Exploring Music's Complexities

Never too Late to Play an Instrument

You’re all grown up but for some reason, never learned to play an instrument.  Don’t give up.  It’s never too late.  Despite the many myths about music and musicians, there seems to be general agreement that anyone can acquire skill to some level of competence.   According to John Powell, everyone is musical.  It’s just a matter of learning a new skill.  Of course, there will be some better than you but also those who are worse (1).  A personal assessment of the level of commitment you can make should also help determine the instrument you choose.

Choosing an instrument

Musical instruments can be classified in a number of ways.  There are instruments that produce one note at a time, more than one note at a time, and those that produce many notes at a time.  The first is a flute. The second is a violin and the third is a piano.  Instruments can be classified by the position that is required by the hands to produce a note.  These instruments either do or don’t use frets.  Examples are flute, pianos, and guitars.  Those that don’t are the violin and trombone.  The lack of frets on the violin means it is much more difficult to play because the finger must be accurate to within a millimeter or so (1).

Another way to classify instruments is by type (2).  The string instruments are in the first group.  The group includes the violin, viola, cello and double bass.  To play these instruments one must be prepared to practice a lot and accept that progress will be slow.  Good dexterity and good co-ordination are a plus.

Woodwind instruments are made up of small instruments such as the flute and clarinet and larger instruments like the bassoon and oboe.  Unlike the string instruments there is faster initial progress and the skill acquired can be used to play the saxophone.

Brass instruments create a great sound are not too hard to learn.  French horns, trumpets, trombones and the tuba fall into this class.  These instruments can be quite large and require a lot of wind.   A choice of instrument from this group is good for responsive people who want to play with others.

The piano, mostly a solo instrument, is a member of the Keyboard class.  It is considered by many to be the best choice for the beginner be they independent or quiet.  Its versatility make it work for most genres.

Pianos and drums fall in the percussion class.  Percussion instrument musicians are sought after by Bands.  The drums are fairly easy to learn and are good choices for energetic people as playing a gig will give you a good workout.

The Adult Beginner

Once you have determined what instrument you will learn, you will need to decide how to achieve your goal.  Today’s technologies provide online choices if you want to attack the task alone.  Music teachers most often teach children.  Ideally your choice of teacher should be someone with experience teaching adults.  Sharing your goals with your teacher will help to determine what will be expected from you in terms of practice.

In an article by Music Teachers Helper (3) it is suggested that the first session be taken up listening to the student.  Find out why they want to play.  What are their goals?  What music do they like?  What artists do they enjoy?



  1.  Powell, John.  How Music Works.  Little, Brown and Company,  2010.  pp 205-210.  New York.

2.  How to choose an instrument.  https://www.firsttutors.com/uk/music/articles/first-steps-in-music/..

3.The Adult Beginner.  https://blog.musicteachershelper.com/the-ault-beginner/


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