“I. Want to rock and roll all night. And party ev-er-y day!”
Every soul with a pulse at some point in life has sung along to that one… ok, maybe not with KISS. But who hasn’t been inspired when they hear their favorite tunes on the radio or when they see a musician dazzle an audience?
Humans are universally mesmerized by the power of music and by performers who catch our ear.
Once bitten by the bug, some are ready to launch their own musical pursuits, having dreams of the day they too can begin “dazzling” audiences!
You become inspired, and inspiration is key to lighting the fire! You can no longer deny the groove in your soul; you have the determination and desire to be the next Adele, Slash, or Lindsey Sterling!
Being a Beginner
Everyone still starts out a beginner, and it’s good to be armed with a little insight for that first foray into the world of music.
What’s it going to take?
As a music teacher, the most frequent question I hear is, “What’s it going to take for me (or my child) to become a “real” musician or at least a half-way decent player.”
It’s an honest question that deserves an honest answer.
First off, let’s start with the obvious. Just as you suspected, learning music takes time and dedication. Yes, it’s true. And what you’ve heard about music being an art, a science, and math—that’s true, too. At first, this may seem academic and maybe a little intimidating, but just realize that those are the very aspects that make you love music so much! Don’t worry, your brain can handle it. As you learn, your brain begins to thrive on this diverse information. But also remember this is also why it takes time to get good—your mind is doing some complex stuff as you play music!
Ok secondly, we need to talk about practice, and this is the big one. “Yes, of course, mere mortals must practice,” you might be thinking, all the while secretly assuming the great ones just started playing with god-like skill the moment they touched the instrument. Ha, if only!
This mythology appears in movies with regularity, but don’t kid yourself. Absolutely every musician you admire practiced A LOT to get where they are. The ups, downs, challenges, and successes in the practice room build musicians. Many people want to attribute a musician’s ability to “natural talent.” Natural talent is NOT how musicians get good at what they do. Natural talent does not give a musician depth or experience. Nope. Pure practice, baby! There’s no replacement.
The Path To Rock God Status
Let’s assume though that we’re not talking the world stage or mega concerts in sold-out stadiums. How much practice will it take to be able to sit down and just play for yourself or feel comfortable playing in front of others? Much like a typical exercise regimen, I recommend a minimum of 30 minutes a day and at least five days per week to get the cumulative effect that allows for steady progress. After that, it comes down to the instrument, the type of music, and the person.
Are we talking instruments that pretty much play one note at a time (violin, flute, trumpet) or those that play several or lots of notes at once (piano, guitar, ukulele)? Hint: an instrument that plays single notes will be faster to learn than one that plays multiple notes. Is your desire modern music or classical? Different styles take longer to conquer, depending on the intricacy. And you—what about you? How much are you willing to put into your practice? Time, energy, patience, and focus are your key elements here. The more you commit, the faster you advance.
Let’s focus on piano and guitar as examples since they are easily accessible and popular. Both can work as one-man-band type instruments but are also frequently played in group settings. You can listen to solo piano or guitar music and not start to wonder where the rest of the music is. That’s because these chord-type instruments can be “the whole orchestra” with no need for additional players. It stands to reason that they also get the most complicated and layered (read: hardest) music to play and tend to take the longest to master. Piano and guitar are universally available though, so they still get the advantage of being most people’s first instrument. Timeframe to excellence? Infinity. But you can expect to comfortably be able to play basic music on guitar after 2-3 years of regular practice. With piano, it’s more like 5-6 years.
Are We There Yet?
Don’t psych yourself out here. With good instruction and regular practice, the process of learning is incremental and becomes more natural and easy every day.
So, sing along. Allow music to inspire you. Start at the beginning-all musicians do. Are you ready to jump on the path to Rock-God-Status? If not, what are you waiting for?
Cara Walsh Dorman is co-owner of Muse School of Music with locations in Anchorage and Eagle River. Cara teaches piano with an emphasis in creative exploration balanced with solid musicianship. Cara and her husband, guitar instructor Eddie Dorman, opened their doors 12 years ago to offer the community a fresh, spirited, and modern approach to music education. Muse School of Music provides instruction in piano, guitar, bass guitar, voice, and ukulele, with more instruments to come!