Learning a Musical Instrument

4-3-13 Spaghetti and Music 020

When I was a child in maybe seventh or eighth grade I took a few piano classes outside of school and eventually dropped out. I was interested in piano, but was very bored and frustrated when trying to learn the notes. I played easy songs according to finger numbers and could not understand beyond that. I would have the teacher tell me where to place your fingers when you begin to play and then just read the numbers. It was boring to me to spend hours matching notes to keys.

I stopped taking lessons, and years later concluded I could not play an instrument but could figure out where middle C was on the keyboard. I am not exactly sure if it was because there was not enough skill and drill for me to learn the notes, but I was very disinterested and unable to play after those lessons. There were issues with me not knowing the notes for sure. There was one workbook I completed with the notes, but it was very short and not enough to help me understand. I think I was able to name the notes in the notebook and match them to the picture of the keyboard, but confused about where they were on the real keyboard. Even if I knew where they were on the keyboard, it would have been very boring after such a brief intro to play intermediate songs. It would be matching for many hours. Maybe if the teacher would point to a note and I would find it on the keyboard for the lessons I would have learned the notes. Nevertheless, I gave up lessons for many years since.

Many years later as a young adult I came across the flashcards in the picture to right and went over them everyday and eventually took some non-credit continuing education classes in piano at the local community college. Finally, I had learned the notes and could manage to play songs without finger numbers and after some frustrating practice am somewhat proficient in playing pieces on the piano. Knowing the notes and practicing helped me play some decent pieces and the more pieces I learned and classes I took the better my practicing sounded. Still, there is much I don’t know and need to learn. According to the piano instructor you learn by practicing. There is much to learn and it is more than notes, but you have to practice. It is about how many pieces you know. I would guess over 300 hours of practice would make you intermediate level. Thirty minutes a day is recommended. For me it was  getting familiar with most of the notes and practicing. There is a way to learn by ear training, but I am not familiar with that currently.

Some benefits to learning music include:

  • improves memory, people around musicians or who practice an instrument regularly have very low rates to no cases of Alzheimers
  • aids math skills and makes learning a foreign language easier

These are things the instructor informed the class of, and are generally known and accepted as true. Some of the sites below mention these benefits also and I am sure there are published works that enforce these facts. It is recommended to learn two or more instruments, one should probably be a string instrument. Most of us will probably not end up as music majors so I am thinking there is no need to buy some expensive instrument. Something small and simple like the ukulele could be a good start. It is portable and not too expensive and plays some very beautiful sounding pieces. You can find keyboards for a reasonable price on sites like Craigslist and some actual older pianos for maybe $200. No need to spend $10,000 or more on an grand piano. Just thought I would add a friend of mine just informed me how her one family member listed a older piano on Craigslist and received an offer of $100. He was very insulted and refused the offer even though other family members told him to accept it. He thought it should go for like $400 or $500. Still, you never know, sometimes you find a good deal online from places like Craigslist. Also, in some places it is seen as nearly mandatory to a proper education to know and or have studied a musical instrument.

Below are some good sites for studying a musical instrument:

www.musictheory.net – great site with a quiz to help you learn notes and their location on the keyboard. However, I just prefer the paper flashcards, but be careful not use them during a lunch break or anything as I did that and had olive oil salad dressing spill on probably most of them. Still, they work and are usable. This could be a good way to test yourself if you have been away from the piano for a while.

http://www.piano-play-it.com/music-tempo.html – has some information like tempo marks that can be used to make your own flashcards, even Wikipedia has a list of tempo marks that can be used to make flashcards, looks like they offer some free beginning courses too. Still, it is nice to have the accountability and expertise of a teacher, but many great musicians were self-taught!

http://library.thinkquest.org/4116/index.htm – this site has some great information for learning a musical instrument, it mentions how most of the children that win math competitions know a musical instrument

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  • Reply Sheila May 11, 2013, 7:54 am

    Acts alone do not help in the promotion or prniteevon of a culture from going to rack and ruin. The hapless condition of our Music & Culture is a glaring example of governmental apathy and neglect. According to a report prepared by UNESCO, the Punjabi language will disappear from the world in 50 years. Our language, dialects, and specially one of the oldest, enduring rich heritages of music, is decaying.

    • Reply Michelle May 16, 2013, 4:41 am

      Thanks for being actually the first to reply to this post. I did not know that info, and I find the music and culture of Punjabi intriguing, interesting, fun, different, and exotic. Hopefully, it perseveres and somehow is at least documented and survives. I have heard of some languages that are expected to go extinct soon including Aramaic. Unbelievable.

  • Reply Hans May 11, 2013, 10:15 am

    Hey. I found your current blog site the paulicrtar in google. This is an excellent article. I am going to make sure you save this and also return to get more information of one’s helpful tips. Thanks for the paulicrtar article. I willdefinitely return.

    • Reply Michelle May 17, 2013, 4:54 am

      Wonderful! Thanks for the comment. I like this article also, as I did not know how learning a musical instrument could decrease risk for Alzheimers and improve memory until I was an adult. It is good info, but possibly just generally known by people in the field. I thought it was just a fun area of study. For me that info may have helped me pay better attention in class as a child. Although every child is different and that would not work for some kids and the music classes at my school were rather basic. Every kid and adult should have an opportunity to learn a musical instrument. Hope to hear from you again. Thanks. – Michelle 🙂

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