cheap thrills: things to do for under $10 (item eight)
before i start, let me say that this item is not as achievable to as wide an array of people as some of the previous cheap thrills suggestions. this item requires access to a musical instrument. however, even if you don't have one and don't plan to invest in buying one, don't give up yet--if you have friends, you can ask to borrow one! yep! it seems like a lot of people--especially people who are parents--have abandoned and neglected instruments, and in my experience, they're often happy to see them getting some use instead of just collecting dust in the attic. with that, item eight:
learn a new instrument!
a few weeks ago my roommate acquired a sweet banjo which he graciously shares with me. since neither of us had ever played a banjo before, we just started with you tube instructional videos. after a couple days we threw in a standard hal leonard beginners book, but the free internet lessons are really where it's at--you can hear what you should be mimicing! of course, the book is still a tried and true favorite of mine for developing good habits, practicing finger drills and learning chord formations.
it's really fun to look back on week one of practicing the scrugg's roll (the roll we started with) and how clumsy my fingers were and compare it to today, and for me, this is enough motivation to keep practicing everyday. i mean, who cares if all i've mastered is the chords of "clementine" or the melody of "aunt rhody"? it's more than i could do at the start, and all it took was a rote practice of 15 minutes a day, plus whatever additional time i felt like playing (that's the key for me: keep your sessions short and below the frustration point, and then just add on whatever you are in the mood for. there's no hurry--the whole point is to have fun!) but if monitoring your own halting progress isn't enough and you need more motivation, why not turn it into a social experience?
currently, my household has undertaken the project of hosting a weekly beginners practice session--between three or four people we have multiple guitar beginners, a couple banjo beginners, and an accordion beginner. we've had interest from someone who wants to learn the mandolin and someone else who wants to learn the ukulele. our plan is to occasionally recruit skilled players to sit in as guests and learn from them, and one of the participants is currently taking formal lessons. but even if we don't gain more traditional instruction, sharing the experience of learning puts individual practice into perspective. some other real benefits: learning to play with others from the beginning means you won't have to
make the leap from playing alone to with others later. using
the same learning tools, different players learn different skills at
different rates, and having someone show you what they know helps you
while showing them what you know helps them. and, having someone to practice with--perhaps especially when you're still making
lots of hilarious sounds accidentally--is fun!