Mike Moxcey ©2005
Learning Music vs. Learning an Instrument
The most difficult aspect of learning your first musical instrument is that you must learn two different things:
And you have to learn songs, too.
The reason many able musicians can play multiple instruments is that learning a second instrument is easier.
- The mechanics of the instrument: how to hold it, how to coordinate your fingers (and mouth or body for certain instruments), and how to control the volume, tone, and other characteristics that you can’t even hear yet because you’re unfamiliar with the instrument.
- The mechanics of music: what a scale is, what the parts of a song are, and the differences between melody and rhythm and chords.
In EVERY CASE, the underlying music is the same. You play the same melody to each song. It has the same song structure and chords and uses the same kind of scale. You don’t have to relearn any of that.
When I get hold of a new instrument, the first thing I do is learn how to tune it, then I learn three chords and play most of the songs I know. If it doesn’t have chords, then I learn one or two scales and play most of the songs I know. After that, I either experiment and become proficient or I put it down because the sound doesn’t appeal to me.
But to begin with, you need to learn both an instrument and music in general. Keeping those two things separate in your mind and during practice sessions usually makes it easier to learn.
- Sometimes there is very little difference at all such as the difference between the saxophone and clarinet or between the piano and organ. They just have different sounds you need to handle and take advantage of.
- Sometimes the difference is between how to make the sound, such as the difference between a saxophone (holding a reed just so on your lips) and a flute (blowing over the top of a hole) but the fingering is the same.
- Sometimes the sound-making is the same such as between a trumpet and trombone or between a guitar and mandolin but the way you distinguish between sounds is different. A trumpet has valves you press; a trombone has a slide. A guitar has different chords than a mandolin but you can flatpick the strings in a similar manner.