Musical instrumentalists - did you learn because you were made to, or because you wanted to?

swee'pea99

Legendary Member
Chatting with my youngest t'other day I mused that one thing I regretted was never nudging her/them toward learning a musical instrument. She said she regretted it too, tho' friends of hers who'd learned an instrument still played barely at all if that.

It set me thinking, along with my recent experiences, having taken the guitar out of the attic, playing around with it a couple of times, then abandoning it to reproach me every time I sit down. Fact is, I'd love to play the guitar, but I just can't be arsed to learn. It seems to take so long, I get hurty fingers, and my skills are so limited I bore myself. Even back when I did play a bit, regularly-ish, I'd long since plateaued, and there's only so many times you can G D A your way through Beatles & Bob. I guess I'm wondering whether if I had helicopter parents to keep my nose to the grindstone I'd get through that phase and start to enjoy it and get better. Or maybe it just doesn't work like that. My friend Daniel says that from an early age he itched to get back to his guitar, and for forty years+ he's needed a minimum hour a day or he gets twitchy.

I learned violin when I was younger. God knows why. I had zero interest, never even listened to classical music, really had not a clue what I was aspiring to...it was just a slog. Gave up when I was maybe 13 (my little sister, who had the next bedroom, later told me it was one of the best days of her life). Never regretted it. I would like to play the guitar, but there's simply not enough motivation to see me through the effort and commitment required.

So, I'm just curious...I know there are quite a few musicians hereabouts. Did you come from a musical background? Did you have pushy parents? Did you choose the instrument you learned? Did you start learning later, as an adult? How much of it was obedience and how much came from within, man?

Take it from the top.
 

HMS_Dave

Über Member
Location
Midlands
Because i wanted to.

BTW. It's never too late. I know a piano and violin teacher who has students in their 80's... You do however need to want to learn.
 

Drago

Flouncing Nobber
Location
Poshshire
Was forced ino piano lessons at school, but can play guitar bass and drum as well. Learned the last three because I wanted to, and being able to read music as a result of the enforced piano torture is a huge bonus.

My Dad plays geetar, my Ma plays no instrument. Mini D is only 9 and plays guitar, bass and piano already.
 

Julia9054

Guru
Location
Knaresborough
Started piano lessons when I was four. We had a piano in the house and I was picking tunes out on it from earlier than that. My dad had played a bit as a child so both of us started lessons with a lady who was a retired nurse and lived 3 doors down. Got a place at Chethams school of music when I was 10 but failed to get a scholarship so couldn’t go. Played clarinet at the local music centre from age 11 (my idea)
Gave up instrument lessons age about 14 as I couldn’t be arsed to put the work in and my parents didn’t make me. I really wish they had.
When I had my children, it was “what instrument do you want to play" not “do you want to play an instrument". I sat with them and made sure they practiced as I wish my parents had done with me. For my eldest, I didn’t have to after the age of about 9 - he is very single minded and all he has wanted to do is blow trumpets and get paid for it.
My younger son has more diverse interests and needed a lot more nagging to practice throughout his teenage years.
I reckon once you are about grade 5 standard, you can stop playing and take it up again as an adult without too many problems so my aim with my boys was to get them to that standard as quickly as possible so that if they wanted to give up they could and it would still stick. They didn’t want to give up!
Both boys are professional musicians now and I took up playing the trumpet/cornet about 17 years ago. I play in a brass band and coach youngsters. I still wish my piano skills were better.
 
Location
Rammy
I took up drums at senior school and had lessons, I was about to tell my parents that I didn't want to continue when a drum kit turned up (second hand and not too expensive, but still), I recognised the cost that they'd spent on it and plodded on for another few years with them stumping up money for lessons.

When I was 18 I asked for a bass guitar, I still play, mainly at church, but enjoyed playing while at uni.

I tried piano and guitar before drums, and have tried guitar since, but no joy.

My wife plays flute (well, she owns one, never seen it out the case) clarinet and saxophone, she's played with local wind bands and also at church and occasionally she'll get them out to play. It's mainly her grandfather's influence that's made her stick with it over the years I think, being encouraged but not forced.
 

ColinJ

Puzzle game developer
I've deleted a rambling tale of what happened to our family piano; summary: I damaged it so my dad gave it to a 'good home'! Instead, I'll just tell you what happened at school...

We had a music lesson once a week. As many kids do, we were learning to play the recorder. Many of my classmates struggled but I picked it up really quickly. At the end of one lesson the music teacher told me that he thought I had some natural musical ability and asked if I would like to learn a 'more serious' instrument than the recorder. The school had a significant budget for musical instruments and lessons so I could choose an instrument to learn (violin, piano, flute, trumpet etc.) and they would pay for it. I turned the offer down! I was already doing a lot of homework and was too lazy to do extra studying and practice on top of that. One of my classmates got the chance instead and opted for piano lessons.

Years later, I walked into a music shop in Coventry and saw one of their staff playing a difficult classical piano piece to a customer. The pianist was only the person who had taken 'my' music lessons! :ohmy:

I felt jealous but only had myself to blame...

I've tried to learn the guitar a few times but I have an attitude problem. I think in terms of getting to the destination (eventual proficiency) and forget about the journey (enjoying practising). A friend of mine picks up my guitar every time she visits and sometimes messes about for an hour or more. She isn't brilliant, but she enjoys it and I can tell that she is getting better. In fact she has already surpassed my poor skills. I must have another go soon or I will never do it.
 

AndreaJ

Über Member
I played guitar a bit from primary school until early secondary school, I stopped when I got into horse riding instead.My parents didn’t make me practice much. My daughter started playing the clarinet, her choice, when she was about 9 and I encouraged her to practice regularly, she is now 17 and would still be having lessons in normal times although her enthusiasm to practice needs more encouragement. Her secondary school had an active music department with a Big Band which she plays in and she has enjoyed playing in lots of school productions and talent evenings, not sure if she will keep it up after this year when she goes to university though which seems a shame.
 

Sharky

Guru
Location
Kent
Never had a lesson and can't read music, but taught my self a mouth organ when I was a teen and then my dad bought me a mandolin when I was 15. Self taught myself and can play most tunes by ear, but only snippits of most tunes. Wish I had had lessons though.

My kids all had lessons and between them can play piano, flute, sax, clarinet and ukelali.
 

delb0y

Guru
Location
Quedgeley, Glos
I'd say you're definitely never too old to learn! You just have to find a way to enjoy the journey, rather than that focus on the destination. In June I started playing the clarinet again after 45 years. As I was never any good back then, this really is like starting again. I've already progressed further in my Tune A Day book than I ever did back at school. The big difference is now I'm doing it for fun and listening to (and playing very simply) music I love rather than what a teacher or curriculum insists I play.
 

Arjimlad

Tights of Cydonia
Location
South Glos
I started piano lessons quite young, can't remember if I had much choice about it but I was forced to practice a bit. It became more of a pleasure although I rarely play now and am very rusty. This taught me to read music and I got my grade 5 theory & practical. I took to learning specific pieces I wanted to play.

I picked up a 10 hole diatonic & then a chromatic harmonica quite young too and enjoyed playing various "campfire" style tunes I taught myself, but got bored at about 13. I put it down until I was 16 when I realised what blues harmonica sounded like, and began to hear it all over the place in various stuff by my favourite bands Status Quo, Eurythmics etc. Grabbed a Marine Band in D to play it in A and begged another lad to show me how to bend the notes and then off I went, imitating my favourite blues masters. I chiefly play in worship groups at church or blues duo with a guitar playing friend now.

That led to me picking up a bass which was lying around during a practice, and picking out the bass lines, which led to my buying my own bass & playing more regularly again at church.

I still picture the piano keyboard in my head when reading music, even when I am playing the bass or the harmonica. I think in intervals, rather than keys. The piano lessons & music theory were very important to me, with hindsight. My eldest son is an accomplished drummer in two bands who was gigging regularly before lockdown, studying for a degree in music business, my youngest son plays guitar for pleasure by himself, and my daughter is enjoying learning the J-sax (a kid's plastic saxophone) which she plays in the local music hub orchestra. It's inspired my wife to pick up her clarinet again so I guess it's all coming around full-circle for us.

The thing with the piano is you need to spend years on it, practising boring stuff like scales & your sight-reading before you can be useful as a musician on the piano. The other instruments I play are far easier to pick up & sound OK with. Guess that makes me lazy !
 

Electric_Andy

Heavy Metal Fan
Location
Plymouth
I started Guitar lessons at 13, mostly because my 2 friends at school could already play and were really good. But also because I was in to Metallica, G'nR, Iron Maiden etc and wanted to play those songs. I hated (and still do hate) learning from a book. I would always teach myself by ear and not follow music in a book. I taught myself to play the drums too, hence my technique is shite but I can keep a beat.

I wish I'd learnt Piano, as I only had the patience to learn when I was younger. I don't have any patience these days
 

bitsandbobs

Well-Known Member
Started violin lessons age 8, switched to viola at 14 and played until I was about 45. It was something I wanted to do, but my parents were supportive, and I was fortunate to get a county music grant which paid for private lessons all the way through secondary school. I eventually reached a reasonably good standard and got to play with very good musicians and play in some interesting places (including Royal Albert Hall a couple of times). It wasn't something I ever wanted to do for a living, although playing at weddings helped out when I was a student: we once managed three weddings in one day.

I did encounter a few kids who had parents that forced them to have music lessons and hated it, so have been a bit wary of making my own children have lessons.
 
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MntnMan62

Senior Member
Location
Northern NJ
I was definitely “nudged” into taking lessons. Back in the early 70’s I took lessons to play classical piano. I studied under a top teacher and became quite good. Unfortunately nothing she taught me prepared me to improvise or even learn theory. As a result I could not even think about playing in a band with my friends. I did start lessons with someone who was a good jazz player but I felt completely lost. That was when I decided to take up the drums. That was around 1975. I still play the drums today. We encouraged our son to take up a musical instrument and he now plays the electric bass. Very recently he and his guitar player friend asked me to jam with them and I have to say I enjoyed playing with them more than either group I’ve been playing recently. They are both quite good. There is a certain amount of repetition to playing an instrument but there is also a ton of creativity involved with improvisation. I think being able to play an instrument spurs the brain and can be highly rewarding.
 
As a kid I very much into classical music and only really explored rock music later. One of my favourite pieces of music, then and now, is Schubert's 9th symphony: 60 minutes of musical perfection. Anyhow it starts with a horn solo, so, when in school we all got the chance to learn an instrument I put my hand up for horn. A number of us drew lots for the 3 loaner instruments and I got lucky. I never really had much talent but enjoyed playing in the school orchestra and a local amateur group although I dropped out of music as a subject before O-level but continued to play, though playing rather fizzled out in University. A few years back I treated myself to a much better quality instrument with a view to starting again, but sadly progress has been very limited of late so I need to get back to it. I have to admit the "pro" horn is a hell of a lot easier to play than my old one, even if it's 30 years old.

Here's my favourite version of the Schubert, the horn opens the piece

View: https://youtu.be/_7ZBDi3vM40


And here's a lovely horn extract from Wagner

View: https://youtu.be/ndQj63HlOFw


I have the same model horn as Ms Eriksson but mine doesn't sound quite like hers . There must be something wrong with it I reckon!
 
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RoubaixCube

~Tribanese~
Location
London, UK
I started piano lessons quite young - Parents thought it would be a great idea to MAKE me take the lessons because my sister had lessons too.

Needless to say it wasnt something that lasted very long. I was a major sufferer of ADHD as a young boy and making me sit down in a chair for an hour doing something that i neither enjoyed or had any love for is a recipe for trouble (never-mind a disaster)

I know it sounds like i was a right brat and i probably was to a certain extent, but being stuck in the same spot for 1hr is torture when you have ADHD. Youre this tiny ball of super volatile energy....

I manage to hold on till I got my grade 1 piano at least. Certificate is probably buried somewhere amongst the old photo albums.

My friend down the street played drums and was getting lessons. Our parents got talking and i ended up getting a few lessons from her sons drum tutor. I say i got some lessons but my parents saw i was really enjoying myself and getting serious about sticking with it and they didnt want me to get a drum kit because of noise complaints.

so that was the end of that one too :whistle: The fun police stepped in and dragged me away.

it wasnt until later in my youth that a local church pastor started teaching me guitar and thats when i really started to learn how to play an instrument by myself as well as having lessons through out my youth and all the way through secondary school. (I studied music -- i think my guitar tutor put me somewhere in the grade 6 level though I have never been graded at an official level)

From then on, I picked up the bass -- all self taught of course. Its very easy to migrate from regular guitar to bass with a little knowledge in music theory and watching how some people play.
 
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