As a music teacher, with more than 30 years of experience, I'm going to tell you why I think music is one of the worst hobbies of all time.
Most people that sign up for lessons say that they want a nice hobby for themselves or their children. Next, when people elevate beyond a hobby and turn into pro-musicians that dedicate their lives to it, they describe their relationship with music as love. I don't see either of those things
happening from a behavioural standpoint. It looks very different to me which I'm going to explain.
For me, music is awesome and it's the lifeblood of everything that I do. It's the only thing in life that I've ever wanted to talk about, think about, or do. But do I love it? I don't think so.
What Is A Hobby
If we think about what makes a really good hobby, people usually describe activities as "relaxing" or that they "get into the zone and lose track of time," which does happen for lots of musicians. They also say it "recharges their psychological batteries". People do this with stamp collecting, coin collecting, comic book collecting, fantasy football, and many other activities. The difference between those activities and music is that, for example, if you're collecting comics you can, go to the comic store and buy anything you love. You can buy a stamp collecting hobby but you cannot buy the skill of playing music. You have to work for it. There's no way around it.
What People Say When They Sign Up For Music Lessons
When people sign up for lessons they often say "I just want to be able to play a few songs so that I can enjoy playing music". I let them know that I've never heard of a client coming in to tell me that they sit down, strum a few chords on a guitar, and then sit back listening to themselves and think "that just sounds wonderful". People just don't do that.
What Is Practising Music
Most people's relationship with music from the hobby level to the pro musician level is more like somebody that's in troubleshooting mode. A beginner will be saying to themselves "I wish I could change between a C and an F chord and get it clean". A pro musician is going be looking for the next killer idea, trying to play solos that are more technically difficult or play solos that sound sweeter in some way. That is what 98% of playing is. Practicing is troubleshooting that is spent, in a level of frustration, to get the 2%, which is the celebration when you finally get it. To me that 2% is totally worth it, and it fully sustains me through the other 98%. If you're looking for a nice "sweet little hobby", it's not music. This is more like a grind.
The Worst Sales Pitch Of All Time
To me, music is highly effective as a self-improvement and character-building tool. It's more like going to the gym than collecting stamps. When you're learning music it shows you what your character is made of. When you're first starting off it can feel not humanly possible, even when you've seen other humans do it. When you take something that feels "not humanly possible" and you learn that skill, it builds character and gives you confidence when you start to find other things in life that feel not possible.
Where Music Shines
To me, music is highly effective as a self-improvement and character-building tool. It's more like going to the gym than collecting stamps. When you're learning music it shows you what your character is made of. When you're first starting off it can feel not humanly possible, even when you've seen other humans do it. When you take something that feels "not humanly possible" and you learn that skill, it builds character and gives you confidence for when you start to find other things in life that feel not possible.
You can say "I've learned the impossible in music maybe I can actually learn this other difficult skill". It gives you a model of how to learn and shows you what you're made of.
Do "Pros" Love Music?
A few years ago I started to question whether or not I actually loved music. Love in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is defined, as pertaining to music, as to "like" or "desire actively", "to take pleasure in". The dictionary description is reflective of some of my relationship with music. It's about 2% of the time. 98% of my time is struggling to become better. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of the music that I play, produced and practice. I'm not complaining at all. I'm highly engaged in the struggle to become better. Why do some musicians have to play music, not because they love it, but they are compelled to play music?
If I wouldn't describe the feeling of love for music for most people that are compelled to play music would I describe it as addiction or obsession? There's a little bit of that, but no, generally it's neither an addiction or an obsession.
I can't speak for others, for myself, music has been the best tool for me to be able to leave a legacy. Through my teaching business, I've been able to show thousands of people how to play music, and they get to show other people. More importantly, I've been able to show, particularly young people, how they specifically learn and how they can tailor life so that they can learn faster for the rest of their lives whether they do music or not. Showing young people particularly how to manage frustration when they're building character and just being along the journey of somebody that's building their character through music while being a supportive person. That's the legacy that I get to leave and music gave that to me. I'm extremely proud of this and I'm grateful for everything that I've got to experience because of music. That's all well and good, but it's not "love".
Compared to any healthy love relationship that I have, I don't spend ninety-eight percent of my time and struggle in those relationships. This 98 percent struggle which I'm highly engaged in and not complaining about at all, I wouldn't describe it as love.
I think people getting into music as a nice "sweet little hobby" have to have their expectations reset. This is more like going to the gym and working hard because you want to get better at a sport so when you go play with your friends you're able to help the team out that little bit more. Just like when you're playing in a band, you want to be to support your role in the team.
I wouldn't say that I love music. I would say that music is interwoven into the fabric of everything that I do in life and I live music.