A Guide to Different Musical Learning Styles

A Guide to Different Musical Learning Styles

Which Musical Learning Method Works Best For You?

When it comes to education, there are many ways to learn any given subject. “One size fits all” simply doesn’t apply. It can’t. Different people learn things most effectively in different ways. This is especially true for subjects that require “hands on” learning, such as music. To be sure, learning to play a musical instrument is no different in that respect than learning to repair a transmission, bake a pie, or patch a hole in your shirt.

This article will explain several procedures that are commonly used to learn how to play a musical instrument. Each of these methods is tried-and-true and successful in its own right. We will also discuss the pros and cons of each method.

Self-Training With Books

Many publishers, such as Mel Bay, Alfred, and Hal Leonard offer excellent musical training books that have sold many copies over the years. The “For Dummies” series also offers a fine line of music instruction books. They start with the basics of how to properly hold your instrument (in the case of piano or keyboards, how to properly sit while playing), followed by basic notation of the instrument, chord structures, playing notes properly, and so on. The books follow a logical progression, from beginner, to advanced, to expert.

If you are on a tight budget, this is a decent way to learn. This method allows you to move at your own pace without pressure. You also don’t need to find a power cord for a paperback book.

Keep in mind, however, you need to be accountable to yourself and be a self-starter. This is because you ultimately have no one else to hold you accountable if you follow this method. A distinct disadvantage is that you cannot have the one-on-one attention of having a personal instructor. You also may be making errors that could easily be caught and corrected by a live instructor that you would not catch on your own.

Self-Training With Video

Modern technology is so cool! Thanks to the internet, you can carry your instructor in your laptop, your pad, or even your smart phone. Many musical instrument companies, music publishers, and instructors offer training videos through websites, DVDs, YouTube, and aps.

These have an advantage for many students over book training as they offer a more visual method of learning. The disadvantages for this method are the same as the ones for self-training with a book: You need to be accountable, and you don’t have the tactile learning or instant feedback that a live instructor can provide. While most books are similarly priced, the cost of these different programs will vary widely.

Live One-On-One Training

This method is the most effective for the widest number of people. Having someone focusing their attention and talent on you once or twice a week while giving you personalized feedback keeps you motivated and accountable, which puts you on a faster track to success as a musician.

The main reason people hesitate in choosing this method is the cost. This is the most expensive learning method, although many instructors will offer you a low introductory rate for your first lesson or a lower rate if you purchase lessons in advance. This method also requires a more rigid schedule than the previous ones mentioned.

Live Group Training

This is a more cost-effective way of getting live training. It also gives you a chance to meet other people who share your musical interests.

The obvious disadvantage to this method is that it doesn’t always allow for each player to move at his or her own pace. You also will not get as much of the personalized attention you would get with one-on-one, although the instructor may use the opportunity to teach other players in the group the same things you are struggling with.


There is no absolute right or wrong way to learn a musical instrument. Weigh the pros and cons, consider your own situation, and work form there. Whichever method you choose, put in the time and the effort, and be patient with yourself. If you find that one method isn’t working for you, try another for a while and see if you progress faster.