Mastering an Instrument: How Many Lessons Does it Take?

Article Written by Guest Author – Crystal Casey

Parents often ask how many private music lessons their child will need in order to master an instrument, but it’s impossible to answer this question with any real certainty. There are many variables that will affect a student’s mastery, and even the definition of “mastery” itself is a subjective one. We have to ask what exactly we’re measuring. Is it the amount of time it takes to learn the correct notes of a song, to play various songs, or to sound good? Who exactly decides what’s good enough?

How Long Does it Take to Learn an Instrument?

The time to learn music is going to vary dramatically across a wide spectrum of learners. Most students need at least a couple of years of weekly music lessons just to get to an early intermediate level of competency, but there are many things to consider when trying to determine the length of time it could take to master an instrument, including the student’s age, the pace at which they learn, the type of learner they are, their previous exposure to and natural inclination toward music, their personality type, and the instrument they’re learning. While we can’t pinpoint a specific amount of time, we do know which factors may shorten or lengthen a student’s journey to proficiency.

Auditory and kinesthetic learners tend to fare the best when it comes to learning an instrument, although visual learners can and do become skillful musicians. Students who have been exposed to music at home from an early age tend to learn faster, as do students who possess a certain amount of grit. It takes perseverance and patience to hone playing skills over the long haul. Of course, the amount of time spent practicing and, perhaps more importantly, the quality of practice are likely the biggest factors in how many lessons a student may need to master their craft. And finally, the quality of music instruction itself is invaluable to a student’s progress.

Music instructors recommend daily practice of varying amounts of time depending on the student’s age and level. Very young learners who are just starting out may only need 15 minutes of practice a day, while early-advanced, older students may be expected to practice at least an hour every day. The keyword is “daily,” as music is not well-learned on an irregular basis. Its kinesthetic nature can be likened to body-building. You don’t get stronger overnight or with just a few reps once in a while. Only those who work daily to mold and shape their bodies will see results. The same goes for music, as we rely heavily on coordination and muscle memory to play an instrument well.

How Many Music Lessons Are Needed to Gain Mastery?

Pupil With Teacher Playing Piano In Music LessonThat is the question. First, we would have to determine the parameters of mastery. There is no singular set of rules or guidelines as to what constitutes mastery of music. And this very well could be a moving target. It can perhaps be defined as possessing expert-level skills, such as those that would allow someone to perform for a living, obtain a degree in music, or win contests against musical peers.

The amount of time spent practicing and the quality of rehearsal is of utmost importance, and will influence the amount of music lessons needed. A qualified music instructor like those at Forbes Music Company will not only encourage and guide a student on how much time they should train on their own, but will also teach the art of practicing well. Effective practice is a skill in and of itself, and students should be taught how to practice in a way that will lead to progress.

Which Instrument Is The Hardest To Master?

We also need to consider the instrument being learned. Some instruments are notably more difficult to master than others, such as the violin. Bowed string instruments, double-reeded woodwinds like the Oboe, the brass French Horn, and the Accordion are all known as some of the more difficult instruments to learn. Guitar, ukulele, drums, and of course the piano are generally considered easier instruments that are great to start on, though true mastery is never an easy task.

Quality music lessons should also inspire students to want to master their instrument. While a music teacher can’t force the desire to learn music, they will help students who already have the desire set attainable goals with music that they enjoy and then inspire them to strive for those goals. With that said, it should be noted that lessons don’t have to stop once mastery is attained. Music is a journey without end, and we never really stop learning and improving. Even professionals have coaches.

How Long Should Someone Take Music Lessons?

Woman taking guitar lessonsIt may be better to ask how frequently lessons should be taken, rather than how many lessons in total a student should take or for how long. The answer to that question is up to personal choice, but most students opt to take one lesson per week. Some take two lessons per week, and others take lessons every other week due to scheduling restraints. Most music educators highly recommend, if not demand, lessons at least once a week. Those who take semi-monthly lessons will see slower progress and forget more in between their sessions. The length of time per lesson ranges from 30 to 45 to 60 minutes, and lesson length is generally recommended based on the student’s age and level. In general, students who want to learn to play an instrument should aim for 30-60 minutes of quality instruction each week combined with daily practice. How long a student continues this routine really depends on their continued desire to learn and progress on their instrument.

Sometimes Music Mastery Is Simply Simple

In the end, mastery means different things to different people and is highly dependent on the observer. An expert in piano who has some basic skills in guitar may consider himself or herself a novice guitarist. This is likely a result of their perspective as a master of another instrument, whereas a true beginner guitarist may perceive this same person as a high level advanced guitar player. It takes time to learn anything well, whether it’s music, dance, computer programming, or medicine. It takes work, study, and hours of practice to hone a skill to the level suitable for performance.

There is far more to music than notes on the page. Learning music mirrors life’s greatest lessons. A great teacher can help students understand the context for which they’re learning and strive to achieve those personal goals sought after. It’s important to remember that in all forms of art, the goal of the artist is what will ultimately define mastery or not. If an artist is able to successfully convey their purpose and mission for a piece of art, regardless of technical virtuosity or theoretical context, then shouldn’t that still be considered masterful?

Ready to start the journey to learning a musical instrument? Contact Forbes Music today to get started working with experienced private music teachers that will customize their lessons for your unique learning style help you on your path to music mastery.

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Schedule your free music lesson to start your journey learning music. Discover a symphony of possibilities with affordable private music lessons, and have fun making the most of your music education experience. In addition to music lessons for everyone, Forbes Music also offers online lessons and group master classes.

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