We’re asked this question frequently. Though I’d prefer not to use this phrase, the answer is, “it depends”--on many different variables. Let me elaborate by bringing up a familiar comparison. Studying a musical instrument is very much like learning a new language, an experience all of us had at one point or another in our lives. Both involve learning how to read and write symbols on a page, understand the deeper meaning of these symbols and how to use these symbols in practice, i.e., when communicating with others.
Critical to both also is our (time) commitment to the study process. Is it every day all day long? Toddlers learn a language this way, as do students having a “full immersion” experience in another country. At the other end of the spectrum, is it 30 minutes a week? Of course, results will vary dramatically, depending on your answers to these questions.
Another crucial factor is the quality of instruction: is your teacher barely proficient, or are you thriving under the tutelage of a language teacher who is a native speaker, or a musician with significant professional accomplishments on her instrument?
But the parallels between music and language studies go even further. There is no denying that speaking any language on a high level takes great effort, just as playing any musical instrument to professional standards requires years, and sometimes decades, of study. In the language and music teaching communities, there is also agreement that some languages are harder to master than others--think of Chinese as a particularly daunting example--just as certain musical instruments produce at least basic learning results more quickly than others. As a case in point, consider violin vs. drum.
So when we’re asked how long it takes to learn a musical instrument, the questions from our perspective are: what would you like to accomplish with your music studies? Impress with quick results? Explore a possible career opportunity in the arts? Play music for stress relief, and as a hobby? Or would you like your child to take on music studies as a means to develop disciplined work habits, goal setting and project management skills, and encourage competitive achievement? Your answers to these questions guide us in setting realistic expectations and advising you on your most suitable options.