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Is It Harder To Learn Music As An Adult?

Happy Spring to all of our friends in Asheville, and all over the Southeast! This time of year always makes me think of tilling soil, planting seeds, and watching things grow. It's always an exciting and refreshing season!

When we think of how plants grow, it is something that just seems so natural and effortless. Plant seeds in soil, add water and sunshine, and over time these seeds turn into flowers and food. Just as the right amount of nurturing creates the perfect environment for plants to flourish, the right setting and attention can help us each grow in our skills and abilities.

Seedlings Growing

However, when it comes to learning new things, such as music, adult students often expect to see these seeds turn into full grown plants overnight. Many adults have the misconception that to be a good musician takes a certain amount of natural talent, which they either do or do not possess. While natural musical talent certainly can help speed the process of learning, it is not a substitute for effort. Even the most gifted musicians still have to sit down and play through pieces slowly to catch all the subtle nuances, fingerings, and articulations of their music.

It's important to remember that if you're feeling stuck or having a hard time with your pieces, that playing a piece of music that is easy for you, that just flows nicely, is as valuable as pushing your limits with very challenging music. We truly get better as pianists, guitarists, as instrumentalists in general, if we are regularly reviewing pieces that we enjoy, and finding the music in between the notes on the page.

That all being said, resist the urge to practice pieces in a superficial manner, ignoring the details from your music lessons, or glossing over tricky passages in favor of only playing the sections you know well and can play comfortably. Many adult students think that because they don't expect to be virtuosos, that there is no value in digging in and really learning a piece, inside and out. However, the value of immersing oneself in the music is truly immeasurable.

I know that it certainly can be challenging to find the time or energy to focus on these kinds of small details, and it's very easy to write them off. But even if you have no desire to play virtuosic works, I'm certain that you started learning piano, guitar, violin - music in general - because you wanted to be able to create something of beauty out of thin air, and to be able to express yourself in a new way. Learning new skills through total mastery of a piece is a wonderful way to expand your expressive abilities, and will translate nicely to much simpler and more intermediate pieces too, as you develop a more professional touch.

Pianist Hands in Black and White

If you're struggling to find time or energy to really focus on practicing, ask your teacher about effective practice techniques. There are many methods (chaining practice, etc.) out there that can make what time you do have truly work for you. Even if you can only focus for 15 minutes a day on practicing, make that time a moving meditation of sorts, and you'll be amazed at how quickly you see progress.

For some adults who've been playing for a good bit, habits can develop, including techniques that may or may not be helping improve overall technique and musicianship. Folks who find that they've been practicing the same piece over and over, or the same scales or exercises, running into the problem of not being able to truly polish them might be glossing over their finger technique. It may be more important to focus on "how" you're practicing, instead of "what" you're practicing. If you already know all the notes but are still struggling, ask your music teacher if how you're playing might be hindering your ability to improve.

The last thing that many adults struggle with that we'll cover today is the fear or regret that because they didn't start when they were young, that they'll never be any good. Many have suggested that it takes 10,000 hours learning a skill to fully master it, but in my experience, you really start to see gains much sooner than that.

If you're someone who thinks, "Man, if only I'd have started learning how to play music when I was a kid!' consider this often quoted trope: A year from now, you'll wish you'd started today!

Excited to get started learning music? Thinking about dusting off your old piano and taking lessons again? Contact us today to set up your first FREE lesson!

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