Start with your why.

Why do you want to learn music?

  • So you can play with others?
  • Write your own tunes?
  • Perform covers of your favorite songs?
  • Express yourself and relieve stress by yourself?
  • What excites you about learning music, what can you envision yourself doing?

Knowing your why will help you stay motivated and stick with it – because let’s face it, the beginning can be a bit tedious and is often why a large number of would-be musicians give up. Once you know why you want to learn, the next step can be summed up with the POET acronym: People, Opportunities, Experiences, Things.


Start to meet people that are on a similar path, so you can inspire & challenge each other to stay accountable with your practice goals. It’s worth trying to meet people that are far more advanced than you, such as teachers/mentors, and begin learning from them. In person and online – there are some great YouTubers like Ross The Music & Guitar Teacher or Stuart Fuchs Zen Ukelele. Infinite resources at this point.

I often highly recommend finding a music teacher if you can because not only will they really help you iron out the kinks with regards to your basics, but they’ll also keep you motivated and help hold you accountable so you keep up your practice! Not to mention, when you try to get at it alone it can be very difficult to figure out what you should be learning or what’s appropriate for your level. Having an experience mentor/guide/advisor can really help you focus on the right things and set you up for long term success.


Be open and say yes to opportunities! Jam sessions, masterclasses, music store events, open mic nights, and whatever else comes your way – just go for it! Music is by its nature a social phenomenon. You can’t learn language in a vacuum and you don’t use language in a vacuum: same for our universal language 🙂

Jamming with friends is really one of the best ways to get inspired, stay motivated, and really enjoy playing. You’re never too new or too much of a beginner to play with others! Other musicians will almost always be helpful and patient with you – they’ve been exactly where you are now and they understand what you’re going through and are often more than happy to help you out or share advice.


What kind of experiences do you want to have with music? Write down your bucket list, and start noticing similar events in your life. In this way you start priming your brain to look for and create the sorts of musical experiences you crave.


What’s that, you don’t just want to sing? Get yourself an instrument!

There are lots of “things” that will help you on your musical journey but here’s a short list of the resources that will truly support you in your desire to learn music:

  • An instrument or set of instruments that really excite you – don’t pick something because of what someone else wants, pick the right instrument for YOU.
  • A list of music that you love and want to play – nothing gets you more excited and motivates you more, than setting goals for things you truly want to accomplish.
  • A way to organize and track your practice progress, like this practice notebook or an all-in-one practice manager app like Modacity.


There’s no start-to-finish guide for learning music and that’s because it’s a never ending journey. Sure, sometimes learning music can be difficult, but other times it can be easy as you flow right through songs and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. The most important part is to enjoy the journey so that you can stay motivated in pursuit of your goals. The more you enjoy your foray into the world of music, the longer you’ll stick with it and the further you’ll go.

I never imagined when I started learning piano that I would record & tour with San Francisco Symphony on French horn.

Do yourself a favor and just get started, surround yourself with inspiring musical people, and just start practicing music. Allow the journey to unfold and you will be amazed how far it can take you.

Mars Gelfo

Mars Gelfo

Mars has been practicing music for 30+ years. After applying cognitive science & computer science to French horn, Mars became an internationally touring symphony musician. His experience includes teaching and performing with thousands of musicians around the world, including the San Francisco Symphony.

One Comment

  • Marc Gelfo says:

    Just a footnote – why not start with the “how”? because the why takes care of the how!
    Famous trumpet player James Morrison talked about that once when he was playing with the Hong Kong Philharmonic.
    “All you need to know is your motivation, and the ‘how’ and ‘what’ will take care of itself”, James said.