months ago just after turning 47 years of age. I love it!

Adults have an advantage ---motivation. If I had taken piano lessons as a child I might have been less motivated since my perception may have been that piano lesson were being "forced" upon me just like algebra, geometry and trigonometry and the rest of my school curriculum.

I do, however, think it's important that we set reasonable expectations for progress, learn to laugh at ourselves, accept ourselves and most of all enjoy the journey of learning.

So YES! Go for it and good luck!

investingdad
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by investingdad » Wed Dec 07, 2016 10:20 pm

I talked to my daughter's flute tutor tonight and apparently there is a violin instructor local to me. The good news is that she has fully grown children so I'm hoping the teacher will be older than the student!

My daughter's tutor was very enthusiastic about an adult willing to have a go at it and is going to provide me with her contact information. Honestly, I'm not really sure what the downside is. I think the chem engineer is ready for a challenge and a creative undertaking feels about right.

I'll keep you all posted.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by maxq » Wed Dec 07, 2016 11:01 pm

My Dad decided in his 70s to take up the bagpipes. It was painful for the rest of the family at times, but he got great joy out of his progression and met a whole new circle of friends, young and old. :-)

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by finite_difference » Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:07 am

I love reading the responses here. One of the most inspiring threads I've read. I took piano lessons as a child, but never got into it. I just don't know if I can figure out how to have fun but also practice. That balance is hard for me -- practicing can be very boring. So have to learn how to have some "fun" too.
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by WhyNotUs » Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:12 am

I pick up my ukulele when I find the time. Usually just starting to learn the chords when life sends me in a different direction.
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by Cyclone » Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:59 am

I would encourage anyone at any age to learn an instrument. But a violin is a very tough choice for an adult. In order to play it properly you have to bend your arms and neck in ways you never thought possible, unless you are really just interested in "fiddling".

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by protagonist » Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:02 pm

Cyclone wrote:I would encourage anyone at any age to learn an instrument. But a violin is a very tough choice for an adult. In order to play it properly you have to bend your arms and neck in ways you never thought possible, unless you are really just interested in "fiddling".


Whereas this is probably true to an extent, you have to find the instrument that speaks to you. If you wanted to play violin your whole life and it is your favorite instrument, that is what you should play. If the learning curve is steeper, so be it. You will just have to work that much harder. That is, IMHO, a key ingredient in what makes for a happy retirement.

And anywow, though some instruments have steeper learning curves than others, they can all be played simply with very little training, and getting really GOOD at any of them is a life's work, unless you are a prodigy. My daughter studied violin as a child. She started with the Suzuki method. The level of complexity of music these kids can play by ear after just a couple of years of study...and play quite well....is astonishing. If you pick up violin and study, you will be playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in a week, and Bach within a year. Even if you start as an old geezer. Perfectly? No, of course not. But you probably won't sound too bad either if you practice daily. And you will be happy.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by random_walker_77 » Thu Dec 08, 2016 1:35 pm

Go for it, but make sure you get a good teacher. Especially for violin! I've recently returned to violin after a nearly 20 year hiatus in order to help my son (who's 1.5 years in as a student!). Wow, is this ever a good time to be a violin student! There's so much available on youtube and the internet. With more free time available, I'm even thinking about taking lessons again.

It's been a Rip Van Winkle experience -- I found that it wasn't too hard to get back to 80% of where I was at, but there are resources available now that make things much easier. First, you can get low cost/free apps that give you instant feedback on intonation. This is not simply to tune open strings, but any (slow) note, as you play it. I would've killed for this as a teenager. Available free as an amazon underground app, or $4 over at the google play or itunes stores: https://www.amazon.com/Tunable-Tuner-Me ... ds=tunable

Second, since almost all classical music is out of copyright, you can access sheet music for almost anything that interests you. See imslp.org

Third, I didn't know about these as a kid, nor did I have the money, but there are inexpensive fakebooks that include hundreds of popular songs.

https://smile.amazon.com/Ultimate-Fake- ... +fake+book

The disney, and christmas fakebooks are particularly popular at my household. As a bonus, my 3rd grader is getting pretty good at sight-reading. Plus it keeps the fun and magic of music alive for him as he works his way through the classical repertoire via suzuki books.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by DaftInvestor » Thu Dec 08, 2016 1:41 pm

I would consider not self-teaching something like violin to start. You can read books and watch YouTube videos and still start off on the wrong-foot with really bad technique. I'd start with an instructor for a while - and then go "self-taught" after you've got your technique down.
Of course if you are just looking for something to pass the time and aren't that serious I suppose having a bad technique doesn't matter.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by jodydavis » Thu Dec 08, 2016 2:08 pm

Go for it! It's never too late to start, and it can be very rewarding. That said, here are some thoughts:

1. Think carefully about which instrument you want to take up, as they are all quite different. Most important is what speaks to you, as that will motivate you. Beyond that, a lot depends on what you hope to get out of it. If you want to play more popular music, then guitar or piano. If you want more classical music (which your choice of violin suggests), then piano or violin. Note that it is much harder to sound good on the violin, especially at the start. (I speak from experience, having taken 12+ years of piano lessons and 3 years of violin). At least with the piano, you are always in tune (even if you hit the wrong notes), whereas there are no guarantees with the violin. But if you really love the violin, go for it.

2. How good you get will depend almost entirely on how much work you are willing to put in. There really is no substitute for practice.

3. Although it's fine to start with youtube videos, etc., if you want to improve more quickly, get at least a couple of lessons at the outset. You will learn much faster. Also, it's good to establish proper technique at the beginning, so you don't develop bad habits that can be hard to break later.

Good luck and have fun!
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investingdad
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by investingdad » Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:00 pm

Thanks all. Given that there seems to be an instructor close by, this seems like the best path forward.

Who knows, maybe this is just scratching an itch to see what happens. But I decided I was done with tennis after twenty years of playing, took a decade off, and started again a few years ago. Glad I did and was surprised at what I could still do.

I take Spring and Summer clinics and see a lot of adult students. Most of them try hard, can play well enough, and have been taking clinics for several years...but after ten years of no tennis and just one hour getting the rust off...I could smoke all of them one on one.

I imagine this will be the same, just me on the other side of the equation.

The adult tennis beginners are learning and passionate about a new experience...and they all seem thrilled to be out there. Which is kind of the point, right?

protagonist
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by protagonist » Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:54 pm

random_walker_77 wrote: you can get low cost/free apps that give you instant feedback on intonation.



As a student of jazz, the apps are great. Free tuners. Free metronomes. iRealb gives you chord progressions to thousands of songs- you can play along with backup tracks, change their tempo, change their key, loop segments at any speed, bring instruments in and out and more. I use Functional Ear Trainer to learn relative pitch. All that on your phone wherever you go, for free or for nearly free. I can't imagine the genius of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane et al who had to learn everything off scratchy 78s. We have it ridiculously easy, and yet it is still so difficult.

YabbaDabbaDoody
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by YabbaDabbaDoody » Thu Dec 08, 2016 8:31 pm

The easiest instrument to play and easiest to sound good on is saxophone. Violin is way too difficult - and piano takes a while to learn, as well The fingering system is not hard, and you don't need super expensive equipment.

Get yourself an inexpensive alto sax (not Chinese made, intonation problems) and have at it.

Signed,
Retired Music Teacher

investingdad
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by investingdad » Thu Dec 08, 2016 10:07 pm

Calculus in college wasn't easy, either. But I gutted it out because I had to in order to get an engineering degree. Chemical engineering wasn't particularly easy. But I stayed with that because of the job prospects. Getting an MBA while working full time wasn't easy and neither was making the decision at 23 to begin investing for an early retirement while others were spending their dollars.

All those decisions have paid massive rewards and none of it was the easy way.

So, anyway...I appreciate your feedback.

And you may be right, but not trying something because it's hard has seldom led to big payoffs in my experience.

jodydavis
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by jodydavis » Fri Dec 09, 2016 9:59 am

investingdad wrote:Calculus in college wasn't easy, either. But I gutted it out because I had to in order to get an engineering degree. Chemical engineering wasn't particularly easy. But I stayed with that because of the job prospects. Getting an MBA while working full time wasn't easy and neither was making the decision at 23 to begin investing for an early retirement while others were spending their dollars.

All those decisions have paid massive rewards and none of it was the easy way.

So, anyway...I appreciate your feedback.

And you may be right, but not trying something because it's hard has seldom led to big payoffs in my experience.


It all depends on what you are hoping to get out of it. If you have always dreamed about playing a particular instrument, then yes, you should try even if it's hard. On the other hand, if you are learning to play occasionally for fun and don't care as much about the instrument, then choosing an instrument that requires you to "gut it out" won't be a lot of fun. Instruments do in fact differ markedly in terms of the return on effort, so it is very much possible to get the same (or greater) payoff with far less effort.

That said, if you like a particular instrument (e.g. violin), definitely go for it, and certainly don't let the comments here discourage you from doing so. Good luck!

protagonist
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by protagonist » Fri Dec 09, 2016 11:05 am

investingdad wrote: not trying something because it's hard has seldom led to big payoffs in my experience.


+1.

It is a little analogous to the risk/reward relationship in investing.

And all instruments are very difficult. Unless you are Mozart, there is no such thing as an easy one. Yes, you can play easy tunes almost passably on any instrument in a short while (INCLUDING violin), and your mom will be proud of you at Christmas dinner, but to be a GOOD musician means constant work, whether on guitar or violin or saxophone or whatever.

I'm a physician. To me, music is much more challenging than medicine. In studying medicine, you have to cram a huge amount of information in your brain in a relatively short time, and then you need a certain amount of experience to learn how to apply it. Most fairly intelligent people can do that. Beyond that, medicine becomes easy. Maintaining expertise just requires keeping up with your journals every month to absorb what is current and going to a conference or two every year. Doing that, I can humbly say that I was as good at my profession as just about anybody else out there. By contrast, I could probably practice three or six or twelve hours a day at saxophone for a lifetime and I would still not be as good as Charlie Parker. And even if I was Charlie Parker, I would want to get better. As a doctor I would take long vacations and come back feeling refreshed and work better than ever. By contrast, if I don't play sax for a week my sound suffers. It is a lifetime challenge, and the more you work at it the better you get.

If you are starting late in life, I would bet you are not Mozart. So plan on a lot of work, for the rest of your life, with a great payoff.
Last edited by protagonist on Fri Dec 09, 2016 11:38 am, edited 5 times in total.

TSR
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by TSR » Fri Dec 09, 2016 11:14 am

investingdad wrote:Thanks all. Given that there seems to be an instructor close by, this seems like the best path forward.

Who knows, maybe this is just scratching an itch to see what happens. But I decided I was done with tennis after twenty years of playing, took a decade off, and started again a few years ago. Glad I did and was surprised at what I could still do.

I take Spring and Summer clinics and see a lot of adult students. Most of them try hard, can play well enough, and have been taking clinics for several years...but after ten years of no tennis and just one hour getting the rust off...I could smoke all of them one on one.

I imagine this will be the same, just me on the other side of the equation.

The adult tennis beginners are learning and passionate about a new experience...and they all seem thrilled to be out there. Which is kind of the point, right?


Looking forward to hearing how this goes. As people have said, this is a difficult instrument, but it sounds like you may be sufficiently introverted to dedicate the time to it and enjoy that sort of methodical practice. I'll reiterate my suggestion, especially with violin: spend more money on the instrument to be sure that you're getting something that won't make it more difficult for you to learn. Express to your teacher-to-be that you're willing to spend a little more money than the average beginner, and you'd like a quality used instrument. If you keep such an instrument in good shape and properly humidified (depending on where you live), it will keep about 100% of its value, and you'll really only be out the transaction costs if you later decide to sell it. Good luck!

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by SueG5123 » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:04 pm

I took up guitar at the ripe age of 28. I'd tried when I was younger, but had always been dissuaded by folks who told me I had to play right handed. (Obviously, I am left handed, and I watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan when I was a kid and saw the famous southpaw, so I KNEW lefties were not excluded from guitar.) Found a terrific instructor and have spent at least 60-90 minutes every day for the last 30 years playing guitar. I'll never be a threat to a good guitarist, but the enjoyment I get from it cannot be measured. Playing is always the highlight of every day, and I've since taken up ukulele and cigar box guitar as well.

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JupiterJones
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by JupiterJones » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:39 pm

As someone who teaches music lessons as a side-hustle (mostly to adults) and who is married to someone who sometimes teaches violin, here are my random musings:

First of all, go for it!

Second, the toughest part about picking up an instrument as an adult is that you have to be okay with being lousy for awhile. Think about it: When's the last time you were terrible at something? As we get older, we tend to stop doing things we're no good at, and almost exclusively do things we're good at. It can be a rude awakening to A) try to do something that doesn't seem that complicated, and B) stink up the joint while you try to do it.

Children generally don't have this problem, of course, and I feel that it's one of the biggest keys to their success. They're perfectly happy playing simple music, over and over again. They don't force an agenda or timeline on themselves. When they make mistakes, they don't beat themselves up about it.

Note that you don't have to learn to read music to play music. It's a good idea eventually if you want to play classical, and probably jazz. But there are rich and interesting folk traditions (irish trad, bluegrass, blues) where it's very common to learn without ever reading music. I know a fantastic Irish flute player, who gigs all the time, who can't read a note!

If you didn't have any preference for instrument and just wanted to learn to play something, I'd recommend the ukulele. It's small, light, portable, inexpensive, and fun. No strap, no amp, no pick. Only four strings, so easier to form chords than guitar. And those strings are low-tension nylon, so you don't have to build up callouses. :-)

If your heart's set on violin, that's fine too. But that's one of those instruments where it takes a lot of learning just to be able to make a single decent-sounding note. Unlike, say, piano, where a rank beginner can press a single key and it sounds roughly as good as if Mozart pressed it. Violin is more like steel guitar or bagpipes, where you really have to be willing to annoy the cat in the beginning. :-) Not that that should dissuade you--just be prepared.

Finally, it turns out that there are lots of memoir-type books written about people learning music later in life, such as "Never Too Late" by John Holt, and "The Late Starters Orchestra" by Ari Goldman. You might find inspiration in one or more of them.

Other books I recommend to music students are "First, Learn to Practice" by Tom Heany, either of the "Talent" books by Daniel Coyle, and "The Inner Game of Music" by Barry Green.

Have fun!
Stay on target...

dsmil
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by dsmil » Fri Dec 09, 2016 2:00 pm

In college, I started messing around with my roommate's acoustic guitar and I later bought myself one a couple of years later. I picked it up pretty quickly, and having a background in piano and trumpet helped. I'm not great (stick to chords primarily) but I have fun playing and singing in the basement to songs from some of my favorite bands. For guitar (and other instruments I'm sure), there are great free resources online to learn (http://www.justinguitar.com/). If you have time to practice, I don't see a reason why an adult couldn't become pretty good at an instrument.

sid hartha
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by sid hartha » Fri Dec 09, 2016 2:28 pm

I had a lot of experience as a kid playing piano, drums, trumpet and french horn. But I took up electric guitar as an adult and play at least 10 min everyday. I mean the time is going to pass anyway so why not do it?

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by dumbbunny » Fri Dec 09, 2016 2:39 pm

At 58 I had never played a musical instrument in my life. After a trip to the Big Island and hearing someone sitting poolside strum a 'ukulele I thought I would try. I bought the Dummies book, watched Youtube videos and with much trepidation joined a local 'uke group made up of seniors - I being the youngest. It's been rewarding in many ways - exercising my brain in a different way, finding music that I would never have thought of listening to, i.e., Tin Pan Alley, and "entertaining" anyone within earshot. I also have an extensive collection of 'ukuleles including early century Kumalae, Kamaka and Martin as investments. YOLO
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protagonist
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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by protagonist » Sat Dec 10, 2016 12:30 pm

dumbbunny wrote:At 58 I had never played a musical instrument in my life. After a trip to the Big Island and hearing someone sitting poolside strum a 'ukulele I thought I would try. I bought the Dummies book, watched Youtube videos and with much trepidation joined a local 'uke group made up of seniors - I being the youngest. It's been rewarding in many ways - exercising my brain in a different way, finding music that I would never have thought of listening to, i.e., Tin Pan Alley, and "entertaining" anyone within earshot. I also have an extensive collection of 'ukuleles including early century Kumalae, Kamaka and Martin as investments. YOLO


As an aside, they have ukelele jazz jams somewhere around where I live. As a sax player I was always fascinated by the concept. I assume they are electrified. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxEuq32tI5s

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by Jags4186 » Sat Dec 10, 2016 1:24 pm

Start with an end goal in mind. Do you want to learn how to play Chopin and Beethoven or do you want to play pop songs?

There's a difference. Playing classical music "right" involves learning to read music and play it as the composer intended.

Learning to play pop is learning to play a tune and then filling it out and embellishing based upon your skill/desire.

Definitely different skill sets required and different techniques will be learned to do one or the other. One also will have quicker results.

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Re: Learning an instrument as an adult?

Post by Fallible » Sat Dec 10, 2016 2:05 pm

Here's an article with lots of good reasons adults have advantages over kids when learning to play an instrument.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/0 ... 03835.html
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