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10 Reasons Why People Give up Learning Musical Instruments Too Easily

10 Reasons Why People Give up Learning Musical Instruments Too Easily

I was lucky. I was able to learn the piano and organ as a child and teenager. Sixty years on, I still manage to play. But I know loads of people who start to learn to play a musical instrument and give up far too quickly and easily. The main reason seems to be that they have little idea of what is actually involved, the commitment it takes and, above all, their expectations are far too high. The result is that they blame themselves and wonder what went wrong. Whether they are learning woodwind, strings or keyboard instruments, the reasons why people give up are remarkably similar. Here are the top 10 reasons.

1. You are diligent but do not make the progress you expected, so you give up

If you are an adult, there are certain things you should keep in mind. First, diligence is just not enough. Perhaps you are not making the progress you would like because you are not taking advantage of your own learning experiences and the ways you always solve problems. In this respect, you have an enormous advantage over a child learner. An adult can apply memory techniques and logic to learning about notation and scales. By using these more, you can make more progress, as recommended in an article by K. Roulston in The International Journal of Music Education.

2. You practice a lot but are afraid of making too many mistakes, so you give up

Adults are self conscious and they are also keenly aware that their faculties are not what they once were. They think they have poorer co-ordination of fingers, arms and lips plus a lower level of sensory awareness and hearing difficulties. There is no denying that adults are facing a greater challenge, but the real problem seems that they are far too self conscious about making mistakes. If they were more relaxed about this, they would make much faster progress. Being more childlike in this can be a great help because the fear of failure or embarrassment is no big deal for them.

3. You like your teacher, but she is not encouraging you enough, so you give up

‘Great teachers do not exist, there are only great pupils.’ – Arthur Rubenstein

If you are not getting enough moral support, find another teacher. I had a change of piano teacher for the worst when I was seventeen. I did not like her at all and longed for my old teacher. The result was that I never practiced. Things came to a head when she told me I had not studied enough and that I could not do the exam. I stormed out and banged the door. There was a severe ticking off a week later, but it was a turning point for me. I began to practice and passed the exam with a decent grade. I was very proud of that and went on to study the organ.

Here is what you should do. If you find that your teacher is not encouraging you enough and giving you confidence, then you could have a word with her. You need more compassion and support. In an adult music students’ forum, the teachers usually ask “Why can’t adults learn?” The answer is of course, “Why can’t teachers teach adults?” It is a two way street and you have to find the right balance between getting enough encouragement with a teaching style that suits your learning mode.

In regards to praise, just bear in mind that Vladimir Horowitz, the great Russian pianist, got very faint praise when he played in New York in 1928. Critics described him as a “virtuoso, but musically underdeveloped.”

4. You are applying too much theory which is getting you nowhere, so you give up

Lots of adult learners would love to learn the violin, tuba or French horn by reading it all in a book. They are not prepared for the whole kinesthetic process where touch, control of the body and physical sensations are the keys to learning any musical instrument. Children can do this much more easily as learning in the early years is a physical process. Adults have forgotten this and replaced everything with words, logic and reasoning. A good teacher will help the adult become more aware of the physical sensations and the sounds they are producing. This will work for any instrument such as the violin or the guitar, but it may be more difficult with the piano because of its bulk.

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If you are intimidated by child prodigies, just forget the fact that Arturo Michelangeli Benedetti, the controversial and gifted Italian pianist, graduated from the Milan Conservatory at the age of thirteen!

5. You practice once a week but cannot see any improvement, so you give up

Maybe you think once a week is enough? If so, you should be aiming at several times a week. There is no short cut to learning a piece properly. It just takes hours of practice. The best way around this is to set aside a time for practice every one or two days and stick to it.

6. You perform your first pieces, but you get no great praise from your friends, so you give up

Look at what Joshua Bell, the world famous violinist, did at a metro station in Washington. He decided to be a busker. He wanted to see if people would really listen to his music in a rather busy setting. Well, they didn’t. Of the 1,097 people who passed by, only 7 actually stopped to listen. So, do not be discouraged, just keep practicing. You might remind your friends that learning a musical instrument takes people years so they should perhaps be more appreciative.

7. You want to perform really well, but you practice superficially, so you give up

Your expectations need to be lowered and you need to be more concentrated when you practice. It is as simple as that. Look at what the great musicians had to do to be successful, so take a leaf out of their book. I know that Maurizio Pollini, the extremely talented pianist, withdrew from performing for 6 years because he felt he needed to develop artistically!

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Intense practice and study really pays off. A world famous harpsichordist, Enrico Baiano, has told me that when he studies a piece really well, he finds that he has to do very little revision when he has to play it again, even if it is years later. As a music teacher himself, he also recommends that his students work with intelligence and concentration.

 “Practicing comes and goes. There are nights I can’t do anything right, but at other times it’s incredible. I play something that sounds decent and it makes my whole day. It colors my whole world when I practice well.”- Barbara Klain (violist)

8. You have not analysed your own technique enough and feel dissatisfied, so you give up

When musicians find that they cannot perform a piece to their satisfaction, they start to analyse their own technique. They see it as a problem solving exercise. This may mean slowing down and taking it to pieces. It may be a question of fingering, breath control or bowing technique. Then they will drill it unmercifully and gradually add the repaired bit to the whole piece, thus restoring it to its rightful glory. Older musicians have to be more aware of fatigue and stamina issues and may have to build in more breaks. Discover what works best for you and stick to it. Routine always helps.

9. You practice a lot but do not use the time efficiently, so you give up

We have talked above about how much you need to practice but what about how you organize it? Here is what the experts recommend.

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Just as with gym, you have to warm up. Don’t start straightaway on the hard stuff. Play something easy and which is also fun. You want to be fairly relaxed and comfortable. The warm up should last about 5 minutes. Then get down to the really difficult bit while you are still fresh and alert. You should be able to play this section a few times without any mistakes if you are to cross it off as actually learned. You can practice scales too, but try to make them interesting by building in good tone and some rhythm. It makes it more enjoyable and you are also experimenting. Then finish off with fun stuff or you could try some sight reading if you are not too tired.

10. Your motivation sinks after a while, so you give up

How can you stay motivated? Remember your first enthusiasm when you started out on this adventure? There is a sense of magic about approaching music and the desire to be a protagonist in this wonderful experience, not just a mere listener. You know there is an element of risk and this is where the teacher has an essential role in encouraging you in being compassionate and considerate.

Set yourself reasonable goals and divide these into mini goals so that you can measure your progress in a more concrete way. As you discover more and more about music, listen to some great musicians and read extensively about composers and concert artists and the struggles they too had.

Keep a few inspirational quotes in your music case or on top of your keyboard. Remind yourself that you are in it for the long haul and that you will not be performing at Carnegie Hall in a few years!

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Featured photo credit: Wounded Soldiers learn to play musical instruments as part of their therapy/ Army Medicine via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

There is a great deal of advice in the world telling us how to succeed in life, but often we are given advice that isn’t tailored to our needs, desires and priorities. Success means different things to each of us, and living a life that feels genuinely successful to me might be very different to your idea of a successful life.

Naturally, when we follow the advice of someone else, which is tailored to their life goals and personality, we can end up with something that doesn’t deliver on the promise. We don’t get rewarded with our vision of success: we get theirs.

This is why I’m a proponent of self-discovery, introspection and personal sovereignty. So how to succeed on your own terms?

These 7 essential steps are not going to tell you exactly what to do, but they will provide you with the tools and the questions to ask so that you can discover your own path, so you know how to succeed in life on your own terms.

1. Know Thyself

One of Socrates’ most well-known quotes is,

An unexamined life is not worth living.

I argue that an unexamined life is not a successful one. Self-knowledge is something we could dedicate our lives to, but I’m not suggesting you sit around and navel-gaze in order to find happiness and meaning.

Thankfully, there are people who have created techniques and systems that less us fast-forward through a lot of personal philosophizing, and quickly identify some key aspects of what makes us, us.

You might want to find out what your ideal daily schedule is,[1] and you can take tests that reveal just that. Or you might want to figure out what you need to get things done – and yes, there’s a quiz for that too.

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None of these tests are infallible, and some are more scientific than others, but the process of asking yourself questions about your behaviors and traits is invaluable when it comes to determining your path to succeed in life.

For example, if you know you are an introvert and are unhappy in your current workplace, it might be worth considering why that is (an open plan office space perhaps) and what you would prefer.

It’s these little questions that will provoke answers in you that can guide the decisions that truly improve your life now and in the future.

2. Figure out What Matters to You

What lights you up? This is a question that often gets forgotten as we age. A fortunate child will be given the stimulation they desire in the form of bright toys, affection and entertainment. Little by little, the things that bring a child joy get replaced by what society demands on their behalf.

When we return to that question, and ask ourselves what really matters and what brings us joy, we can move closer towards a successful life. It can help to think back to your childhood, and the times in your life when you were in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state.[2]

In a state of flow, time slows and our focus is directed like a laser. We are fully present.

Whilst not everything in life that matters to you will conjure up a flow state, it’s a good indication of the kind of activities and experiences you can try to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.

A successful life is made up of moments like this, and when you know what matters to you and brings you a sense of joy and purpose, you can go about creating more of that.

3. Play to Your Strengths

Why spend your time only on mitigating your weaknesses, only to feel average? Instead, playing to your strengths and amplifying those skills and qualities you already have will help you go from average to extraordinary.

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If you’re great at big picture thinking and love dreaming up new ideas, but often lack attention to detail, acknowledge that. Then instead of trying to improve your analytical skills, focus instead on developing your existing skills of imagination and insight. When you need someone with a keen eye for detail, you can collaborate with those people.

Jackson Pollock was an extreme introvert, with no real desire to get his artwork in front of people. Fortunately, he had Clement Greenberg, who was much further towards the extrovert end of the spectrum, to popularize his work and get Pollock the publicity he needed.[3]

Start by identifying your strengths and what comes naturally to you. Then work on developing those and becoming known for those strengths. You can always find someone who will help you in fill in the gaps.

4. Listen to Yourself

It isn’t always clear to us that we’re on a path that leads us to failure or to success. People can spends decades in a job that is unfulfilling and slowly breaking their spirit, without even realizing it – until it’s too late. This is usually because they haven’t learned how to truly listen to themselves.

The challenge we face is that we’re listening to so many other sources of information; whether it’s the news, television, social media, family, friends or colleagues. Many may want to help, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. Only you know what success means for you, and working this out begins with listening to yourself.

Listening to yourself requires practice. It’s a daily effort, which over time, does get easier. That inner voice of wisdom will get clearer, and the decisions you make will feel more convincing.

To start, you could try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes when you first wake up, in silence. Rather than look at your phone, checking emails or social media, simply sit in silence, listening.

Ask yourself a simple question like, what am I feeling right now, in this moment? Notice the answer that bubbles up, without getting lost in the story. Starting an inner dialogue, without judgment is one of the key tools you can use to start making better decisions in your life.

Learn more about listening to your true self in this guide: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

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5. Listen to Others (But Not Everyone)

Listening to yourself is one thing, but listening to others is crucial in order to learn, empathize and be of benefit to your community.

Truly listening to others is not just waiting patiently until it’s your turn to speak. Active listening requires focused attention, and the intention to understand where the other person is coming from.

When you do this, you can ask better questions and discover more about the world and everyone in it, as well as learn how to interact with others in order to succeed in life on your own terms.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone you come across. Trolls on the internet may come into the category of people not to listen to. Some people’s opinions will do more harm than good, as not everyone has your best interest in mind.

It’s worth identifying a shortlist of people whose opinions you will listen to. Brené Brown, author of the New York Times best-seller Daring Greatly, recommends taking a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you. These are the people who love you and will genuinely support and help you. According to Brown,

“If you need more paper, you need to edit.”

6. Make Time for Reflection

It’s easy to go through life without taking inventory of what you’re actually accomplishing. Missing this crucial step means we end up jumping from one goal to the next, without feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

Make time, ideally each day to reflect. You might keep a paper journal, or an online document. Either way, jot down:

  • What went well today
  • Something you’re grateful for
  • What would make tomorrow even better

Doing this can have measurable benefits to our overall sense of well-being, as well as keeping us focused for more success in the future.[4]

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It also helps combat feelings of lack and doubt, that arise when we compare ourselves to others. When we look at someone who appears to be more successful than us in an area of life, we can forget how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for.

Making time to reflect on what you have accomplished is critical to keep you on track, and just not looking at what others are doing.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind

Arguably the most important step of all:

Remember that there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind and correcting course.

The path to a successful life is not straight and narrow. It meanders and there’s no harm in going back and picking a different (and better) route.

“I think our life is a journey, and we make mistakes, and it’s how we learn from those mistakes and rebound from those mistakes that sets us on the path that we’re meant to be on.” — Jay Ellis

Be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and change your mind. Ultimately, there’s no better way to succeed in life on your own terms.

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Featured photo credit: Shirly Niv Marton via unsplash.com

Reference

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