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Learning Music Without Formal Lessons

Updated on October 2, 2016

Before We Begin

I feel obliged to mention that music teachers are often under-appreciated and underpaid. If you are able, I highly recommend working with one. However, if your schedule, budget, or location prevents, there are options. As the internet's content networks continue to develop intricacy, these options have become increasingly viable.


Like many objectives, learning music feels more manageable with a big picture mindset. Essentially, you will need an instrument (which can be your voice), you will need to gain technical mastery of that instrument, and you must understand the theory governing those techniques. So, we need to choose an instrument and a well rounded guide.

Choosing Your Instrument

I've found that most folks have a dream instrument, so choosing an instrument is often easy. However, if you are unsure and open, there are so many interesting instruments out there. Check out this list. Remember, all instruments follow the same musical principles, so crossover is limitless. Whether it's an oboe or a guitar, your voice or a clarinet, it's all music, and music is a joy.

Choosing a Guide

Now, we need guidance to see us along our way. There is an incredible amount of "how-to" material out there geared towards the aspiring musician. That's not to say the there's an incredible amount of great material out there. I encourage you to search for materials specific to your instrument, and investigate thoroughly. Do you enjoy the teacher's personality? Are they teaching theory, as well as mechanics? These are essential questions. One great strategy is to learn from musicians who have developed independent of formal instruction. For example, Lex Patrick has curated a singer/songwriter tool kit called Really Cool Suggestions. Simply, do your research and make a commitment.

Stay The Course

At the end of the day, the most magic ingredient of developing musical proficiency is hard work. When hard work is channeled through intention and form, we will succeed. With an instrument and access to today's information rich environment, you have all the tools. I often hear folks say that they wish they had started playing when they were younger. It's truly never too late. Regardless of your age, in 5 years, you will have been playing for 5 years, and you will be well on your way!


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