I have several snapshots of my childhood that are in full color, clear as a high-def TV. One includes looking up onto a stage of performers, enraptured with a live concert performance. Time slows down as a brown-haired young 20-something girl heads to the piano to sweetly sing "I Surrender All." Although I was under the age of 5 (I know this because we still lived in Iowa at the time), that moment is forever clearly etched in my mind. I remember whispering to myself, "I want to do that someday." Today, when I play piano and sing, I feel fully alive. I know this is what I am created to do.
There are "clues" in your life that will be illuminated, to help cue you into what you are wired to do. Here are a few ways to decode the clues so you know which instrument is right for you!
1. Watch and listen to as much music as possible
In order to achieve the "Ah-ha!" moment of "I want to do THAT," students should attend concerts, watch YouTube videos, and see live music in action as much as possible. Exposing ourselves to possibilities allows us to recognize what we are drawn to! Keep in mind, when we just LISTEN to music, it is very difficult for the average ear to pull apart the individual sounds. We may LOVE a song, but can't define why. That's why watching music being played is so important! Seeing a guitar player in action, or a drummer on stage allows us to visualize ourselves doing the same thing. Watching well-done videos (like The Piano Guys) is a fun way to get really inspired!
2. Consider your physical size
Different instruments actually require different physical anatomy. To play the trombone, you need long arms! At first, it may be difficult for a young child (under age nine) to press down the strings of a guitar (but a ukulele may be exactly the right fit!). Most kids will love starting with piano to learn the basics of music, rhythm, and reading music in a fast, rewarding way. But never force a child to play piano--that's no fun for teacher or student! The violin is considered a difficult instrument to play (because it takes time to achieve beautiful tone), but determined students should not be deterred from this gorgeous instrument. If you're still not sure which instrument "fits" you, having a consultation lesson with a teacher is a great place to begin. You can feel the instrument in your hands, ask questions, and get the teacher's opinion!
3. Consider personalities and learning styles
I am a very visual learner, which means I have to see things written down for me to remember them. Pictures and graphs really help me understand concepts. I think this is why piano is such a good fit for me. The keys are laid out in order and the music is like a giant graph that is easy to read (for me).
My husband and brother are very mathematical and strategic. This strong thinking brain easily grasps the guitar, whose strings are laid out in a very different pattern from piano (E, A, D, G, B, E) and has different tuning possibilities. It makes MY head spin when they explain how chords are created on the guitar, but they love it!
My (dyslexic) son has an extremely creative mind and learns things by just hearing them, so he has a natural affinity for playing by ear and improvising. He can hear something only a few times and BAM, he can play it. Allowing him to grow his strengths (rather than just focusing on improving his weaknesses) gives him confidence and keeps that love of music growing.
My daughter has tried playing the piano, and so far she just isn't in love with it. Singing, however, makes her truly come alive. She loves performing and voice lessons are exactly the right thing for her!
Many students love music and love playing different instruments, but they will never be a "professional" musician. That's okay! Playing music is a wonderful hobby and should be an activity that brings fun and enjoyment, no matter what the student's level.
I do believe that programmed into our DNA before we were born is the plan of what we are to become. We may have brief moments when we glimpse "clues" of what we are meant to do. This is why we should take notice of those moments! When you put the clues together, you see more clearly the things you are meant to run after! Don't worry--if things are still foggy, but you know you love music, just start somewhere. Anywhere. You can always change your mind later, but getting started is the most important decision you'll ever make!
Jen Hickle, Author
Since I was a little girl playing "school" in the garage with the neighbors, all I've ever wanted to do is teach. I'm passionate about passing on knowledge to other people!