How Hard Is It to Learn an Instrument?


Isabella Handall Miller, Journalist

Many may be brought down by the fact that it’s “too hard” or they’re “too old” to start learning to play an instrument. Maybe you think you can’t play because you have no clue how to read music. Or, perhaps, you believe you have no musical ability. Those are awfully closed-minded statements, excuses that hold little truth to them.

Johnny Ramone, lead guitarist of the punk-rock band the Ramones, began to learn the guitar at age 24. He didn’t let his age withhold his success. Dave Brubeck was a phenomenal jazz pianist and composer, and he couldn’t even read music! He had a unique music style, experimenting with odd time signatures, contrasting rhythms, and eccentric harmonies. He changed music. You know who else couldn’t read music? Michael Jackson. We then move on to the famous Finneas Eilish, the man that learned to produce music himself, in a far different style than typical producers. Heck, Beethoven was deaf and he remains one of the most influential composers. Why? All these people presented their individuality in a different sound than ever heard before, and spent a lot of time doing what they loved.

Talent and passion work hand in hand. You don’t usually see people with a talent for something they hate. You must have passion to make good music, it’s as simple as that. The people that find it “easy” to play an instrument started off with passion, and used it as what we call “natural ability.” You can also develop a passion you didn’t even know you had, therefore developing a talent. The difficulty of learning an instrument differs from person to person, depending on how motivated and willing they are to learn.

“Studies of musicians versus non-musicians show musicians have more grey matter in areas of the brain devoted to motor skills and interpretation of sensory information. The most likely explanation? Years and years of practice and refinement have literally changed the shape of musicians’ brains,” writes Thorpe in the article Are Some People More Musical Than Others? How Musicians’ Brains Are Different. Musical ability can be genetic, but it can also come with lots of practice. Just like anything in life, you have to practice to get good. It also proves helpful when you’re able to play by ear, meaning you’re able to play an instrument using the sound, recognizing chords and listening to what feels right. Acquiring the ability to play by ear comes by experimenting with music. It all boils down to the experience you get when playing an instrument.

Hague, author of the article Does Reading Music Matter says, “Once you learn your notes and scales, different keys, chords and chord structures, and some basic theory, you can take all of that and mix it up like a wonderful pot of chili, and start playing your own music (…) you aren’t stuck with playing only music that you can ‘read’ either…your note reading and other skills will come in handy to improve the improvisational music that you’re making.” It’s beneficial to be able to do both, playing by ear and reading notes, to fully understand music. Doing both will help you become a well-rounded musician, and you’ll be able to apply all you know to improve your music playing.

Playing an instrument reduces stress, helps you develop music appreciation, cultivates creativity, strengthens your immune system, helps memory, and more. It makes you happier, too! Really, there’s no reason not to try playing an instrument. If you have that passion and drive, nothing can stop you.

“I think piano is fun and a great way to express yourself. I would recommend everyone learn an instrument. It’s a cool thing to be able to do!” says freshman Sofia Gravina.