Updated: Aug 22, 2019
Whenever I speak to adults about learning how to play an instrument for the first time it is often met with “Oh, but I’m too old” “I wish I’d learnt to play the piano when I was young” or “I don’t know how to read music!” In many ways I can understand all of these points. You may feel “past it” and that it’s easier to absorb new information and skills when you are young. But when you’re an adult, maybe the key goals and intentions change; it’s not necessarily about reaching a certain level within a time frame. I think the social and mental health benefits that music brings is really important as well as learning a new skill.
What’s that swirly thing again?
I have taught adult learners in their 60’s and 70’s. Some can already read music, some have got vague recollections of reading music from their school days (“I remember that swirly thing” “Yes, I think you mean a treble clef”) and some not at all. I hugely admire the more mature students who have put themselves out of their comfort zone to turn up to a music lesson. Initially they can be nervous but after a few lessons it is exciting to see the confidence and enjoyment of playing grow. It’s often a worry for adult learners that their memory is not what it used to be but that doesn’t matter. Music is a hobby where you can learn and challenge yourself at the same time as meeting new people and making new friends.
Steel pans – a good place to start
If you are thinking of learning how to play a musical instrument for the first time but you’re not sure which one, the steel pans would be a great place to start. It is not physically or technically hard to learn the basic techniques, you can pick these up relatively quickly which is definitely a bonus. You don’t need to be able to read music, traditionally steel pans are taught aurally. But for those students who show a particular interest, there will opportunities to read the music. No pressure whatever your preference.
Another great thing about learning to play the steel pans is that you can be playing a piece as an ensemble within only one or two sessions. I can’t think of many other ensembles where you can achieve those results so quickly, it really is so rewarding. With an orchestra for example, it would take time (years!) to learn the basic techniques on the different instruments before the ensemble can be put together to play a piece.
Pina Colada, anyone?
So if you have had a little voice in the back of your mind saying “You need to take up a new hobby!” why not try steel pans?! I can guarantee that you will be playing and dancing along to ‘The Banana Boat Song’ with a huge smile on your face within no time. Maybe even with a Pina Colada at the ready!