How long does it take to learn an instrument? Tips for success!

How long does it take to learn an instrument? Tips for success!
Adult Students

Adult Students: The first step is to have a heart-to-heart with your teacher about your goals, expectations, and time. Do you want to learn to read music and play Beethoven? Or are you looking to learn some easy chords so you can play a few songs for your friends at your next party? Would you like to join a community orchestra or form a band, or are you looking for a creative outlet to relax after work? Make sure you and your teacher are on the same page, and that your teacher is comfortable teaching the kind of music that you want to learn. You’ll probably need a beginner book so that you can learn the notes and some basic theory behind what you are playing. After a few weeks of learning the fundamentals, you will probably be able to play a few simple songs.

On guitar, for example, if you learn 3-5 chords, you can play a TON of different pop songs (of course, it does take a lot of practice to change between the chords!) Piano students will be able to play simple melodies and have their teacher (or guitar playing friends) accompany them. Voice students will work on pitch matching, breath control, placement, vowel shapes, and contour. Your teacher will be able to help find music that matches your voice and range. Ultimately your progress depends on: natural ability (a little), determination and perseverance (a lot), and how much time you have to practice. You should see a definite improvement within a few months, and like anything, the more you do it, the better it gets!

Nobody has ever said “I wish I hadn’t learned to play the piano”!

Student playing Piano - bucktown music

Young Students: Parents should be actively involved in young children’s lessons. Children who can’t read yet will need help going over their assignments and understanding what is expected. It helps to bring in a notebook and your teacher can write down what you should be working on and any helpful tips (rhythm, posture, hand position). The most important thing with music lessons is that it is not only a mental skill, but a physical one as well, that needs to be practiced over and over to master the muscle memory needed to be successful. At the beginning, your child should probably be practicing 10-15 minutes most days. Don’t leave practicing until the day before your lesson, you really can’t “cram” it in. You’ll definitely want to practice the day after your lesson, when your teacher’s tips are fresh in your mind. Piano students will generally use a series of 4 books (Lesson, Theory, Technique, and Performance) which work together, and gives your child several different ways to practice one skill, which keeps it more interesting. Guitar, violin, voice, and other instruments will usually have 1 or 2 books to work with. Another tip for practicing is to have your child play each song the number of times of their age (7 year olds will play each song 7 times.) Be sure to listen in and make sure they aren’t just rushing through! The goal is to improve at least one thing each time you play.

young student

A child’s progress is greatly influenced by certain skills, such as finger dexterity (can your child make “O”s with each of their fingers touching their thumb?), the ability to move each finger independently of the others, their natural ability to keep a steady beat, and their communication skills with their teacher. Everyone learns at a different pace, but most children will get through their Level 1 book in 6-12 months. Older children will make MUCH quicker progress.

Keep in mind that a child who takes lessons for three years from 9-12 years old will make SO much more progress than a child who plays from 5-8 years old…​

Make sure your child stays in lessons long enough to get the joy of mastering an instrument, which usually takes until about Level 3 of most lesson book series (approximately 2-3 years). Psst…you’re paying for lessons, so you want to make sure your kid is getting the brain benefits everyone is talking about, right???

If your child seems frustrated or bored, talk to their teacher about adding some fun repertoire (maybe music from their favorite movie or video game), or finding an ensemble or performance opportunity to keep them motivated!

It’s very common to hit a plateau with your playing.  KEEP IT UP!  That means you are making progress and just need to “get over the hump” to make it to the next level!  If there is a piece that you are struggling with, ask your teacher for hints, break it up into sections, practice it a million times and move on! 

Start your musical journey today