What are we suppose to say to these people?

What are we suppose to say to these people?

A lot of the people I meet tell me about how they use to play music, when they quit, and the unfortunate set of circumstances that caused them to quit. What do you say to someone when you get this…

"I use to play but…
(my teacher quit on me…)
(I had to sell my instrument…)
(After school band was over, I couldn’t afford my own instrument…)
(I got distraced…)
(etc…)
…but I wish I could do what you can. Now I regret not sticking with it." -sober face-

What do you say to that? Is it just me or is this a very awkward and uncomfortable conversation to have with a stranger?

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What do you say? Feign the slightest interest and say, ‘Oh! Really?’
‘Is it me?’- Yes!

Just about the hippest, classless thing in the world is playing music and
those-that-don’t want to feel that they have something in common with us. If they claim to have stopped playing (for whatever heart bleeding reason!), it probably means that they never really got the hang of it.
Smugly smile at them and elebrate your superiority!

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‘elebrate’-Doh! CELEBRATE!

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tell ’em the truth, that I came back to it later in life and enjoyed it, and they could do the same.

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I always tell them they should start playing again. I think i’ve even told people their excuses are not good enough reasons. But yeah they’re trying to relate to you, I have always found these conversations to be annoying though. If you like playing music, then play music. Like the song says, “You don’t have to be a virtuoso, doesn’t matter if you sing just so-so”. Heck, I’m not that good and have a lot of other things going on in my life but I somehow find the time. I even “practice” when I’m procrastinating on my homework.

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Hmm, never thought of them trying to relate to me. That’s weird. But yea, there are a lot of excuses out there. The most popular one i’ve heard as of recently is…

“I probably couldn’t play it anymore… it’s been so long.”

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I guess one does get this quite a bit. I always say something along the lines of “If you wanted to do it, you’d do it.” I don’t get drawn much further into the conversation than that. And I don;t feel it awkward. Well, not for me, at any rate.

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We only have limited time in our lives, so you can only succeed at things that truly interest and inspire you, and that you actually enjoy doing. Those people see you playing your instrument and have the same thought I have when I see a friend return from the gym and flex their toned muscles. “Wow, that looks really impressive; I wish I could be like that. But it looks a huge amount of effort. Maybe tomorrow.”

What does annoy me though is when people say “It’s too late now. I wish I had learnt music as a child. Children’s brains are different and it is much easier for them to learn new things”. I think this effect of youth on learning is massively overexaggerated. It is easier to learn as a child because you have the right attitude, i.e. You are not afraid of failing or making a fool of yourself or experimenting, and you have plenty of time on your hands, more energy and fewer distractions. So if you learn as an adult it will take longer mainly because you will not have as much practice time, but you are perfectly capable of learning something new as long as you believe you can.

No doubt a neuro-scientist folk musician will now appear in this forum to correct my theory!

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Hey Nick, i’ve heard that it’s easier to learn as a child, but I figured that adults learned more efficiently because I thought adults would have a discipline and a diligence than a child wouldn’t have.

I don’t know, but when I was 7, I didn’t think that music would play as big of a part in my life as it has, but surely enough now it’s a lifestyle. And I would not say I was a fast learner. I’m sure that someone that has been diligently practicing their instrument from the age of 10-20, would be just as good as someone that has diligently practiced their instrument from age 20-30.

I mean, yea there are those prodigy children that can play Mozart at the age of 5 and 6 and what not, but I doubt those kids understand dynamics, expression, tension, stuff like that. Maybe what they are learning so fast is how to make their fingers go where they want them to go. Maybe it’s because their brains are empty and extremely receptive.

I don’t know, but I do feel that if someone thinks “Ten years from now, I will have been playing for 10 years. Surely I’ll learn something over the next decade.” that they could give themselves enough motivation and patience to press on for that decade. And if they pay attention, they’ll find themselves learning everyday, if they’re trying.

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When people say to me things like, ‘I’ve always wanted to…’ or ‘I used to play when I was a kid but…’ I feel like slapping them.
You wouldn’t go up to a brain surgeon or an astronaut and say, ‘Hey, I’ve always wanted to do that but…’

Non-players usually think they should be able to play, but for some reason they can’t understand, were not blessed with that particular gift.
It shows a huge degree of disrespect for the hours and hours of work, the dedication, the time spent not doing something else.

I used to try to persuade people to start learning, but now I don’t waste my time. If they want to play, they will. A bit of encouragement, maybe give somebody a whistle or a mouth organ, a book, a cd, but more than that is just p*ssing in the wind.

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Well, this certainly changes my perception on these things.

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The people who make those sort of comments almost certainly watch Formula One and think ‘I could have been a racing driver but…’, or watch the football and think ‘I could have been a professional but…’

They are people who can’t accept that to do well at just about anything involves a lot of hard work and dedication. They can’t accept that their own lack of achievement is invariably down to their own lack of commitment, and prefer to blame luck, or factors outside their control.

Tell them straight. If they really wish they could do what you do, they can buy a fiddle for $70, then all they need to do is practice four hours a day for three or four years.

But don’t get these idle dreamers confused with people who genuinely want to learn - they’re easy to spot because they will come to you with a barrage of questions, not excuses. These people should be given as much help and encouragement as you possibly can.

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“These people should be given as much help and encouragement as you possibly can.”

🙂 Still learning, still asking questions. I know what you mean, i’ve had a lot of help on my musical path.

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People say to me, “You are so lucky you are a veterinarian.” Or “You are so lucky you can play the fiddle.” Errrgh. Perhaps I am lucky after all…lucky to have that undefinable thing that allows one to shoulder decades of very hard work.

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For those of you that are annoyed by this, well, I think you are probably annoyed by many other things, too. It is just that everybody has music in their souls and they are feeling it stir when they are in your presence. It should be flattering to you that you have caused them to feel it again.
I usually smile, and if it’s a former student that has told me they no longer play (usually now an adult and they were in my 5th grade class), I wag my finger at them a give them a good natured hard time about it. But then I tell them that life has a way of changing, and encourage them to play or otherwise enjoy music. I always take it as a compliment, and let them know it’s never too late.
Fiddlelearner, have you ever taught young children or adults? Children have a way of learning that is accepting, they soak it in, and don’t get hung up on the details. Yes, they “know” about “dynamics, expression, tension, stuff like that” but it’s not something they can explain with words, they just do it. Adults seem to want to know the mechanics of how to do those things, whereas a child will do those things naturally. Adults throw up too many roadblocks in their minds, preconceptions that often get in the way of their learning.
And as for discipline and diligence…. kids are just as apt to have it as many adults are apt to not.

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I’ve heard people say things like, ‘I’d give anything to be able to play Irish music like you’, and my thoughts are usually along the lines of, ‘Sure, anything except the time and dedication to listening, learning and playing that I’ve given. Now, run along and have another pint.’ What I usually say is, ‘That’s great, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to play Irish music: I gave up when I was a kid, and started again as an adult, so there’s no reason you can’t learn as an adult. Here’s my card - if you’re interested, give me a shout and I’ll start you off.’ Occasionally, one of these over-imbibed enthusiasts turns out to be genuinely interested, and learns how to play.

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I’m with Wyogal on this. I know the mustard board is filled to the eyeballs with curmudgeons who would rather disdain, well, just about anybody, let alone somebody who “used to play but doesn’t anymore,” but I think he does have a point. While there is nothing at all wrong with the general notion of “if they want to play, they will play,” being genuinely annoyed seems a waste of emotion. If you’re going to burn emotional calories, you might as well recognize that the person is appreciating you in some way, and a small amount of encouragement isn’t going to kill you.

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Sorry, Wyogal, I shouldn’t assume gender. 🙂

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🙂
And for all those who think they should be on some kind of pedestal for all of their “hard work,” well, it’s a lot easier than digging ditches.
When our family is playing music in public, we get lots of this, and they go on and on about our talent. I just shrug my shoulders and say, “well, we’re crap at fixing cars. It’s just what we do.”

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Get yourself a whistle and learn to play it… Get back in touch with the music in you. I’ll gladly help as best I can, or do my damnedest to find someone who can help you along, whatever you choose to do… Just do it and stop making excuses… It’s great medicine and a good friend…

Open the door and welcome them in, the choice is theirs…

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Loved your post wyogal. Good stuff. Yours too Jimmy B.

“Fiddlelearner, have you ever taught young children or adults?”.

I have 2 younger students right now, but I don’t have any adult students. I think I understand what you’re getting there. Sometimes with adults you have to tear down some things, like when I first came here all confused.

I do know that it’s a lot easier to get into an argument with an adult than it is with a child. And I tend to find that my younger friends will admit that they are wrong a lot faster than an adult would. Matter of fact, I have one friend that’s a year older than me that will still argue, even after he realizes he is wrong. He says it “makes you a better arguer” or something silly like that.

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The world is full of people who wish they were someone else. I think it was Satre who said, “We do not do what we want, but we are responsible for what we are.”

Yep, the conversation in the OP is common, but I don’t see it as awkward. It’s a happy chance to spark someone’s motivation. I usually reply with “It’s never too late to start. The only difference between someone who makes music and someone who doesn’t is a lot of time spent making music.”

I’ve had music students who started learning an instrument in their 80s. They come in saying, “All my life I’ve wanted to learn to play.” So I congratulate them on finally taking the first step. And then we start making music. They go home from that first lesson with a real piece of music. In a couple of months, they’re amazed and thrilled that they have a whole batch of tunes/songs they can actually play.

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Nice contributions, and as with Will, I can’t think of anyone who ever regretted taking that first step, in music or dance. A lot of it is how they are welcomed in, and how you handle it, and I regret the times I’ve gotten in the way. Each person is individual, needs to be understood to best direct them toward achieving their goal. Fiddlelearner too ~ argument, sadly, tends to also delay results. It is a good practice for adults to exercise the flexibility to admit when we’re wrong. Then things can move forward much more quickly and beneficially… Our patience and understanding is so important to that welcome to the dance, the music… Of all things in life, getting that wrong is one or the few things that will bother me longest. And I do try to find an answer to not repeating the same mistake again. I still remember those times I screwed up, to keep me on my toes.

If nothing else, we can further the discussion toward understanding.

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“And for all those who think they should be on some kind of pedestal for all of their ”hard work,“ well, it’s a lot easier than digging ditches.”

Yes. It always troubles me when people speak/write of the hours of ‘hard work’ that goes into becoming a musician. I make no claims to being a remarkable musician - somewhere in the ‘competent’ region, at best - but I can think of very few points in my learning process that have really felt like ‘hard work’. 20 years ago, playing was considerably harder for me than it is now, but that was simply because I hadn’t been doing it for as long, not because I have ‘worked’ at it. Perhaps I could have reached a higher technical standard had I put in more ‘hard work’ over the years; but technique is an empty vessel without the music to fill it and, I think, most of us acquire, as we need it (perhaps with a bit of ‘work’), the requisite technique to express the music within us.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. In meatspace, I spend a lot of time trying to get people to get out of their cars and walk or ride a bike once in a while. It kind of parallels the conversation about adults playing instruments.

Adults always say the same things: “I haven’t ridden a bike since I was 12”, “I just don’t have time to do anything like that”, or “I’d feel silly learning to ride again.” That is just so sad. They say the same thing when I play music somewhere--just like Jerone’s post.

They know that you are having more fun than they are. We all know that a bit of effort is required, but that there are obvious rewards. So how do you get people off their butts and motivate them? For me, it was the fun. Riding a bike to work is a hell of a lot more fun than driving a car. Playing music is more fun than watching TV (Game of Thrones notwithstanding…).

Is there some adult brain function that kicks in and tells you to stop building fun into your life? Is that why everyone is so grumpy? Is the prefrontal cortex the culprit? I mean, impulse control is just fine, but playing music and dancing seems to require that you dial that back a bit. When did everyone get so self-conscious?

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“*as we need it *……. the *requisite* technique”

Apologies for the tautology there.

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Sympathise with them and tell them you will pray for them. I find that helps!

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The arts are important to me. Everyday it is great to be able to express things with music which I wouldn’t even begin to know how to express without. My “used to” is I used to draw & paint. I actually made a conscious decision to change my focus from the visual arts to music. So, if someone tells me they used to, or would like to play music; when they see me playing, I usually ask them, “Do you do any art? Dancing, acting, singing, painting?”
Art is good for people, I’d even say humans need art. But, there’s so many ways of making art & expressing things through art.

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Oh, & if anyone expresses even the slightest interest in playing Irish tunes, I’ve often pulled out a spare whistle & helped them find at least one tune.

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People are quoting Sartre, and all I can think of is a quote from Yoda, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” So much for MY intellectual street cred! 😉

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tell them to get over it and get a kazoo ;)

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Haha Fancie ;)

“We do not do what we want, but we are responsible for what we are.”

Nice quote Will.

“…but I can think of very few points in my learning process that have really felt like ‘hard work’….”

I know what you mean. I’ve been so lazy I can remember the days I actually got down in the musical dirt and dug out a ditch. I remember one 8 hour practice, and one 6 hour practice. I hear of people doing these on the daily basis, but ever since this whole “lifestyle” thing, for me I never felt much need for a 6-8 hour practice. It’s a 24 hour thing for me, given that i’m not always “at the sheet” or “at the instrument”. And i’m able to this because it’s not really hard. The hardest part to me is figuring out where the money is gonna come from.

“Perhaps I could have reached a higher technical standard had I put in more ‘hard work’ over the years…”

Yea, I know what you mean. Here I am 14 years later and i’m just now building really good practice habits.

“Is there some adult brain function that kicks in and tells you to stop building fun into your life?”

I hope not! If there is one, I haven’t felt it yet.

“Art is good for people, I’d even say humans need art. But, there’s so many ways of making art & expressing things through art. ”

This is a good point. So if they sincerely feel that don’t have a nack for music, just show them to the other things in our little(but very big) world. I’ve always felt like everyone had to be some type of artist at heart.

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@fiddlelearner “I’ve always felt like everyone had to be some type of artist at heart”

Nice comment. People will find their creativity if they look for it, just it may be in a surprising place, or come up in circumstances they can’t yet predict. It may be music, but if it isn’t, then it could be product design, or parenting, or teaching, or gardening, or anything really! I think there’s another aspect to it: part of the “work” of artistry is also letting it in - in other words, creating the conditions where it can happen.

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“Every child is born an artist. The problem is remaining one once they grow up”. (Picasso)

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Francie is right. And when they turn up with a nice new kazoo, confiscate it on the spot and tell them to go and sit in the corner. It ain’t your problem. Why should they spoil your evening? Or wax philosophical if you must, but you’ll have to put up with the result.

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kazoos should be confiscated, at the very least. Doubly so if the owner thinks it’s possible to play one…

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“unlearn what you have learned” -yoda

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Couldn’t agree more, oilman, likewise slide-whistles, strange little percussion things that go “tick-tack-tick”, etc., etc. Also spoons, if the owner can’t play them in time with the music.

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“It’s never too late…”

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I was one of the persons present the night Tom Paley brought his fiddle out of the bedroom, and played it to a live audience for the first time. An experienced musician on the guitar and banjo, he’d wanted to try the fiddle too, and had been practising it in private, and felt that his playing was good enough to take it public. To his great surprise he fell apart under the audience’s gaze. For the next few years he “bought” his minutes of inflicting his fiddle-playing onto an audience by carrying either his guitar or banjo,as well as his fiddle. It did take quite a time, but I do now enjoy his playing, even of Swedish Polskas.
But he started his playing the fiddle well into middle age.
So, maybe the answer is “Yes you can start now, but it will take some time.”