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  • Writer's pictureLacie Carpenter

So... Can adults learn to play an instrument?

This goes out to any adult learning to play a stringed instrument. OR really—learning any instrument while an adult.

I’ve stated in past blogs that adult students are my favorite to teach. Here’s why. Life has already taught them many things. They have had to overcome many obstacles a 5-12 year old, hasn’t. (Those ages are basically when most children begin an instrument.) They are realistic. They know how to set goals. They desire a new journey in life.

I’m also not one of those teachers who thinks my adults have all the time in the world. A lot of them have families and jobs. They may not be able to practice as much as a 10 year old child. They have many priorities, and I am aware of that. Most adults don’t aspire to become the next famous violinist or fiddler. They just want relaxation through music. A therapy of sorts. It is their down time. I realize they are not wanting to perform as much as I do. They are taking lessons for a new chapter in their life and it’s my job to help them write it.

I love helping them find a healthy balance in their daily routine. Practicing should be enjoyable for them. If it isn’t, frustration kicks in. Frustration leads to negativity and that isn’t what music is about. EVER! Sometimes becoming overwhelmed with the feeling that the violin is hard, comes into play. That happens 100% of the time to any learner. But for adults, it can be devastating.

As a teacher, it is YOUR JOB to guide them through the tough moments.

Without support, no one can learn. Wherever you teach, it must be a “safe place.” It must be filled with possibility, hope, and positivity. No one can learn in a space that is dark and negative.

If you, as a teacher, are sending negative vibes, you may need to think about another job.

(Learners, if your teacher is like this—find another teacher!)

When it comes to practicing, as adults, we just can’t find the time somedays. I get that! I have a day job, too. It is good to make out a daily/weekly schedule. This may take some time, but, trust me—it’s worth it. Also, if you have a job that lets you take your instrument—take it. At lunch or on a break, practice for 5-10 minutes. Not only are you getting some practice time in, you are relieving stress. Remember that 5-10 minutes of strong, well-thought out practice is better than 2 hours of practice time that isn’t well planned. Practice smarter---not harder! Set small goals. Notice problems. Stop and think what you need to do. Don’t be results driven. Enjoy the struggle! Love every minute. Stay focused. Practice correctly. If you are having bouts of pain, you need to make sure you have the correct posture. With the correct posture, a lot of things will begin to fall into place. Practice consistently. Create a routine. Make it a habit—like brushing your teeth. Don’t think that all beginners must practice a certain amount of time. Practice effectively as much as YOU can. If that means 5 minutes a day for three months and then upping the number in five minute increments—by all means, do that. As long as you keep doing it every day! Pretend you are in No Excuse University! LOL! We are all masters at creating the best excuses for ourselves---don’t. Find that five minutes you are watching tv, and practice. That five minutes you are microwaving some food, practice. The time is there---you don’t and can’t manage time, you manage YOURSELF!! Internalize the music before you attempt to play it. Break it down. Music can be broken down into single notes. Working on tone quality. Practice in the mirror. Let the mirror become your practice buddy. Find another person who is at the same place as you in music. Meet up once a month and have a jam session! Overall, have FUN!

Check out the book “Never Too Late,” by John Holt. Listen to Bruce Molsky’s fiddling…. Adults CAN learn to play an instrument. I know many people who began playing an instrument as adults and they became proficient enough to join bands, chamber ensembles, and go to workshops. It is possible!

If you have been searching for a teacher—I’m here to tell you that not all people will teach adults. That’s their choice. However, sometimes it’s due to some form of disbelief that adults can’t learn new things. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t find one right away or that you find one that isn’t your cup of tea. There are loads of amazing teachers out there.

For the ones that have been thinking about it---don’t ask yourself why…ask yourself, Why not!? Also, don’t feel intimidated if your teacher is younger than you. I’ve taught ages 4-88. Can you guess which one was my best student? My 88 year old!

If you are a teacher reading this---please be there for your adult learners. Take them as individuals and don’t treat them like you would a 7 year old student or a 15 year old prodigy.

Learners, if your teacher treats you as if you should be Mozart and you are not happy in that situation—find a new teacher. (Sorry, not trying to hurt anyone’s business here. I don’t know any teacher like that in my town.)

Adult learners—you ROCK! I personally am thanking you for picking up something new and amazing. When in doubt, look in the mirror and know that you have already accomplished so much in your life. You are just adding another element to your fascinating journey on earth.

If you are a struggling adult learner, feel free to contact me through here, facebook, or my e-mail. Please put in the subject: Struggling adult learner. I will get to you!

Fiddle on my friends!


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