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How to teach yourself an instrument

Saturday, August 29, 2020 by Cindy-Joy Smith | Self-Study

So you want to start playing an instrument, but you're unsure where to begin. You take a look online...and there are endless amounts of learning options available...including a stack of free resources and teaching videos. So why take lessons?

Well, to be honest, weekly lessons with a teacher aren't for everyone. And if you're reading this, chances are that you just wanted confirmation of that from a real music teacher. So now that you have your confirmation, I would like to help guide you through how you can improve your learning experience. 

The frustration...

Firstly, as a fully trained music teacher with years of experience and a music degree behind my name, of course I believe that formal instruction is important. And it is. BUT, I also know that for some, music lessons are just not affordable or are impractical (for instance, if you live far outside of any town or can't find a teacher in your area). Furthermore, those who wish to learn just one song on an instrument, or who want to follow their own programme, may find lessons constricting. 

And yet...maybe you've tried teaching yourself using one of these free online methods...and it's not working out. You don't make consistent effort to practice; learning a lot on one day, and then having forgotten EVERYTHING when you get to your instrument again 2 weeks later. And I get is tough and very busy. There are hundreds of things vying for your attention; and many of them have a higher priority than learning an instrument. 

But how frustrating is it when you learn so much at once...and then forget everything. It makes you want to just throw in the towel. 


You have within you the potential for greatness. No, you may never become a professional musician; and chances are, you don't WANT to. But do you know what defines a truly great person? The ability to grow, to change, to learn more, and to remain consistent. Now consistency is the real issue. I'm sure you WANT to grow; to change into a better person; to learn. But doing these things consistently requires focus and...accountability. 

And that's why I started offering the option to do check-in lessons with self-learning students once or twice a month (physically and ONLINE). Because I know that what you really need isn't someone to micro-manage your learning for you, or to teach you what is already in your chosen course book. Oh no - you simply need the accountability of knowing you will be checking in with an instructor every now and then, and the expertise they can give you in order to fast track your learning and motivate you to excel. 

Now, if finances are still an issue, I have some suggestions below:

1. Find someone who can keep you accountable(a friend or family member). This person doesn't even need to know anything about music. Find someone (whose opinion you care about) who is willing to listen to you play your instrument for them once or twice a month for 20 mintues. Just having this accountability will go a long way in keeping you consistent in your practice. You will HAVE to learn a song or two every 2-4 weeks. 

Want to take it a notch up? Ask a friend if they want to learn the instrument with you...but you will teach them what you have learnt once or twice a month. We learn best when we teach. 

2. Set a reminder on your phone to practice at a certain time every day. And then don't just stop the alarm and do something else! Make the decision to be trustworthy towards yourself and your own learning process! You wouldn't drop a friend who was depending on you for something, would you? Why do you do it to yourself? Love yourself enough to steward your own learning process properly.

3. Make it easy to practice. Now let's say you set 10 minutes to practice every don't want it to take all 10 minutes just to get your instrument and book ready. That is entirely besides the point, and will demotivate you very fast. Rather, set up a designated spot where you will practice. Make sure your instrument is ready to just pick up and play, and that any book or videos you are using are ready to open and use within 30 seconds. 

Finally, I really urge you to consider finding an instructor who will do a check-in lesson with you once or twice a month. I have found that just spending an hour or two every month going through what a student is learning and HOW they are playing (quality/technique/theory) makes the world of difference to their overall progress. There are not many music teachers who are open to this, so it may be difficult to source. But give it try, and you won't regret it. Feel free to contact us to find out if we have a suitable time slot for you (physical OR online), or to chat about an affordable option for you. 

I wish you all the best in learning to play the instrument of your choice. Being able to play an instrument well is a great joy that not everyone has the tenacity to experience. But I know you can do it! Keep at it, and have fun!