Learning music by yourself can be an incredibly rewarding journey. Whether you aspire to become a proficient musician, simply enjoy playing an instrument as a hobby, or gain a deeper understanding of music theory, the self-directed path offers flexibility and the ability to tailor your learning process to your individual needs and interests.

This article will guide you through the essential steps to learn music by yourself, from setting goals and choosing the right resources to developing effective practice routines and staying motivated.

Setting Your Musical Goals

Before diving into the specifics of learning music, it’s crucial to establish clear, achievable goals. Your goals will guide your learning process and help you measure your progress. Consider the following questions:

  1. Why do you want to learn music?
    • Is it for personal enjoyment, a music career, or to play in a band?
  2. What style or genre of music interests you?
    • Classical, jazz, rock, pop, or something else?
  3. What instrument do you want to learn?
    • Guitar, piano, violin, drums, or perhaps singing?
  4. What is your current skill level?
    • Are you a complete beginner, or do you have some prior experience?

By answering these questions, you can create specific, measurable, and time-bound goals. For example, “I want to learn to play three classical pieces on the piano within six months” is a more precise goal than “I want to learn piano.”

Choosing the Right Instrument

If you haven’t already chosen an instrument, this is a crucial step. Your choice should reflect your musical interests, physical comfort, and practicality. Here are some considerations for popular instruments:

  • Piano/Keyboard: Great for understanding music theory, versatile across genres, and good for solo performance.
  • Guitar: Portable, versatile, and excellent for various music styles, from classical to rock.
  • Violin: Ideal for classical music and offers opportunities in orchestras and smaller ensembles.
  • Drums: Perfect for those interested in rhythm and playing in bands.
  • Voice: If you enjoy singing, your voice is an instrument you can always have with you.

Acquiring the Right Instrument and Equipment

Once you’ve chosen your instrument, it’s time to acquire it. You don’t necessarily need to invest in the most expensive option; many affordable and quality instruments are suitable for beginners. Additionally, consider purchasing:

  • A tuner (for instruments like guitar and violin).
  • A metronome (essential for developing timing and rhythm).
  • Sheet music or songbooks.
  • Appropriate learning materials (method books, instructional videos).

Finding Quality Learning Resources

With the advent of the internet, a plethora of learning resources is available to self-taught musicians. Here are some valuable resources:

Online Courses and Tutorials

Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and MasterClass offer structured courses on various instruments and music theory. Additionally, YouTube has countless tutorials by professional musicians.

Books and Method Books

There are numerous method books tailored to specific instruments and skill levels. For example, “Hal Leonard Guitar Method” for guitarists or “Bastien Piano Basics” for pianists.

Mobile Apps

Apps like Yousician, Simply Piano, and GarageBand provide interactive learning experiences and practice tools.

Sheet Music and Tabs

Platforms like MusicNotes, Ultimate Guitar, and IMSLP offer vast libraries of sheet music and tablature for different instruments and genres.

Learning Music Theory

Understanding music theory is fundamental to becoming a proficient musician. Music theory helps you comprehend the structure of music, enabling you to read, write, and create music more effectively. Here are some basic concepts to start with:

Notation and Reading Music

Learn to read musical notation, including notes, rhythms, and key signatures. This skill is essential for playing and understanding written music.

Scales and Chords

Study major and minor scales, as well as common chord progressions. Knowing these basics will improve your improvisation and composition skills.

Rhythm and Timing

Practice different rhythms and time signatures using a metronome. This will help you develop a solid sense of timing and groove.

Ear Training

Develop your ear by practising identifying intervals, chords, and melodies by ear. Apps like EarMaster can be beneficial for ear-training exercises.

Creating a Practice Routine

Consistent practice is key to learning any musical instrument. Develop a practice routine that balances various aspects of learning, such as technique, theory, repertoire, and improvisation. Here’s a sample practice routine for a beginner guitarist:

Warm-Up (10 minutes)

  • Finger exercises and stretches
  • Simple scales

Technique (20 minutes)

  • Chord transitions
  • Picking or strumming patterns

Music Theory (20 minutes)

  • Learning new chords or scales
  • Basic notation reading

Repertoire (30 minutes)

  • Practicing songs or pieces
  • Playing along with recordings

Improvisation (10 minutes)

  • Experimenting with scales and creating melodies

Adjust the routine based on your instrument, goals, and available practice time. Consistency is more important than duration, so aim for regular, focused practice sessions.

Staying Motivated

Maintaining motivation is often one of the biggest challenges when learning music independently. Here are some strategies to keep you inspired:

Set Milestones and Celebrate Achievements

Break down your goals into smaller milestones and celebrate when you achieve them. This could be learning a new song, mastering a difficult technique, or performing in front of others.

Play Along with Your Favorite Songs

Playing along with your favourite tracks can be a fun and rewarding way to practice. It also helps you apply what you’ve learned in a musical context.

Join Online Communities

Engage with other learners and musicians through online forums, social media groups, or local music clubs. Sharing your progress and challenges with a supportive community can boost your motivation.

Record Yourself

Recording your practice sessions and performances can help you track your progress and identify areas for improvement. It’s also rewarding to hear how much you’ve improved over time.

Mix Up Your Practice Routine

Avoid monotony by varying your practice routine. Explore different genres, learn new pieces, and try different practice techniques to keep things interesting.

Seeking Feedback and Guidance

While self-teaching offers independence, seeking feedback from others can be incredibly valuable. Here are some ways to get feedback and guidance:

Take Occasional Lessons

Consider taking occasional lessons from a professional teacher to get personalized feedback and guidance. This can be particularly useful if you’re struggling with a specific aspect of your playing.

Perform for Friends and Family

Performing in front of others, even if it’s just friends and family, can help you gain confidence and receive constructive feedback.

Use Technology

Apps and software can provide feedback on your playing. For example, some apps listen to your performance and give real-time feedback on accuracy and timing.

Expanding Your Musical Horizons

As you progress, explore different musical styles, instruments, and techniques to broaden your musical knowledge and skills. Here are some ways to expand your musical horizons:

Learn a Second Instrument

Once you feel comfortable with your primary instrument, consider learning a second one. This can provide new perspectives and enhance your overall musicianship.

Study Different Genres

Exploring various musical genres can introduce you to new techniques, rhythms, and cultural contexts. Each genre has unique characteristics that can enrich your musical repertoire.

Compose and Improvise

Try composing your music or improvising. This encourages creativity and helps you apply theoretical knowledge in a practical context.

Collaborate with Other Musicians

Playing with others can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of learning music. It teaches you to listen, adapt, and blend your sound with other musicians.

The Psychological Aspects of Learning Music

Understanding the psychological aspects of learning can enhance your practice and performance. Here are some tips:

Growth Mindset

Adopt a growth mindset, which means believing that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This mindset fosters resilience and a love of learning.

Focus and Concentration

Practice mindfulness and concentration techniques to improve focus during practice sessions. Short, focused practice is often more effective than long, distracted sessions.

Managing Performance Anxiety

If you plan to perform, learn strategies to manage performance anxiety. Visualization, deep breathing, and positive self-talk can help you stay calm and focused.

Embracing the Journey

Learning music is a lifelong journey with ups and downs. Embrace the process and enjoy each step of your musical development. Remember that every musician started as a beginner and faced similar challenges. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and keep your passion for music alive.


Learning music by yourself is a fulfilling endeavour that requires dedication, patience, and a willingness to explore. By setting clear goals, choosing the right resources, developing effective practice routines, and staying motivated, you can make significant progress on your musical journey.

Remember to seek feedback, embrace new challenges, and enjoy the process. Music has the power to enrich your life, and with perseverance, you can achieve your musical aspirations.

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