My philosophy of learning to play a musical instrument is to create a "Learning Cycle." Simply put, the more you play, the more you enjoy and the better you get. The better you get, the more you enjoy, and the more you want to show off. The more you show off, the more you enjoy and the more you want to play and improve.
Much like with video games, the rewards make you want to move on, discovering new things and becoming better in the process. Can you imagine how quickly you would turn people off video games if there were clinics on the proper way to hold a controller, or games that were nothing but repeatedly hitting buttons to improve your hand-eye coordination? For too long learning an instrument has been a form of torture, rather than sitting down to a big bowl of ice cream and candy.
I've developed this view of playing an instruments, in no small part, by watching my son. He is an avid gamer. He has been since I bought him a Nintendo system when he was six and he promptly began battering the TV screen while playing "Duck Hunt." He got every gaming system as he grew older and would wile away many an hour clicking, stomping, and flailing madly in the air. He would proudly announce a new level, or a game completed, or how anxious he was for a new game or system to arrive. I was a little worried at this point, I must say.
However, he took up the electric guitar and applied the same gaming focus, to learning music. It was astonishing to watch him. He didn't start with "band class" or "teaching little fingers to play" on the piano, as had I, but rather he played songs he liked and wanted play. He spent hour after hour on some complicated little lick and was thrilled when he got it. So much so, that he soon had to learn a different, or harder lick. Just as with a video game, he had to move on in levels. He is now an amazing guitarist and musician.
Where learning an instrument has a big advantage over playing video games is showing off. Everyone loves to show off. It's a thrill to have others see how good you are at something. Who doesn't love getting a first place ribbon, or trophy; winning the game for the team; winning at Jeopardy or Scrabble; or being top of the class and voted most likely to succeed?
Playing an instrument gets much more approval than playing a video game. Listening to a young person struggle through "Pachelbel's Canon" is infinitely more thrilling than watching someone batter an Orc in a video game.
Humans being humans, we soon clue into that fact and seek more praise and attention, and therefore work hard to better our performance. It's simply human nature.
Now, with YouTube and other social media venues you can easily get educational materials, have an outlet for performing, and get feedback from peers and experts. This creates a "Super Charged" learning environment for musicians at all levels.
This summer, rather than whiling away the hours getting a sunburn, why not become a musical superstar?