Re-learning an Instrument – How to Pick up Where You Left Off
Is my instrument still in a good condition? Will I be able to remember what I learned so many years ago? How will I fit regular practice into my already hectic schedule?
It’s easy to get lost in these kind of excuses or distractions, much like we go through when introducing – or re-introducing – any new habit (I’ll go to the gym on Monday!). So we’ve broken down a few practical steps you can take to make sure that re-learning an instrument becomes a permanent (and effortless) fixture in your life.
The right fitMaybe you were only a teenager when you last held your instrument, or perhaps you’ve put on 10kgs of muscle since your last practice. Over time, our bodies change, and it will have a huge impact on how our instruments ‘fit’ into our natural flow.
Check to see if your chin and shoulder rests are still appropriate, and potentially replace them with sizes that are a better compliment to your body type. Remember – the more comfortable you are when you play, the longer you’re likely to practice!
If it’s been a while since you used your instrument, it’s always a good idea to have it checked out by a professional to see if any parts need mending or replacing before you restart a daily practice. Our team at Simply for Strings assesses and advises on instruments every day, with some more typical issues after long-term disuse being worn strings, soundpost and bridge - which all may need to be replaced to ensure your friend is back in working order.
Reinvesting into the quality and health of your instrument is also a fantastic way to reinforce your commitment to keeping up your practice for the long term. Just like your commitment of time and energy, everything you can do to place an emphasis on making the most of your music will only help you succeed in your goals.
Just like those high school algebra classes, knowledge that isn’t put to use tends to fade over time. Even if you were an avid player for years, it’s always worth getting back to basics as a way to refresh your memory and ensure you can gain momentum by accomplishing the little things.
Back to basics
Take a look back at some of your old method books, or better yet, come down to Simply for Strings and let one of our team members help you find the perfect books to refresh your memory. We recommend always starting from the beginning – steady scales, intonation, finger positioning, bow – to regain your natural feeling and reignite your years of practice.
The digital world has opened up new realms of possibility when it comes to igniting (or reigniting!) your passion. Head to Youtube and watch one of the many incredible masterclasses (Nicola Benedetti is a must!), or dive into literary resources like Simon Fischer’s books Basics, Practice and The Violin Lesson.
Allow yourself to dream and imagine the wonderful possibilities of you making your practice once again a part of your day to day life. Rediscover the joy of music, and find something that you can aspire to that will keep you motivated while you reform the habit of playing music.
Like bringing any new routine into your life, the thought of practising an hour or more each day can be overwhelming to the point of paralysing you from beginning in the first place. To combat this kind of knee-jerk reaction – start small.
Find a regular time that you can practice, and make it a habit. Start with your old daily exercises, take on easy pieces. If you start with small steps, and achieve them one after the other, you’ll soon build the momentum you need to commit to your practice in the long term.
Remember your ‘why’
Coming back to an old skill set, especially if it’s one you had mastered before, can be very discouraging if you look at it from the wrong perspective. Your muscles will act differently, your fingers won’t be as quick, and it will take time for your mind to get in the right rhythm to make your practice what it once was.
The important thing to remember? Your ‘why’. Why did you decide to come back to practicing music? Chances are that it’s because music still brings you the same joy as it once did; an escape from day to day life, or a time for reflection. Whatever your ‘why’ may be, remember that that’s what you’re doing this for, not for your ego or a sense of competition. Take your time, find your flow, and you’ll be very glad you did.
No matter whether it’s been a few months, or several years between your music practice, know that as long as you approach it with the right perspective, it will soon be come as effortless a part of your daily life as it ever way before. Music to your ears, right?
If you need any guidance or help getting ready to reignite your musical journey, the Simply for Strings team is here to answer any questions, and equip you with anything you need to bring the joy of your instrument back into your life.