It’s a question we’ve all pondered over at some point or another: should I learn to play an instrument? For some people, musical talent seems to come naturally, while for others, the word ‘tonedeaf’ might spring to mind. But it’s not just our innate musical abilities (or lack thereof) that could be stopping us from becoming the next Beethoven – age and temperament may also affect our ability to learn an instrument. So, if you’re in two minds about whether you’re ready to start making music or quit while you’re ahead, here are some things to bear in mind.
Are we born with a musical ability?
While there have been studies to suggest that musical capacity is down to genetics, skills can still be learned. As instrument specialists Caswell’s Strings points out, some form of practice and instruction is still beneficial for development. Ok, so you may not have an instinctive grasp of musical structure or be able to tell the difference between an accelerando and an allegro, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Of course, some people will develop much quicker than others and reach higher levels of achievement, but even the most advanced musical mastermind still needs to put the work in.
Am I too old?
It’s commonly believed that the brain loses its plasticity as we age, making it difficult to learn something new. In this case, the well-known proverb ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is false. In fact, the brain actually maintains its ability to adapt and respond to new experiences, meaning it’s never too late to start playing an instrument. Although you may not be able to pick it up as well as you would if you were learning as a child, it can still be done.
Do I have the right temperament?
When starting out, it’s important to bear in mind that becoming a skilled pro won’t happen overnight. Of course, we all want to sound like a prodigy from the get-go, but it’s just not realistic – you can expect a lot of squeaking, screeching and shrill notes in the first few months. Starting with the basics can be frustrating, especially for adults, but it’s necessary if you want to enhance your skills and see your ability play grow. It takes a lot of dedication and patience, but for those who are willing to put in the effort, it can be extremely rewarding experience.