6 Challenges To Learning A Musical Instrument As An Adult - And How To Overcome Them
If you’ve ever set out to learn a musical instrument as an adult, then you know it’s not as easy as A-B-C-D-E-F-G.
There may be just seven notes, but there’s a whole world of challenges to picking up guitar, piano, trombone, or whatever instrument is calling your name.
It can even be so daunting that we just decide it’s not worth the hassle.
Cross Challenges Off Your Bucket List and Reward Yourself
Making a bucket list -- a list of things you want to do before you "kick the bucket" -- is a challenge. Doing them is even more challenging. That's the way you like it. But it takes a lot of different things -- money, time, training, research -- before you can cross each one off your list. Stay motivated and reward yourself with IRLA Bucket List challenge medals. Get a series of five medals that mark your milestones for accomplishing each challenge on your list. As you set more goals and make progress down your bucket list, your IRLAs give you the motivation to do more and more.
If that’s how you’ve felt about learning a musical instrument as an adult, you’re not alone. I’ve tried guitar (again), ukulele, piano, and drums… and while I haven’t progressed as far as I’d like, this pursuit has taught me a lot about how to get over the roadblocks.
Today, I’m sharing some of that experience with you. If learning to play a musical instrument as an adult is on your bucket list, then stick around because this blog’s for you!
Below you’ll find six common challenges faced by adults when learning a new instrument, as well as some easy-to-try solutions to overcome them.
1. It’s too hard to schedule practice into my day.
One of the biggest challenges faced by adults is finding time for regular practice amidst their busy schedules. Work, family responsibilities, and other commitments can make it seem impossible to dedicate consistent time to learning an instrument.
It can be especially difficult when we look at the past and think about all the time we used to have as kids, like those long afternoons with no responsibilities.
Yet, we’re here now. To overcome this challenge to learning an instrument as an adult, time management is crucial. Here's how you can incorporate practice into your daily routine:
- Prioritize - Identify the activities that take up unnecessary time and replace them with practice sessions. It may mean sacrificing a few minutes of social media browsing or reducing TV time.
- Schedule - Set a specific time each day for practice and treat it as a non-negotiable appointment with yourself. Start with shorter practice sessions (10-15 minutes) and gradually increase the duration as you build consistency. It can also be useful to put together a month-long schedule for learning an instrument to keep track of our progress.
2. It’s embarrassing to be bad at something.
Now that you’re an adult, you’re supposed to be getting better at things. Supposedly you have a career you’ve worked at for a while. Maybe you’re getting this parenting thing figured out.
So, you want to throw all that away and become a beginner again? It’s not as easy as it sounds, and many adults feel self-conscious about making mistakes or sounding unskilled, especially when others might be listening.
Embrace the learning process and remember that everyone starts as a beginner. Here's how to overcome the embarrassment:
- Create a positive environment - Practice in a space where you feel comfortable and won't be easily distracted or judged. Remind yourself that mistakes are part of the learning journey and an opportunity for growth.
- Celebrate small victories - Focus on your progress rather than perfection. Acknowledge and celebrate the milestones you achieve along the way, no matter how small they may seem.
3. No parents are making me practice.
As much as we didn’t love those daily reminders to sit down at the piano, they were certainly helpful for, you know, getting us to sit down at the piano!
Unlike children who often have parents or guardians who enforce regular practice, as an adult, we’ve only got that adult looking back at us in the mirror.
So how can you build up a little motivation to learn a musical instrument? Here are a few ideas:
- Set clear goals - Define what you want to achieve with your instrument and break down your goals into smaller, actionable steps. This will give you a sense of purpose and direction.
- Make it enjoyable - Practice doesn’t have to be painful. Experiment with different genres, play along with your favorite songs, or explore creative improvisation. Incorporating elements of fun will make you look forward to each practice session.
4. My brain’s no good at learning anymore.
Feel foggy without coffee? Too many tasks to keep track of? As adults, we often feel like our brain’s are slowing down, our cognitive abilities are declining, and we just can’t keep up.
Whether that’s true or you really just need a nap, what is true is this: as an adult you are more equipped with strategies and resources to learn.
Here are two ideas for how to make learning a musical instrument as an adult easier:
- Break it down - When learning complex concepts or techniques, break them down into smaller, manageable parts. This approach allows your brain to absorb and process information more effectively.
- Use technology and resources - Take advantage of educational apps, online tutorials for learning musical instruments, and interactive learning platforms tailored for adult learners. These resources often provide step-by-step instructions and engaging exercises that cater to different learning styles.
5. I won’t be as good as I used to be.
Oftentimes the urge to learn a musical instrument comes from wanting to rekindle a musical spark from our younger years.
Yet that can be a double-edged sword when we think about the level we got to then, as we worry that we can’t get there again.
How to overcome that challenge? Here are some tips for enjoying the process:
- Focus on the journey - Rather than comparing yourself to your past accomplishments, embrace the joy of rediscovering music and the satisfaction of progress. Allow yourself to appreciate each step along the way.
- Seek guidance - Consider working with a music teacher or coach who specializes in adult learners. They can tailor their instruction to your specific needs and provide guidance as you navigate the path to improvement.
6. My piano teacher used to be 40 years older than me… now they’re younger!
There comes a point when the idea of a musical teacher is no longer some worldly dude teaching high schoolers how to strum G chords. Soon enough, we’re adults, and our teachers may actually be… younger than us?
In this case, age really is just a number, and should not be a barrier to effective learning. Keep the following in mind:
- Focus on qualifications and expertise - Look beyond age and consider the instructor's qualifications, experience, and teaching style. A skilled and passionate teacher, regardless of age, can provide valuable guidance and inspire your musical growth.
- Embrace new perspectives - Younger instructors often bring fresh approaches and contemporary knowledge to their teaching. Their familiarity with technology and modern music trends can enrich your learning experience.
Keep Yourself Motivated While Learning A Musical Instrument As An Adult
Learning a musical instrument is meant to be a fun, enriching experience. Whether you’re fourteen or forty, it’s a worthwhile challenge that can help you feel a sense of accomplishment.
To help you showcase your musical achievements, we designed the Bucket List IRLA Challenge Medal. These are a series of five medals that are intended to highlight milestones like learning to play a new instrument, getting a tattoo, riding in a hot air balloon, singing karaoke in public, and even skydiving.
Grab these medals for yourself or for a loved one who’s taking on the challenge to learn a musical instrument!
GO BEYOND YOUR COMFORT ZONE
These IRLAs are testaments to the times when you pushed yourself past the ordinary to achieve something most people just talk about. You saw a moment that was yours for the taking and you took it. Let these five coins serve as a reminder of what you’ve done, and how much there is still left to do.
There is always more adventure to be had.