New Skill: Making Music to My Ears

When I was a senior in college, I took "Group Piano for Beginners." (Along with my twice-per-week volleyball class, and taking "Old Testament", it was probably my easiest quarter at Furman University). I was anticipating being semi-proficient in piano by the end of the 8-week term.

I practiced almost every day, probably not as much as I should have, but I did practice. Nonetheless, I could not convince my hands to do two different things at the same time.

When we had class, the teacher would call on students to show their skills. Only a couple of weeks into class, she realized that she could only call on me for the simplest examples. Needless to say, my hopeful outlook for piano proficiency was crushed.

Piano: Strike 1.

The next year, I wanted to try to learn the harmonica. I asked for (and received) a couple of them as gifts, plus some instruction books. I practiced a total of about 20 minutes. Honestly, I thought it would be like a recorder, or a kazoo.

Harmonica: Strike 2.

Third Time's the Charm? 

As you may remember, my goal in 2014 is to learn new skills by committing 20 hours over 2 months. I have had a great time re-learning Spanish (see below for more on this), and for March and April, I will try to learn to play another instrument: the ukulele.

Thanks to a helpful salesman at the Guitar Center in Greenville, SC, I got a good deal on a decent (not the worst, not the top-line) ukulele, plus a case, instruction book, etc. I'm ready to get started!

Why Learn an Instrument?

There are many reasons to learn an instrument. (Of course, the most dramatic effects come when you train on an instrument as a child, but better late than never!). Here are a few benefits of music training: 

But I'm not doing it for these reasons. I'm just doing it for the sheer pleasure of it. Not the pleasure of music, since I don't listen to music very much (90% of the time when I'm alone in my car, the radio is off).

I'm talking about the pleasure of dedicating myself to a goal, and accomplishing something. I want to give it an honest go this time, not just a half-hearted effort I gave with piano, and a 1%-hearted effort I gave to the harmonica.

How good will I become in just 8 weeks (and 20 hours of training)? Not great, I'm sure. But I have to remember that it's about the process, not the goal.

And I'm inspired by the Portsmouth Sinfonia, and group of untrained but eager musicians.

If a group like this reforms (they stopped performing after 9 years because they got too good), maybe they could use my ukulele skills!


As you may remember, our family started learning Spanish (or for me, "re-learning") this year. It has been fun for our entire family, especially as we incorporate occassional words, phrases, and sentences in our everyday life.

Because of the pace at which I've been going (30 minutes a day, 5 days per week) and that I began in December, I'm already 70% done with the material for Year 1. I will keep going with my Spanish training for the rest of 2014, but at a slower pace.

In both these new skills -- Spanish and music -- please wish me "Buena suerte!"

How about you? Are you learning any new skills this year?

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