Learning Music as an Adult

I spend my time teaching people to use computers, most of my clients are adults and some are well, not young adults! When starting out they say things like “I’m too old to be learning this”. I haven’t come across anyone that I thought was too old to learn and some of my  clients are in their 90’s. My oldest client is currently 98.

But how about starting out learning a musical instrument as an adult?

Children pick things up so quickly but for an adult it can be harder. We may have too many things going on in our lives and fingers that aren’t as supple but we do have some advantages. We should be able to understand the principles of practise and make better use of what time we have available.

In my late 40s I decided to try and learn the clarinet. I organised lessons and convinced myself that it is just practise, practise and more practise. I doubt my fingers will ever move with the speed required to be a good player but with continual work I find things that seemed impossible a year ago now aren’t so hard.

"Squeak", my clarinet
“Squeak”, my clarinet
I did read that it takes 10,000 hours of practise to be good at something…hmmm….that is going to put me in my 80s but no good leaving it any later.

Finding time is always the biggest issue, I work in three jobs, I have a family, what gives? Well I now rarely watch TV in the evening, instead I try to do an hours practise each evening after dinner.

After each lesson I think right this week I’ll practise every day. But then I come home from work with a splitting headache or help is needed with homework etc. I like to think I average 5 nights a week but even that might be optimistic. Sometimes it doesn’t go well, sometimes I practise  all week and am really pleased with myself only to have it all fall apart in the lesson. However I have progressed and to prove it I have been taking the AMEB exams. These have given me goals to work towards and something to measure how I am doing.

I’ve taken an exam each year until I reached grade 6.  This I found quite a  challenge, the pieces took that much more work, and so much technical work to memorise so grade 6 took me 2 years but I got there.

As I had problems getting the timing and rhythms right my teacher has been working on duets, jazz swing and various not so challenging pieces. Then he has suggested moving onto the next grade. Grade 7, seriously ? Grade 7 is a huge amount of work. Hard pieces, tons of scales and technical work, I’m not even going to think about the sight reading I don’t think I can do this however we are taking it slowly working a bit on the hard stuff and a bit on the fun pieces with no timeframe or real expectation of ever actually taking grade 7.

My teacher cheerfully suggested a piece of music from grade 7 to start with “this will be fun”. Weber Grand Duo Concertant. Not a chance, never in a million years will I be able to play that. Only need 3rd movement for the exam but lets start with the first few bars of the first movement…..ok so the first couple of bars are hard!

After one week….the first couple of bars are still hard but not impossible, sometimes it doesn’t sound so bad.

3 weeks since my last lesson. As usual I feel I haven’t done enough practice but I am quite happy with what I have done.  Didn’t work on so many pieces but did spend time on specific exercises and sections of pieces.  So I had done exactly what my teacher had told me to do, there were other things I hadn’t got to but I was fairly pleased with myself.  My teacher could tell there was an improvement and whilst I played quite a lot of wrong notes in places where I normally don’t the technique was better so all in all a pretty good lesson.  Of the simpler pieces a couple are now ticked as done and I’ve started on new ones.  On my hard piece I am now to try and get to the end of the first page.

5/4/2014 – Another 2 weeks have gone and the last lesson for the term. I’m pretty happy, missed a few days practice as usual and a couple of pieces didn’t get as much work as I would have liked but a noticeable improvement on others. Long break before the next lesson so have given plenty to work on, now doing first 2 pages of the Weber and added 2 new pieces.

30/6/2014 – A short term but now including page 3 of the Weber and trying to increase the tempo (speed). Learnt a few other simpler pieces.
Might move this over to the blog page (as long as I keep making progress that is).

….to be continued (I hope!) ….

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