Speaking about the importance of enjoying the journey of learning to play an instrument – developing and nurturing a real passion for music, practice and playing as you go – Jools sums up his advice to new and aspiring musicians of all ages: “play what you love and love what you play” and get obsessed with your playing.
According to the host of BBC Two’s Later… programme, the most important influence on the development of his own musical talents was easy access to a piano in the family home.
In fact, for Jools a piano in the house is vital. His top tips for budding pianists is to get a piano and keep it at home – “you’re never going to learn the piano unless you’ve got one” – and to find a teacher who will teach you music that will inspire you: “play for pleasure … there’s no point in playing music you don’t love!”
Talking about the origins of his own playing Jools describes his grandmother’s “magical and mysterious” bomb damaged Pianola which the family treated as “a piece of furniture – a friend in the corner of the living room.”
Growing up listening to old tunes on piano rolls and classical piano and rhythm and blues records, Jools discovered he had a gift for picking up and copying tunes at the piano keys, where he’d then try and figure out songs and pieces. The young Holland’s eureka moment came when he first heard his Uncle Dave playing boogie-woogie piano, a moment he described as “the whole chaos of the universe became ordered”.
“The older you get, the easier it is to learn…”
When it comes to older players, Jools disagrees that learning to play the piano is the preserve of the young. Instead, he believes it is actually easier to learn an instrument as an adult: “as a child you may be being taken away from something else you want to do.”
Improved concentration and attention spans, and an active, enthusiastic interest in learning to play are just some of the advantages enjoyed by adults according to the rhythm and blues player:
“You perhaps understand yourself better so you know whether you need to learn by playing, sight reading or ear. You’ll understand yourself what you’re better at because of the other things you’ve achieved in life … if you can work out computers then understanding music is really easy!”
As a life-long pianist, Jools himself has only just recently taken up the guitar and says that professional musicians are constantly seeking to improve all the time – “the older you get, the easier it is to learn and the more enjoyable it is. It’s never too late to take it up!”
“I like to keep moving forwards all the time. The joy for me is learning more music and I find it easier now to learn music now than when I was 25. The more you do it, the more you enjoy it!”
Watch Jools’ interview in full below:
If you’re a parent who wants to bring a piano into the family home, or a young player who needs their own instrument to develop their talents, then visit Take It Away – an initiative from Arts Council England that aims make learning and playing music more affordable for children and young people with interest-free loans to buy musical instruments and resources.
What do you think of Jools’ comments? How do they compare to your experiences of learning to play an instrument?