Musical instruments have always been somewhat of an unknown quantity to me. With a shrug of the shoulders, it was generally neither here nor there. Myriad keys that apparently vibrated something and then, like magic, sound emerged. And indeed it was nothing less than enchanting when someone would begin to play. Yet, that was the extent of it.
For several years, through elementary and then into secondary school, I contentedly played the clarinet in the school band. Then, for a different perspective and often comforted solely by an ongoing series of whole notes, I briefly switched to the baritone horn for one semester. None of it was done with any heartfelt endeavour, I confess. But something had clearly touched my heart.
For, here I am, decades later deciding, with a heartfelt mixture of determination and certainty, buoyed by spirit and hopeful intention, to learn to play the piano. It’s strange because I had always professed to dislike the piano when I was younger. It seemed to somehow lack drama. Plinking away at “Mary Had a Little Lamb” seemed to invariably invade my mind when I thought of the piano.
A Spellbinding Drama
Although, I realised, it’s just the start. As time progresses and with practice, the piano, like any instrument, will become a symphony of spellbinding drama, all with a deft helping of skill and finesse.
And whatever instrument happens to take our fancy—for some the guitar, for others the fiddle or the accordion, whatever it may be—it’ll be a matter taking small steps. Of course it won’t sound like anything grand and entrancing immediately. But time is our ally in this endeavour.
First and foremost, it’ll take time and practice. A little bit here and there will do. But learning to play a musical instrument doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s something in which we’ll need to invest a little time and then it’s a matter of practice, practice and practice. It just calls on us to marshal ourselves and manage our time a little.
Whole New World
I know for me, when I think of learning to play, it feels like I’m entering a whole new world. Where before, it was a mess of black keys and white keys, now, while it still largely is, it’s now a lot more of a tidier mess. I can look at a piano and proudly say, “ah, that’s a C and that’s an F.” It’s an elementary distinction. Still, it’s a lot more than I could’ve done a month ago. I look forward to learning more.
Some say that we’re smarter as we gradually acquire knowledge of our instrument. Although I can’t say I’m smarter, there are a few new bits of information I’ve now got tucked away inside my brain. They’re like puzzle pieces that I know will in time be inserted in their rightful place.
Others note how playing an instrument relieves stress. One is calm and at peace. It’s true. For my own experiences, the one thing I notice is how time appears to move quite rapidly. If I say I’m going to practice for an hour, before I know it, that time is gone. Clearly I am not worried about time or anything that was troubling me. For those moments, we disappear into another world.
And it’s also wonderful when I finally seem to manage positioning my fingers to play a chord. It seemed rather tricky at first. The person teaching the online course I’m taking referred to our “muscle memory.” As I focus, trying to hold my hand in a particular way, at first it seemed impossible. Yet, I was astonished that it actually worked. So, whatever is the next lesson, I’m increasingly confident that, with a little effort, I’ll be able to do it.
Patience & Memory
Not only does learning to play a musical instrument help our muscle memory, it apparently helps our memory overall. I was able to download a host of chords with the key’s coloured to let us know where we are to hold our fingers. It seemed daunting. However, memory, assisted ably my practice will allow me to gradually absorb the information. Before too long, I’ll be knowledgeably pressing keys that in previous months were absolutely unknown to me.
When I embarked on this journey, I knew it was not something that would happen overnight. The goal will be to invest the time to make it a success. So, to learn to play a musical instrument is undergirded by the idea of patience. Throughout, I’m sure I’ll be spurred along by momentary victories as well as all the myriad frustrations. However, I’m sure, whenever I experience those frustrations, I’ll work towards transforming them into victories.
A Spark of Creativity
Some also assure us that our creativity will be beautifully sparked by our newfound skill and talent. It makes sense. As we learn more and more, the knowledge of the various keys and chords become second nature. Then, bolstered by our growing confidence, more and more, we’ll start to explore. After all, we’ll feel the urge to express ourselves, adding a little extra spice to a piece simply because it feels right to do so.
Learning to play a musical instrument requires commitment and determination. But more then anything, the will and passion to do so is essential. Most of us would agree that music is an expression shared the world over. Regardless of its origins, through its enchanting and embodied rhythms or its heart-pounding beat, it’s capable of reducing us to tears as easily as rousing our spirits to sublime heights.
And to know we’re even just a modest part of such an endeavour is reason enough to try.