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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

It’s never too late to learn an instrument

There are a variety of benefits, too!

By OWEN RUDERMAN — opruderman@ucdavis.edu 

Many of us can remember a time when we first learned a musical instrument. For me, it was middle school, where I learned to play the recorder. I don’t remember much of the lessons — all I know is that when I learned “Hot Cross Buns,” I would have rather been trading Pokémon cards out in the quad. Many of my friends have shared this experience as well.

Interestingly, people often express to me that they wish they had continued their music lessons when I ask. When they were younger, though, they couldn’t focus enough, or they hated their teacher or their parents forced them to learn. But now they look back and wish they continued learning to play.

My question is: If you want to learn how to play an instrument, why not give it a try? Although buying a brand new instrument can be expensive, it is possible to find used instruments for a good price from online marketplaces like eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Anyone with access to an instrument can teach themselves how to play with the amount of free teaching material on sites like YouTube. A quick search turns up results for guitar, piano, bass and banjo lessons, to name a few. All it takes to learn is a healthy amount of self-discipline and time. 

If you’re like me, though, it can be difficult to keep yourself motivated. Having a teacher can help immensely with reducing procrastination and establishing routines. You can actually get one-on-one lessons with a music instructor through UC Davis. The UC Davis Department of Music offers “intermediate to advanced music lessons” that all UC Davis students are eligible to sign up for. This is more pricey than teaching yourself, however, as it costs $300 a quarter for 10 sessions of 30-minute lessons.

I opted to take piano lessons from a different program back in my hometown. At first, I was worried that I might not be able to ever play very well, considering I was already an adult when I started. There seems to be this idea that you will never be good at an instrument if you don’t start learning when you’re a toddler. This is simply not the case. There are people over 60 years of age learning in my program and are at the same skill level as me. These folks are living proof that it’s never too late. 

Over the two years I’ve been playing the piano, I’ve steadily improved. Now I have the tools to play most of the songs I want to. But if learning how to play your favorite songs still is not enough motivation, it turns out that there are actually a variety of benefits to learning an instrument. Playing an instrument can actually increase the capacity of your memory, improve your reading and comprehension skills and more, according to various studies.

As long as you have access to an instrument and an internet connection, you can start learning an instrument right now. If you’re interested, why not give it a try? Even if you don’t get around to learning your favorite songs, you might just end up reaping some of the benefits of learning an instrument. And there’s no time like the present to get started.

Written by: Owen Ruderman — opruderman@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.



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