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When to start a new instrument

When people invest a lot of time into a genre of music, that genre becomes a template for everything they listen to. I have played classical music for so long that I almost guess which chord comes next. So, it’s refreshing to listen to a new genre and instrument.

After all, things that scare you also push you.

Someone gave me Reese peanut butter cups from inside his jacket because I’d told him I craved it. My nickname for him is Pan and he plays electric guitar occasionally; I know this because he’d burnt a pinky finger soldering a pin.

Pan sent me audio clips of his electric guitar playing and pointed out mistakes, but it sounds like Guitar Hero and I can’t pick out a melody from a few chords. What if I sent you two notes on the piano and told you it was La Campanella? Bet you’d be impressed, too.

As we got to know each other I realized this: as time passes, you forget how delightful your first time playing an instrument is. Pan and I walk by a piano by a lights display and sit down on the chilly bench. The keys are slightly out-of-tune when I play a scale.

“Can you play [some metal song I don’t remember]?” Pan says.

“Can you sing it?” I say. “If you can sing it, I can probably play it.”

“I can’t sing.”

I open the lid on the upright piano to show him how the hammers hit the wires and ask what he wants to learn. His fingers splay flat on the keys, like most beginner pianists.

“That thing you just did.”

“What?” I drawl out the warm-ups again–a scale, a hanon exercise, a–

“That.” A triad.

I place his hands on the piano and show him how to curve his fingers to play the broken C Major triad note by note, and his face lights up. It reminded me of the first time I put a triad together. It’s an often forgotten yet delightful feeling.

Maybe we don’t play an instrument everyday, but we like knowing that we could play everyday if we wanted. Piano will always be my favourite instrument, the one I would miss if I travelled around the world.

Now, I’m craving the sound of a foreign instrument, to make sounds that I have never made before. If you’ve started a new instrument from scratch, then you will know this feeling.

Pan’s electric guitar sits on its stand gathering dust, and each time I walk past, I wonder what it would sound like to get my paws on it.

We have strengths and flaws, and what I see now is that I shouldn’t be nervous for moving next year because I will never be ready. My definition of growth is to push yourself towards something bigger and better, and each of us already has qualities that set us up for success in our next steps. What we are missing, we will grow into.

When you feel like you’ve gotten all you could’ve gotten out of your current instrument, is when you could think about trying something new. Maybe I should pick up a budget acoustic guitar to kickstart this new journey.

What is your next instrument? Your next genre? Your next job–or school? Your next business?

You’ve made enough mistakes during the last round to know what to not do.

You owe it to yourself to take a chance.

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[…] edition Art Gallery membership card with Murakami’s artwork on the back. I am trying to get Pan to visit the art gallery with […]

5 years ago

I have just stared to learn a Acoustic guitar. :)
Very happy.