Choosing to learn a brand new skill later in life can be quite a daunting prospect for some. Work pressures and the daily grind swallow up what little time and energy you may have, so attempting to fit anything extra in can be all too much. However, the benefits of learning to play an instrument as an adult are plenty; building confidence, giving the brain a workout and offering a whole new lease of life to name a few. Morningside School of Music’s student Simon Jackson has recently turned 40, he tells us why he decided to take the leap and pick up the guitar.
What made me want to learn an instrument now?
I’ve actually wanted to learn one for many years. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t chose to learn as a child. I had the opportunity but did not to take it. I didn’t want to spend the time practising.
Recently I realised its never too late to start. I have many friends who play instruments and many of them encouraged me when I said I’d like to learn.
I suspect anyone who has been to a concert, gig or music night has wanted to play along to the songs they hear. At the risk of sounding philosophical, music touches something inside everyone, and can be one of the greatest pleasures we have.
Unlike many things you might wish to have done when younger, it’s never too late to learn to play something. All it takes is patience to practice, some lessons to help you along the way and some time from your day.
Essentially I didn’t want to go through life regretting not doing something I could quite easily do.
Why did I chose to learn guitar?
The guitar is a practical and popular choice of instrument. Given more time and resources I’d also love to learn the piano and the bagpipes. All are instruments I love hearing.
I chose the guitar because it’s one of the instruments I enjoy listening to. It was an easier choice because it’s inexpensive, portable and features frequently in many of the songs I like.
My best advice is to pick an instrument you love. If your favourite music is played on the flute then that’s the instrument you should choose.
Do I have any previous musical experience?
Very little. When I was 10 I went to Piano lessons for a year. So I learnt to read music and I can still manage that to some extent. But as for playing, very little. I did buy a guitar at one point but failed to practice with it.
I was really starting again from the beginning.
What benefits do I feel I’m gaining from learning an instrument?
There are two types of benefit. The practical and the pleasurable. On the practical side learning an instrument helps teach you patience and develop the tenacity to develop a goal and stick to it.
I also think that music is quite structured and methodical and is a skill which translates well into anything you want to do in life. If you can learn an instrument you can learn a language. If you can do either of these you realise you can learn any skill, be it woodwork, writing or skiing. All it takes is the desire and the practice.
What advice would I give anyone thinking of learning an instrument?
Just do it. You can spend years (and I did) thinking of a dozen reasons why you can’t do something. Whereas you can do anything you set out to do.
One other consideration that helps is if you can gain the support and encouragement of your family and friends. It’s much easier to learn if those around you want you to succeed.
Why did I chose the Morningside School of Music to learn?
Two reasons. Firstly it’s an easy and convenient place to attend that also fits my available times. The teachers can accommodate my work and home life which makes it much easier.
Secondly and more importantly they are extremely friendly and encouraging and really helped me to start and to keep working at it.
What do I plan on doing once I’ve learnt to play to a decent level?
I’m not honestly sure. I’m learning simply for my own pleasure. I expect that I’ll want to keep learning all the songs I like to listen to and that could certainly take a while. I expect that perhaps playing for my friends and family might be something I would do, but more than anything it’s simply about enjoying the music.
What would I say to anyone that says they don’t have the time?
We all say that about anything we don’t really want to do. Most of us have jobs and families who need a lot of our time and attention. But we also take time for ourselves in some way too.
You simply need to make playing the instrument part of this time.
I attend twice a week for 30 minutes. Even if I am busy the rest of the week it means I get this time to practice and play.
We say the same thing about exercise but by allocating 30 mins we might have spent in front of the TV or on the internet we transfer some of that energy into music.
My advice is to simply prioritise and plan some time, which can suit even the busiest of schedules.