Learning to Play a Musical Instrument

Learning to Play a Musical Instrument - 2017-06-15 05:21:38 UTC - Jake Douglass

When a musician is asked, "what was the first instrument you learned how to play", often times it is not currently their main instrument. This is not surprising, seeing as there are countless instruments around the world for the myriad of genres that have been created to date. Even though there is a higher chance for a beginning musician to strike gold right away if they already have a preference for certain genres or sounds, people grow; and with it, their preferences.

I started taking Suzuki flute lessons when I was 4 years old. Although I took these lessons until I was 15, my parents had me try out piano and alto saxophone lessons as well. I was also in choir for a bit, and I whistled constantly (and I still do!). And obviously there was that little plastic tube most kids play in elementary school called the recorder. Yet none of those instruments are the one I currently consider my main instrument. No, it wasn't until I turned 15 that my friends and I decided to start a punk band. That was when I found my passion for drumming.

Now, as a musician that has had the opportunity to play such a wide variety of instruments, I have also had the opportunity to play a wide variety of genres. From the classical music I learned growing up to jazz in middle school (saxophone) and college (drums); from drum line in high school to classic rock in college. I've played in groups spanning the genres of blues, folk, funk, electronic, Christian rock, punk rock, pop rock, progressive rock, bluegrass, rockabilly, reggae, and hip-hop. I've played at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, the Whiskey and Viper Rooms in LA, all over every single one of the Claremont College campuses, and even sat in at an African Pride festival in Italy playing flute with a guy I had just met a couple hours before. In doing all of these things, there are two statements that I have heard over and over.

The first is, "wow, you have a lot of natural talent!" To which I typically reply with a couple key points. No, I do not have a lot of natural talent. I do walk. And I do talk. And I do those rhythmically, same as almost everyone else (there's always that one person who speaks disjointedly! Don't worry, I love you too!). All I have done is taken concepts like those and applied them to musical instruments through the dedication of my time to a relationship with those who have paved the way before me. I truly believe that anyone can learn to play an instrument, even if they can't just pick up a guitar and play Stairway to Heaven without ever having played a guitar before..

The second statement I hear is, "I wish I had the opportunity to learn an instrument growing up." This one is much more grounded in reality. Many people do not have the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument, whether due to the price of instruction or even just a lack of access to instruction. But to me, no matter how grounded this statement is, it is unacceptable.  

Music has been the most transformative tool in my lifetime. You will all get to know me as I write in this blog and build the Practicing Musician, so I won't make this post too long by sharing details right now. But it is my mission to give as many people access to the tool that has transformed my life over and over and over again. Whether you were never given the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument but want to or you want to take your understanding of music to a new level by learning a new instrument; or maybe you never thought you could afford to give your children the opportunity to experience music first hand. Regardless of the reasoning for lack of opportunity in the past, the Practicing Musician will make these opportunities possible for every single person in the future.

Jake Douglass