Picking up an instrument

Photo Courtesy of Ella Hardegree

From a young age, I have always loved music more than words can describe. As a child, I would spend hours watching music videos on TV and memorize lyrics to hit songs on the radio during long car rides. 

Now, at almost 20 years old, my relationship with music has evolved into one of the facets of my life that I cherish the most. 

Although I fell in love with music at a young age, I never gave myself the chance to pursue musical endeavors growing up. I didn’t join the band or take orchestra classes, and I never took piano lessons. Instead, I spent my time focused on core academics and sports, all the while letting my youthful passion for music fade. 

As I entered young adulthood, I began to realize how important it is to keep pursuing and prioritizing the things I’ve loved throughout my life, even if they are unrelated to my future career and success. Learning to play instruments is one way that I have satisfied my inner seven year-old self. I decided to start simple by learning to play the ukulele. 

It was finally time I learned how to play the songs I adored so much. Additionally, I needed a creative outlet and a hobby I could completely engross myself in. 

This is exactly what I found in learning to play instruments.  I spent about two years practicing on the ukulele, memorizing chord progressions and strumming patterns. At this point, I’m sure I’ve played the ukulele version of Taylor Swift’s entire discography. 

Mastering that first instrument was all the encouragement I needed to take the next big step: learning the guitar. This was always the ultimate end goal for me. Playing the ukulele is incredibly fun, but I wanted to use an instrument that is more complex; a guitar could better replicate all of my favorite songs.

Only three hours after picking up my six-string acoustic guitar for the first time, I was playing my favorite song, Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well,” in full. Having a background in ukulele made the transition to guitar incredibly easy, and within an instant I became obsessed with music in a way I never was before. After falling in love with the guitar, I decided to expand my skill-set one more time with an instrument that is incredibly daunting to learn: the piano. I thought this would surely be impossible, given that I don’t know how to read sheet music, but what I’ve learned at this point in my journey with music is that none of that really matters. 

I bought the cheapest keyboard I could find at Target and started watching YouTube tutorials on piano songs for beginners. Now, I can play a number of my favorite songs from memory, my current favorite being Taylor Swift’s “When Emma Falls in Love.” All of this is to say that it is never too late to try out a new hobby, especially something that is as intimidating as learning to play an instrument. 

You don’t need to spend money on expensive lessons, and it’s not a requirement to know how to read sheet music. I started from scratch with zero experience and, after a few short years, I’ve started to consider myself somewhat of a self-taught musician. To this day, teaching myself how to play the guitar is one of my proudest accomplishments and something I recommend to all of my friends who are looking for a new hobby or creative outlet. 

Not to mention, it also makes for a great fun fact during icebreakers on the first day of class! It is important to make time for things that we are passionate about, especially as college students with busy schedules and stress. Take time to learn something new, or pick up an old hobby that will make your younger self proud.