How to Relearn Your Old Musical Instrument

cello bridgeGot an old trumpet or guitar collecting dust? Do you want to learn to play the piano all over again? Maybe  you used to play way back when. What happened? Did you put it away and forget about it? Did ‘life’ get in the way? If so, why?

Playing solo just for the sheer hell of it can be a challenge, and even more so if you’ve not played for a few years. However, the rewards of relearning an instrument are worth the time, effort, and pain.

Relearning an instrument is like riding a bicycle, only more challenging. The bad news is that after only a week of not playing you start losing your skills skills. Calluses turn soft, wind players lose their ombisher, and everybody forgets their scales. The good news is with a little persistence you can match and maybe even exceed the level you were at in the past.

Why pick up an old instrument? Here are a few:

Fun. Making music is just fun.
Brain Benefits.
Playing is a definite mental workout. Studies show playing an instrument increases alertness and improves memory.
Stress Relief. Making music lowers stress, even for heavy metal drummers.
Low Cost. If you already have an instrument, making music is one of the most inexpensive and satisfying hobbies out there.
Sexy factor. Everybody knows musicians have more sex.
Make new Friends When you play an instrument, you have an instant connection with millions of people.

Now that you’re convinced to dust off that old instrument, you’re probably wondering how to do it. Here are a few ideas.

Have a Goal.

I put this first for a reason. When I’m trying to learn a new skill, I like to begin with the end in mind. When you know what you want, you’ll be more focused when you’re practicing. For playing an old instrument, your goal might be to play a favorite piece of music, to jam along with a Mile Davis record, to find some people to play with, or even to make your own compositions. If you have a reason, you’ll improve a lot faster.

Start Slow.

No need to start out attempting Flight of the Bumblebee. If you have any old sheet music, dig it out. Otherwise, just start playing some scales. Whatever you choose to play, remember you’re probably waaay out of practice, so don’t worry if you sound shitty; you probably will, but it’s part of the learning process.

Right now, the goal is to build up your muscle memory, fingers, and ombisher. Use a metronome, set it for 80bpm, and gradually work your way up until you can play X at 150bpm flawlessly. You know the drill.

Consistent Practice.

Start slow and be patient. You can’t expect huge gains overnight, but if you apply yourself consistently, you will make great improvements. Aim to practice thirty minutes a day everyday. A marathon session might be fun, but as with any skill you’ll have more benefits from short, consistent sessions.

Record Yourself.

When you record your first sessions, you’ll realize you can do nothing but improve…things can’t get much worse. After a few weeks of practicing, record yourself again, then play the two side by side. Bask in satisfaction at the progress you’ve made.

Get Free Lessons.

I wish I had youtube when I started making music…things would’ve gone so much faster. Hundreds if not thousands of videos exist for almost every instrument out there, some good, some garbage. Watch and learn.

Find a Venue.

This kind of goes along with the first point, but not exactly. If you have a venue or an outlet, you know exactly what you’re working towards. You have a deadline, you have a goal, and you’ll have the chance to share the results of all your hard work.

If you’re particularly ambitious, you can find a few other people who make music, find a little pavilion or somebody’s backyard, and have some kind of free impromptu concert. Invite a few friends, make posters, bring some food and a cooler of beer, and you’ve got an instant party.

Sure beats television.

If you’ve got any stories about picking up an instrument after a long hiatus, share them here. What was the biggest challenge? What is your musical life like now?

Photo Credit: The_Amanda