Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Learning an instrument.... as an adult!

In a recent comment on this blog, Jennifer ruminated on the idea of learning an orchestral instrument.
My first reaction is the obvious one: It's never too late to start!

But the toughest row to hoe for an adult learning a new instrument is this: You know how good it can sound in the best of hands. Learning an instrument with this knowledge is what makes it so difficult.

As a kid, you don't care, because you don't know! During a recent visit to my parent's home in Oakland, a neighbor, Howard Jackson, recalled listening to me practice my french horn during my formative years. (In my parent's home, the front door opens to an atrium, where I often practiced when the noise of five brothers and sisters was overwhelming.) Mr. Jackson went on to say, "yeah...one day my wife said to me, 'I remember hearing Edward play his horn, and then, after a few years, he started sounding good.'"

Of course, I thought I sounded good all along! But Ms. Jackson's experience was a bit different from mine.

For an adult, the key is to go easy on yourself. If you want to learn the violin, or the oboe, or the horn, you will need tremendous patience.

But the best place to start is with the piano. Here you have a veritable orchestra; every sound, melodic fragment, magical harmony and percussive thrust, right at your fingertips.

And with the piano, you won't ever have to worry about playing in tune.

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