The Biggest Challenges of Learning a New Instrument

The beginning of an aspiring musician’s journey to learn a new instrument is always bright. Passion is abundant and it feels like the sky’s the limit! However, there are numerous obstacles people face on their journey toward mastering a new instrument.


If you don’t prepare for these obstacles in advance, you run the risk of giving up and wasting your time and money. But what are the biggest obstacles to learning a new instrument?


Here's a detailed breakdown of the biggest challenges people face when learning a new instrument.


Low Confidence


One of the biggest challenges aspiring musicians face when learning a new instrument is a lack of confidence. If you don’t believe in your ability to successfully master an instrument, you’ll struggle to put in the required effort when practicing it. In other words, you’ll have given up before you’ve even started!


There are numerous reasons why a lack of confidence manifests in aspiring musicians. If you aren’t a confident person in general, it’s important to work on that first. Ask yourself—what prevents you from being confident? Are you a perfectionist? Do you struggle to manage your expectations of yourself? The answers to these questions will help you identify why you lack confidence.


It’s vital to remember that there’s no shame in asking for help to boost your confidence. If you’re getting music lessons for a new instrument, be honest with your teacher about your lack of confidence. They’ll reassure you throughout your learning journey to help you stay uplifted.


On the other hand, if you’re teaching yourself to play a new instrument by watching music lessons online, don’t be afraid to post comments and interact with the online community. You’ll soon discover that you’re not the only one lacking confidence—and this will prevent you from being too hard on yourself!


Slow Progress


Picture this. You’re a young artist looking for a new challenge, so you decide to learn how to play the piano. You’ve never tried it before, but you’re eager to learn so you sign up for online piano lessons with a reputable teacher. You put in your maximum effort during every lesson and do everything your teacher says. However, a month later you haven’t made significant progress, and you begin to doubt whether you should have ever started or not!


Unfortunately, this is a common scenario that causes many aspiring musicians to give up learning a new instrument. It occurs primarily because musicians fail to manage their expectations from the get-go. If you’re unrealistic about the speed at which you’ll pick up a new instrument, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment! Therefore, it’s vital to be patient with yourself and accept that learning takes time.


It’s also worth remembering that the journey to learning a new instrument isn’t linear. In other words, you’re not going to make constant progress with each passing lesson. There will be times when you’ll be grinning from ear to ear because you’re progressing quicker than you anticipated. However, there will also be times when you hit a plateau and it’ll seem as though you’ve reached the ceiling of your abilities. In both instances, keep yourself grounded and avoid being tempted by perfectionism.


Poor Teaching Methods


Have you ever seen the movie Whiplash? It’s about an aspiring musician named Andrew who enrolls in a music conservatory to become a jazz drummer. When he attends his first lesson, he quickly realizes his mentor Terence is an extreme perfectionist. Terence regularly berates Andrew in front of the whole class and pushes him beyond his limits, causing him to undergo extreme mental and physical stress. There’s even a point when Andrew nearly dies in a car crash because he speeds to avoid being late for a lesson!


While this form of extreme learning works for Andrew in the movie, it’s unlikely to yield positive results for everyone. Music teachers that bully their students and hold them to unrealistic expectations represent a massive challenge for musicians trying to learn a new instrument. Ultimately, whether you’ll thrive under a demanding teacher depends on how sensitive you are to criticism. However, we generally recommend avoiding teachers that utilize poor teaching methods.


It’s also worth considering what type of teaching suits you. Nowadays, the advent of media platforms like YouTube has made it extremely easy for aspiring musicians to find music lessons online. If you’re better at teaching yourself by watching guided videos, why hire a teacher? We recommend finding out what teaching method works for you and sticking to it in your quest to learn a new instrument.


Setting Unrealistic Goals


Imagine being told by someone who’s never played the piano before that they’re aiming to do immaculate live performances by next month. We wouldn’t blame you for looking bemused! Even if you’re the next Beethoven, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll be able to play a full song let alone perform flawlessly in front of a live audience within a month. Therefore, it’s vital to set realistic goals to avoid disappointing yourself.


If you’re taking music lessons to learn a new instrument, a great way to ensure your goals are realistic is by asking your teacher for help. They’ll help you set goals that match your learning speed and capabilities. They’ll also guide you on how to stay focused if you don’t reach your goals.


On the other hand, if you’re learning a new instrument on your own by following a music lessons blog or taking music lessons online, then you must set realistic goals on your own. A great way to do this is by following the SMART goal model.


According to this model, the best goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound—hence the acronym “SMART”. If your goals follow this blueprint, you’ll progress towards mastering your chosen instrument before you know it.


It’s important to realize that failing to reach a goal isn’t the end of the world. It’s worth viewing goals as targets to aspire toward, not mandatory hurdles you must overcome. The only way to truly fail on your journey to learning a new instrument is to give up entirely—so set realistic goals and keep working hard!


Extreme Scheduling


If you perform any task for an extended period without a break, chances are you’ll burn out. Think about it—if we asked you to work 7 days a week for 12 hours a day without breaks, you’d faint from exhaustion! Learning to play a new instrument is no different. If you’re scheduled for daily lessons with no days off in between, you’ll be perpetually tired. It’ll also erode your passion for learning the new instrument and turn something you once loved into a chore!


Unless you want to set yourself up for failure, avoid extreme scheduling when learning a new instrument. If you’re taking lessons from a teacher, work with them to create a schedule that gives you time off to rest and recover.Adequate rest will help you stay energized on practice days and prevent your progress from plateauing.


On the other hand, if you’re learning a new instrument on your own then make sure you create a schedule with plenty of breaks. A great way to do this is by practicing for as long as you can on your first day to find out what your limit is. Once you’ve figured this out, use it to guide you when you’re scheduling your practice hours.


Lack of Commitment

There are numerous external challenges aspiring musicians face when learning a new instrument—but what about internal challenges? One of the biggest internal obstacles aspiring musicians face is their willingness to commit long-term toward learning a new instrument. It’s common for people to feel extremely passionate when they first start learning a new instrument. However, maintaining that passion for an extended period is a whole different ball game.


If you find your passion to learn a new instrument is waning, it’s time to take a step back and assess why this is happening. Are other priorities in your life taking up your time? Have you stopped believing in yourself? And if so, why? The answers to these questions will reveal why you’re unable to commit as much as you had anticipated at the beginning of your learning journey.


Injuries

No matter how motivated you are to learn a new instrument, you’ll struggle to progress if you’re injured! Unfortunately, it’s quite common for musicians to injure themselves when they first start learning how to play an instrument. For instance, if you’ve just started to learn how to play the guitar, you’ll suffer from blisters and cuts on your fingers—especially if you’re using a guitar with metal strings. It’ll take 2 to 4 weeks before calluses develop on your fingertips and you’re able to play the guitar without hurting yourself.


If you want to avoid injuries, consider reaching out to musicians that have mastered the instrument you’re learning for advice. They’ll give you tips on what to do if you injure yourself and how to prevent injuries in the future. For example, a great tip to avoid cutting yourself when you first start playing the guitar is by opting for nylon strings. Nylon strings are softer than their metal counterparts and therefore less likely to cut you while you practice.


It's also worth building up your practice time gradually to give your body time to adjust to playing the new instrument. This is especially important for instruments like the drums, which require a lot of physical movement. If you’ve never played drums in your life, practicing too much could cause you to suffer from tendinitis in your wrists.

Expenses


No matter how passionate you are about learning a new instrument, you’ll struggle if you’re short on money. It’s important to have access to funds—especially if you’re thinking of playing large instruments like pianos, which are often quite expensive.

One way around this obstacle is to purchase used instruments from places like garage sales. It’s also worth visiting music shops that rent instruments to aspiring musicians. This will help you avoid spending a hefty chunk of money in one go.


If you visit a music shop, we recommend asking the staff to advise you before you purchase anything. The last thing you want is to buy an extremely expensive instrument only to find out there’s a cheaper model available that’s better suited to beginners!


It’s also important to ensure you have enough money left over after buying an instrument to cover the cost of music lessons. If you want to make steady progress under the guidance of a mentor, it’s vital to invest in music lessons. However, if you think you can teach yourself to play an instrument, then it’s worth browsing around for resources like free piano sheet music, a solid music lessons blog,or free music lessons online.


If you’ve successfully mastered a new instrument, why not showcase your talent with the help of a music publishing company like Jasberger Music! They offer two albums featuring popular Christian hymns on their website and help beginner artists get noticed by publishing their music. They also provide a wealth of resources for budding artists, including free organ sheet music and the chance to buy piano solo sheet music from their online shop.


For more information about their services, dial 801-636-7668 or email them at hello@jasberger.com.

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