Do you sometimes feel like giving up on learning your instrument because you’re not getting the desired results, or because it doesn’t feel fun anymore?
I’ve experienced this feeling numerous times in the past, especially during periods when progress was slow.
Thankfully I didn’t make the wrong decision and though at one point I was very close to it, I never quit.
If you are considering calling it a day on learning to play music, take a few minutes to think about these five things to make sure you’re not quitting for the wrong reasons.
Why you started:
If you’re learning an instrument, there must have been a reason why you decided to do so in the first place. You wanted a new challenge, to play in a band, to express yourself, to jam with your friends, to become a Rock star, to play the Blues, or to become the best player in school – whatever it was, there was something that exited you about the whole process.
What has got in the way to turn that excitement into boredom or frustration?
The next two points should give you some clues…
One of the main reason people quit learning an instrument is that they have a dream, but no clear goals, let alone plans how to reach them. If you don’t have specific goals, (which could be changed or refined as you go along), you’ll be doing things that are completely out of line with achieving what you want.
Having a generic goal such as “to learn the guitar” is the same as going to the store “to buy food”.
Do you usually go to the store with generic intention of buying whatever is eatable or is it more likely that you have a clear idea on what kind of food you want to buy?
Like many other guitar students, the way I started out was like going to the shop and getting lost in the store. I used to buy tons of magazines (this was before the Internet came along, nowadays it’s even easier to get lost), and learnt a lot of lessons, techniques or songs that I had chosen in a nearly random fashion.
Though there was some quality stuff in those magazine, since I had no specific goals, my progress was very slow compared to what it could have been had I been practicing things that were in line with where I wanted to go musically.
If you don’t set goals and make plans how to reach them, you may still see some results but since they aren’t the results you need, it will take you a lot longer to reach your objectives, and it is much more likely that you get demotivated.
Consider goal setting, rather than quitting as a solution to musical frustration. Define what you want to achieve and plan out the steps it takes to do so and your will not only make more progress but you’re also having more fun because now you can see results in relation to the end result you want to achieve.
When you’re learning something new, at first progress tends be very fast. Until the minute you start learning your instrument you know absolutely nothing about how to play it. After a month or two you could be playing a few tunes on, say, guitar or piano (some instruments may take a bit longer to get around and start playing). That’s real progress – from absolutely nothing, to playing melodies, in just a month!
After a while however, progress tends to slow down, or even seems to stop altogether. We may be learning new songs or scales or techniques, but do not see any significant progress for months. It’s like you’re walking forward by learning new things but not really getting any better. That’s when we’re on a plateau.
Many people quit while they’re on a plateau which is a really unfortunate. They do so because they don’t know that reaching a plateau is only a part of the learning curve, that if they continued walking forward, and made some adjustments, it would have started going straight uphill much sooner than they thought.
If you think you’re on a plateau, consider making some adjustments rather than quitting: Are you practicing things that are not in line with your goals? Do you have the right teacher to guide you through your musical studies? Are you trying to learn things that are on a more advanced level than you should? Or else, are you always playing what comes comfortable without facing new challenges?
4. The Hours
This should not be the primary reason to continue learning an instrument if you’re seriously considering quitting, but I believe it deserves a mention.
You’ve spent hours acquiring the skills you already have. If you stop practicing completely, those skills will eventually fade away.
Are you sure you want to throw away the time you spent practicing so far? Keep in mind that if you start learning some new skill instead of playing an instrument, you’re probably going to reach a plateau in that area too, sooner or later.