A long time ago, Dear Old Dad wrote many posts to share his insights into the music making experience. I recently rediscovered a batch of these files. We will be sharing them from time to time
There is one inescapable fact about learning to play a fretted instrument. It’s not easy. Over the years I have met a lot of people who started to play and gave up. They came to believe that learning the banjo, guitar or mandolin requires some special talent or gift that they lack. Patrick and I have managed to help a lot of these folks but far too many walked away without ever giving music a chance.
The one trait that most of the quitters have in common is a lack of patience. They see a journeyman musician perform and they want to do the same. They buy a banjo, guitar or mandolin along with a book and maybe a video. Some even sign up for lessons at the local music store. A few find their way to the local expert who gives lessons in his or her home. After all this they still quit. The instrument is sold on an Internet auction or dumped in a closet never to be touched again. What happened?
Basically they put the cart before the horse. These folks wanted to be something without becoming something. They see the end result of countless practice hours and years of musical interaction and they want that right now. Guys, it just don’t work that way. Remember, music is made by applying and combining many techniques and skills. You have to consider timing, rhythm, tempo and melody. You must understand and apply the basics of music theory. Your left and right hands have to work independently of each other. In short, you must be able to communicate within the language of music. If you think that this happens quickly or easily you are just kidding yourself.
Take your time. What’s the rush? Master the core skills. Enjoy the learning process. It is very important to be patient while you pursue the dream of becoming a musician. Don’t compare your progress or skill level with another individual or group. Don’t worry if you find yourself on a learning plateau. You just have to work through it. Don’t think that you can master this craft by talking about it or by watching someone play. You must practice and apply the core skills by interacting with other musicians. Every time you sit on your front porch and play for your family you get better. Every time you sit in on a jam session you get stronger. Whenever you share your knowledge about music, however limited, you gain confidence.
The trick here is to enjoy where you are while keeping your goal in perspective. The progress may be so slow that you feel like you’re standing still but that’s the game. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to imitate someone based on magazine articles or Internet chat rooms. If you do this without mastering the core musical skills you will become frustrated and most likely will quit. Just play whenever and wherever you can. Beware of easy solutions and foolproof quick learning methods. Take your time. Practice, play, share and experiment. Apply the basic skills along with some time and perseverance. Before you know it someone will look at you and say, “I wish I could play like that”.