Many of us wish life would come with maps, guides, and instructions. In some cases, it does: when you learn how to drive, you learn about it from instructors and practice it until you're capable of passing a test. But not everything in life comes with a license - and even a license doesn't guarantee success. That means you're left to your own devices.
That's frequently the case when it comes to the world of musical instruments. Sure, there are piano lessons and cello lessons, but many times those instructors will give you homework assignments, as well. And when you don't have the money to afford a musical teacher, you're once again left to your own devices. So how do you start learning a musical instrument in the right way - thoroughly, completely, and in a way that lasts? Hopefully this article will help shed some light on the process. For the sake of instruction, we'll also pretend you don't have a music teacher.
1. Choose an instrument.
Choose the instrument you want to end up playing. This is something that many people have already considered, so if you have one in mind already, you might be able to skip to step #2. Still, it's important to consider that you find a musical instrument that you actually enjoy and that you can see yourself dedicating a lot of time to: chances are, in the range of your experience, that you will be spending a lot of time with it. We recommend choosing a versatile and popular instrument, such as a piano or guitar, in order to give you a wide range of songs and styles to enjoy playing.
2. Start with the basics.
If you can't read music, learn how to read it. If you don't know what a "chord" is, look it up. Learn what the notes mean, and work your way up to more advanced basics, such as learning scales, chord progressions, and different harmonic scales. The more solid a foundation you give yourself, the more music will "make sense" to you later on as you learn more advanced topics. Learning the fundamentals isn't always easy or sexy, but it's important: and if you master the fundamentals, you can start to tackle the "sexy" skills with better depth of understanding.
3. Find models to emulate.
If you can't find them anywhere else, Learn to Play an Instrument Online. That link from Lifehacker can be very valuable as you search for ways to learn from instructors. You'll want to continuously learn from people who are better than you if you ever plan on improving, and by modeling what they do, you'll learn to reproduce the same sounds at home. Of course, you won't always be perfect at this: in fact, you may find yourself outright failing sometimes. But if you work incrementally and try to tackle issues that suit your skill level, you might be amazed how quickly you may be playing your first chord.
4. Give yourself a goal to pursue every week and practice regularly.
If you simply look up a few YouTube videos and try to recreate what they do, you won't learn much. If, however, you invigorate your practice by giving yourself a goal and working toward it, you'll find that you really find the holes in your skills and can start learning how to fill them. For example, if you can't play a full melody yet, give yourself a goal of learning a brief melody from a song and then being able to reproduce it from memory on your instrument.
When in doubt, keep going. You just may surprise yourself as you learn more and more about your instrument, and the farther along you go, the more you'll be able to handle.