How to Start Learning an Instrument

Jump right in and start learning an instrument

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Although it can be helpful to learn how to play an instrument at an early age, that does not mean you are out of luck once you get older.  In fact, it is possible to learn how to play an instrument at any age.  With the right amount of commitment and structure, you will be well on your way to becoming a musician.  Whether you are trying to learn a string, woodwind, brass, or percussion instrument, there are several general steps you can take to accelerate the learning process.

Listed below are some of the ways you can overcome the steep learning curve:


While this one seems like a given, it is still worth mentioning.  Establishing a daily or weekly practice routine will keep you moving forward and give you time to develop your skills and abilities.  If you do not practice for extended periods, you will be susceptible to forgetting some of the things you have learned.  Repetition not only helps you memorize songs and grow familiar with timing and rhythms, but it also reinforces the skills necessary to improve.

Form and Technique

From your posture to the way you hold your instrument, there are several factors that can affect the quality of your sound.  Sometimes, playing with an improper technique can jeopardize your ability to hit certain notes or play with a nice, full sound.  Research your particular instrument and try to determine the accepted form and techniques.  Consider things like posture, finger placement, foot placement (drums, piano, etc.), and breathing (many woodwind and brass instruments).

Begin With the Basics

This turns many people off from learning an instrument since they do not want to play “twinkle, twinkle, little star” over and over again; however, we all have to start somewhere.  It is possible to start learning a hard piece and skip the basics, but it will take much longer and leave you feeling very frustrated.  While it may be tedious, learning the basics will give you the foundation to play more difficult pieces and familiarize you with reading sheet music.  On an instrument like piano or guitar, where difficult pieces can have several notes playing at the same time, it is important to get used to reading sheet music.

Reading Sheet Music

Sheet music may seem unnecessary for simple songs, but it provides the instructions for playing a piece.  Between the actual notes themselves and the musical devices (crescendo, forte, repeat, etc.), the sheet music provides us with the blueprints–essentially the framework–for different songs.  Some people can play a lot songs by ear, which is great, but sheet music is still the universal language of music.  It allows people to write down and share their songs as well as play the songs of others.  Also, more difficult songs often require sheet music to learn due to the sheer complexity and less predictable nature of the piece.

You can start by searching Amazon for sheet music

Learning Music Theory

Understanding the “science” behind what you are playing can help any musician, but it is especially useful if you would like to write your own songs or get into improvisation.  It can be as simple as learning scales and rhythms.  Music consists of patterns, intervals, and timing; hence, trying to comprehend them will drastically improve your own performance, allow you to work with other musicians, and help you learn other instruments in the future.

Taking Lessons

This option may not be for everybody.  Unless you find somebody who is willing to teach you for free, it will typically cost money to start taking lessons.  Finding a good teacher for your instrument, however, can allow for significant improvements in your playing and technique.  Expert musicians can provide valuable insight since they have been through the learning process themselves and had time to figure out the best ways to learn and grow as a musician.  Another alternative is finding tutorials online and  experience musicians who are willing to share their knowledge.

Be Patient

Unfortunately, you will not become an expert musician overnight.  It typically takes years of practice to develop a professional sound.  Try to just enjoy the process and appreciate your progress.  It is easy to get frustrated when faced with a difficult piece, but it will get easier if you continue to practice and give it time.  Finally mastering a difficult piece will give you a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  Stick with it and continue to practice, and you will be learning your favorite pieces in no time.


Are you trying to learn a new instrument? Have you already been learning one?  Let us know about your experiences and the strategies have helped you learn.

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