Musical Lessons: The Best Way To Practice & Improve

Jan 11, 2017

blog - Musical Lesson - The Best Way To

Learning to play an instrument is a long and usually somewhat difficult task. It’s not something most people can pick up in a week, a month, or even a few years. True mastery of any musical instrument can often take a lifetime of improvements made through achieving small, incremental personal goals. Many people choose to try to learn on their own, making time to study lessons, either through workbooks or online tutorials, and being sure to set more time aside for practice. While going this route might seem tempting to a lot of people, especially with today’s fast-paced lifestyle, it’s also probably the most difficult way to learn. The self control needed to keep yourself on track can be difficult to muster for anyone, particularly adults. You may have the best of intentions, but are you really going to make yourself take the time needed after you get home from a rough day at work? Are you going to set time aside from your weekends, time that might be spent with the family, or just relaxing after a long week? If you think you have the willpower to go it alone, more power to you, but there is no shame in finding a little help. Making the commitment to join a music program, or take formal lessons can help your improvement in a number of ways.

Maintaining a Regular Practice Schedule

For most people, learning and practicing music on their own can be rather hit or miss. You intend to make time for practice, but life gets in the way. With nothing or no one formally keeping you to a practice routine, it’s easy to brush it off to attend to other activities. However, making the commitment to become part of a musical team (even if that team is just you and your instructor) can completely change the way you think about your progress. Now, if you miss a lesson, or skip out on some practice time, you’re not just doing yourself a disservice, you’re also letting down your instructor and the rest of your group. That can be pretty good motivation to keep up with your personal goals, as well as the progress of the group.

On top of the commitment you’ve made to your bandmates and/or your instructor, you’ve also got a voice outside of your own head to push you a little harder towards those personal goals. For most people, if it’s just left up to them they might not push themselves too hard to improve to the next step, instead remaining where they are either out of anxiety, or a kind of artistic block. Whatever the root cause, it’s easy to stay stagnant in your skills if you’re learning on your own. An instructor, on the other hand, might push you just a little harder and faster than you might be comfortable with. It’s this mild discomfort that will keep you on your toes, and practicing nightly to improve.

Help You Set Attainable Goals

Learning to play an instrument is a process. The ability to play comes through achieving small personal goals along the way that add up to big skills. But without an instructor to help you, figuring out what those small, achievable goals should be can be hard. A lot of people decide they want to learn to play an instrument only knowing that their end goal is to be a musician. With such a vague, far off goal in mind it’s very easy to get frustrated when you don’t see the progress you want, as quickly as you want. Making the commitment to join a music program or lessons can help you set much more manageable goals, and help you see how the small steps you take add up to bigger improvement than you might have thought you were making.

For example, someone learning guitar on their own might set their first goal as being able to play a particular song. From there it might seem logical to learn the chords for that song, in the order they’re played in, and just keep practicing until they get it. Unfortunately, this isn’t an effective way to learn to play any instrument, will almost certainly lead to frustration, and can even cause a person to quit too early. On the other hand, if that same aspiring guitarist were to sign up for music lessons they would be first instructed on the fundamentals. Their initial goals will be much smaller and manageable, like learning scales and a few chords to begin with. At first, this approach might seem slower if all you really want to do is play that one song, but in reality you’ll be building a solid framework of skills that will eventually be applied to your song of choice, and a huge variety of others as well. And in the end, this kind of incremental skill acquisition almost always proves to be faster, mostly because you’re actually learning what you need to know to play, and avoiding a lot of headache that comes with trying to set goals on your own. An instructor can help you see the musical skill building blocks for what they are, and how they fit together to build towards your ultimate goal.

Take the Challenge

In the end, what it all boils down to is the fact that joining a musical program or signing up for lessons will almost certainly challenge you more than trying to learn on your own will. Few people have the willpower and personality needed to force themselves to push their musical limits everyday, with little positive reinforcement, and no formal guide. That’s no way to improve. Just like with sports, or really anything in life, the best way to improve your skills is to be with people who are more skilled than you. Lessons can provide that much needed challenge in the form of an outside voice pushing you harder than you might push yourself. That outside voice might be an instructor or even a more practiced peer, either way, the drive to improve is always higher when you want to rise to the level of those around you.

If making music a bigger part of your life was one of your New Year’s resolutions this year, give lessons a serious thought. The commitment might be just what you need to keep this promise to yourself.