Learning Music at Home

For the most part, I’ve been using my quarantine wisely, which is to say, I’ve been experimenting with sweatsuit fashion, catching up on all those shows I told my friends I’d watch, and making sure to finish every last drop of coffee from the pot every day.

I’ve had a flash of inspiration, however, that probably struck when my daughters’ piano instructor suggested moving their lessons to a Zoom call each week. Now, I realize I’ve got all the time in the world to tinker around with that piano sitting in our living room, and at the very least, it’s a way I can “be productive” while remaining seated.

I’ve been fed enough content from fitness influencers to know there is a pressure during this Stay-at-Home period to uncover “your best self,” and honestly, I’m not of the same mind. This unique moment in history is a period to be savored, in my opinion, and you certainly shouldn’t feel guilty for the list of things you haven’t tackled or accomplished. What I have discovered, however, is that learning the piano is bringing me joy, and it’s lovely, in the evenings, to be able to sit down and fill our house with music while the girls get ready for bed (make sure to argue with each other one last time for the day).

Perhaps you too have an instrument collecting dust in your home and an itch to fill your sedentary hours with a sense of beauty and accomplishment. Should you have a desire to teach yourself some music at home, I have rounded up the necessary motivators and resources.

As best I can gather, the first step in learning an instrument on your own at home is to curate an organized song list. I suppose without realizing, I did this, pulling up the chords to songs that I find myself humming mindlessly. Beginning with a song that you already know can afford you a foundation on which to build—you’re able to check yourself if you know what sounds right and what sounds wrong. You also better make sure it’s a song that you love because the next best piece of advice is: repetition is crucial. Like most anything in life, practice makes perfect. Repetition creates muscle memory as well as a fluency in the brain’s understanding of the music and movements.

Personally, I’m the sort to throw myself into a thing and stumble through it. (If you’d like to witness that firsthand, I’ve been posting videos of the songs I’m “learning” on the piano to my Instagram, and what that really means is I’m able to sort out chords to sing along to.) After all, this is just for fun while I’m confined to the same building as my piano. Should you be a diligent learner in search of a little guidance, since posting those videos to Instagram, the algorithm has fed me a terrifying number of ads for apps that have paid the internet to learn about what I’m doing.

For example, for piano, I’ve discovered virtual lessons on Zebra Keys, Piano Nanny, Musician’s Way, Learn Jazz Piano, Music Notes, Simply Piano and Joy Tunes. There are similar sources for other instruments as well. Free Drum Lessons or Virtual Drumming for… you guessed it! The drums! Or Ultimate Guitar or Justin’s Guitar if you’re interested in playing the tuba. (Just making sure you’re paying attention.)

If you’re not sure you’re willing to pay-to-play, say guitar, I’ve found that most web-based chord chart sites (Ultimate Guitar Chords, for example) provide chords for nearly any song you like, and hovering over a chord will visually demonstrate how to play the chord. This allows for self-teaching, but ensures you’re teaching yourself correctly.

One of the wonderful things about quarantine has been the creativity exploding across the internet. Maybe you don’t have access to an instrument to learn but you want to participate in some form of living room musical. I recently came across the Marsh Family from Faversham, Kent, after they went viral for their rendition of “One More Day” from Les Misérables. Altering the lyrics to reflect their own (hyperbolic) quarantine miseries, both parents and all four kids belt their version full-force from their makeshift living room stage! I liken it to the Recreate Art challenge that’s also gone viral, featuring quarantined individuals who “recreate” famous works of art using minimal household items. (Trust me, this is worth Googling.) At any rate, I considered rewriting the lyrics to “The Greatest Showman” as that’s what my kids are insisting on listening to on repeat; but I had to save my words for my columns this month instead.

If you and your family are creatively infusing your quarantined life with music, I would love to hear about it!