Adult Students: Be kind to yourself!

Jake - Drums Music Mentor at West Coast Music School

Being an adult and learning an instrument comes with a whole bunch of unique challenges... and to be honest, a great deal of those challenges are all about how we tend to treat ourselves on this journey. 

I have picked up Cello, Guitar and Singing as an "adult student" (after learning Piano as a child), and it has stirred up some interesting emotions in me! It's given me some fresh insight into what it's like to be an adult student on a music journey!

So today, I write to you from the perspective of an adult student AND someone who teaches adults, leaving you with some important advice on your adult lesson journey. 

 

1. DON'T SET UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

This has to be one of the most important pieces of advice for adults who are starting to learn an instrument. Don't set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations! As adults, we tend to set traps for ourselves by thinking that 'because I'm older, I should master this quicker'. 

Learning an instrument is hard work and no one expects you to master it in the blink of an eye! Part of the beauty of learning an instrument, is the satisfaction that comes with overcoming challenges that have been hovering around for prolonged periods of time.

It takes years to truly perfect and hone your skills, and it's important that you start your music journey accepting this as a fact. You won't be a concert level musician in three months.... and thats ok! Remember, none of us have become concert level musicians in three months. Be patient and enjoy the ride!

 

2. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS 

I think the biggest trap that we, as adult students, tend to set ourselves up for is comparing ourselves to other students - especially children!

You know exactly what I mean.... when you sit outside your class waiting for your lesson to start and you can hear the lesson before you in full swing. Wow! It sounds so melodic doesn't it? And then... an 8 year old walks out of the class, and you can't help but think "um, why don't I sound like that? A kid is better than me?!"

So here's the thing... the reason that 'the kid' sounds better that you is because they probably have 3 years of lessons behind them. 3 YEARS of lessons that you are yet to have. Thats a lot of time, effort, practice and skill development that they have been through to get to where they are now.  

Every single person is on their own journey, and the only person you should be comparing yourself to is... YOU. Compare yourself to where you were 1 week, 1 month or 1 year ago. Reflect on your progress and see how much you have actually grown over that time. 

 

3. WHAT YOUR TEACHER IS REALLY THINKING

This is a real doozy! I didn't really think about this angle until my Mom (who was an adult student learning the Cello) brought it to my attention. She explained the fear that you are 'wasting your teacher's time' or the fear that your teacher is comparing you to their other students. 

Do you want to know what we really think?

We think about how incredibly well you are doing, or what skill we are going to work on with you next. We are intently watching your technique and thinking about how we can work on any technical errors that are showing up in your playing. We think about what content we should bring in next week to help you along your journey, and we think about how far you have come. We think about all the hard work you are putting in, and how learning a new instrument can make you feel extremely vulnerable. We are celebrating your wins and brainstorming your next challenges. 

Do you see that there? Not once have we though about ANYONE other than you. Never ever ever does it cross our mind to compare you to another student, and do you know why? Because we appreciate that each journey is completely individual to each student. We celebrate your individuality and respect that no 2 students are the same. Comparing people would be completely pointless to us as it does not help you on your music journey - and thats our number 1 priority. 

Also, I would like to throw in here that you never waste our time. Our lesson time is there for you and for you only. Anything that happens in a lesson is constructive and helping you on your music journey and like I said above... that is our number 1 priority. 

 

4. BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND STOP APOLOGISING  

I will leave you with this final bit of advice. Be kind to yourself. Take each lesson as it comes and celebrate the small wins along the way. You don't need to justify yourself to anyone! Just have fun and be completely authentic to yourself. Don't apologise for making mistakes and always be open to skill development. 

The fact that you have openly embraced taking on the challenge of learning an instrument as an adult already makes you incredible in your teacher's eye.

We love and respect you for who you are, and all we we want you to do the same. 

Kathryn x