or tone deaf, or untalented....
I promise, very shortly after meeting you, I will ask if you play an instrument or sing. And regardless of your answer, I will ask if you want to join our band or choir. Wouldn't really be doing my job if I didn't.
Here are some of the common responses I get - and why I believe music you can learn an instrument or sing.
"I can't learn a new instrument or sing because..."
1) "...I don't have musical skills (or talent)."
Of course not. You haven't started.
Look, I get it - we don't want to be embarrassed! Especially when around someone who is better than you...or WORSE, younger.
Have you ever asked a 5 year old if they want to paint? More than likely, their response would be "YEAH!", or something of that variety. Have you ever asked a 17 year old if they want to paint? "I don't know how to paint".
Somewhere between approximately 5 to approximately 17 years old...we lost that sense of imagination. There's something magical about teaching young people music - they don't know any "better".
They don't know the fear of failure, the fear of being laughed at, the fear of looking stupid.
Most of my younger students compose their own songs to play in their instrument. You know, they haven't learned that composing is "hard".
My first notes were not good...I'm sure of it. But after years of practice, listening and learning, I got better. Think about it, how many times do you have to play a note wrong until you can't help but get it right? I'm serious! 1,000? 2,000 times? More? THEN WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Let's get those "bad" notes out of the way and start MAKING MUSIC! :)
2) "...I'm tone deaf."
No, you're not. If you were truly tone deaf, you wouldn't be able to tell who is talking to you without looking at them. You wouldn't be able to enjoy the music you listen to; in movies, television, the radio, you name it.
The problem is that you haven't spent enough time taking the sounds in your mind and vocalizing them through an instrument or your voice. I blame pop music. It's so repetitive that it's actually boring to sit and listen to it. I mean, turn on the music, sit down, and ONLY listen to the music. So what has happened is we are so used to turning on the radio and doing other things...do chores, read, chat to our friends at the barbeque, dance at a club. We're not actually listening, it's part of the environment we're in.
All that is nice...but what it has led to is a generation of people who have poor time, a poor sense of melody, and an overall misunderstanding of music. Music is a passive activity for them.
Do you want to have a better sense of time, better sense of pitch? Sit and only listen to the music. I'm willing to bet that you'll find the songs you like now, might not be as exciting to you (that is, pop music).
Furthermore, it's why people who only or mostly use music as a passive activity don't like classical music. It's too complicated for their untrained ears...they don't understand it. They don't have anything to relate to it with, so it's "boring". THAT, or it's "that soothing thing that I use to put me to sleep". Which, by the way, if you fall asleep listening to classical music - you're not actually listening to it.
Try this. When you listen to songs, count how many times you hear the chorus, or the same verse. If that's too much, see if you can figure what is the chorus and what is the verse. What instruments are in the background? How many things are actually going on at any given time? Once you start to get more familiar with this, try it with new music you've never listened to before - or maybe something you think you'll hate. I bet you'll find reasons why you like it.
On top of all that, you will start to have a better sense of the time (tempo, pulse), and the melody (pitch, rhythm). Try singing along. Try singing along and match the singer's tone and pitch. Hey look, you're doing it! And you're not tone deaf.
3) "...I don't have the money."
How long are we going to let something as superficial as money dictate what we can and can't do? Believe me, I've had my history with money - and those roadblocks slowed me down - but I don't let them stop me. True, professional instruments can range from tens of thousands of dollars to millions. But we're not going to buy you one of those yet, my friend.
You can find used instruments at very affordable prices. Flutes, clarinets, trumpets, trombones, some drums...all these you can find for a little under $100 to a couple hundred. Saxes, baritones and tubas tend to be a bit more, but there are plenty of gems out there. Are they going to be top notch? No, of course not. But they will get you started.
Ask someone where to look and whether or not something you've found is good. All of you reading this can e-mail me right now and ask for help on where to look, or if something you found is a good deal. Talk to your nearby college music teachers or high school music teachers. If they care about their job, they will be ecstatic to help someone start their journey to learning music. Get lessons with them while you're at it!
I completely understand how money can be a roadblock, a factor. But I think it's time that we start looking at issues like money and say, "yeah, but, how can I make it happen?"
"You can do anything if you put your mind on how to do it, rather than on why you can't"
I promise, you live your life this way and nothing will stop you. Not even monetary limitations.
4) "...I'm too old."
Again, no you're not.
My favorite examples are the parents that take their children to lessons and they learn really quickly that sitting in the music teacher's home waiting for the lesson to end is boring. They observe their child learning an instrument and start to think..."I can do that...". SO, they do!
No one can tell you how to live life...that is our own choice. If someone told you that you're too old to learn a musical instrument, then shame on them. But shame on you for believing it.
I hope this has helped to inspire you to break through the self-imposed barriers of learning music. And really, to learn anything you've dreamt of learning or doing. This kind of a mindset is what I try to teach every day to my students. Destroying roadblocks with creative ideas on how to achieve our goals. Being solution-based toward a problem, trying it and trying another solution if it doesn't work. It's what makes being in a musical ensemble so special...spending hour after hour learning something that we didn't know or couldn't do before, then performing in front of a group of people. This environment of learning and achieving (or failing and learning from) is what inspires my students to do the impossible in whatever field they choose.
Now, go practice!