4 Secrets of Learning an Instrument Hidden in Pop Music

Pop music* gets a bad rap. Sure it’s formulaic and all the songs pretty much sound the same. You’re right that the most of the singers are more interested in their look than the sound of their voice. I’ll even agree that we would be better off as a society if about 85% of the songs on the radio had never been written. I get it, I agree with you.

*When I say “Pop Music”, I’m referring to “popular” music, not necessarily a particular genre like ‘Rock’ or ‘Country’

pop music

But every once in awhile, a song comes along that, against all odds, has some decent lyrics, a good sound, or even both! In fact, there are many songs that, underneath the cookie-cutter production value lies a somewhat hopeful message just waiting to be heard. When it comes to your kid, she may be feeling discouraged or frustrated or in need of a little inspiration and you’re not quite sure how to help her.

Have no fear.

I have scoured and pined over sixty years of pop music and found a few gems among rocks, some roses among thorns, some diamonds in the rough…(diamonds in the rough). So whether or not you think these songs or “good” or have any “redeeming value” or should “never be heard by human ears again”, give them one more chance and see if there’s a life lesson in there that your kid can learn from one (or all) of them. (Click the song titles to listen to the songs as you read!)

1. “It Takes Two” – Rob Base ft. DJ E-Z Rock


Oftentimes, your kid might feel alone in her pursuit to learn to play an instrument and without someone come alongside her to encourage her and help her, she might not last very long. Whether it’s you, her music teacher, or even a friend, make sure that she has somebody along for the ride with her and even if it’s only one person, don’t worry, just remember: It take two to make a thing go right/It takes two to make it out-a sight. It sure does, Mr. Base. It sure does.

2. “You Can Go Your Own Way” – Fleetwood Mac


You may be a musician, you may not be. She may have friends that are musicians, she might have no musician friends. Whatever musical path your kid decides to go down, do her a favor and just let her go. Let her chase her dreams of playing guitar take her somewhere that no one in your family has ever been. For her, she needs to know that the instrument is not as important as the journey she takes to learn it. But even more important, let her know that the path she takes is up to her and she can go her own way.

3. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” – Oasis


The day will come when it’s not fun or easy anymore. For your kid it may come sooner or it may come later but eventually, it will come like a bill collector and demand payment for all those “easy” days. She may even come to a point where she wants to switch instruments or even quit because she doesn’t like how things are going and maybe for her at that moment, the best thing that you can do is to let her. But help her see that the work that she did wasn’t wasted and that the time she spent practicing wasn’t for nothing. Make sure that as she looks back on her time learning an instrument that it’s with pride and satisfaction and not frustration and anger.

4. “Nobody’s Perfect” – Miley Cyrus (lyric)


When it comes to learning to play an instrument, there is no such thing as “perfect.” There will always be strings that rattle on the guitar, notes that squeak on the clarinet, and drum sticks that just don’t want to cooperate at all. One of the things that you can do to help your kid as she learns to play is to help her be satisfied with, “pretty good” or even, “better than last time.” If you can get her to stay focused on improvement and not perfection, her improvement goals will be much more attainable and she will be able to see how she has gotten better over time.

Learning to play an instrument is one of the hardest things that your kid can do. But if she is able to learn some of these life lessons from every day pop songs, I can almost guarantee that she will have a much higher success rate than someone who is just handed an instrument and is expected to learn it. Don’t settle for the “set it and forget it” method when it comes to your kid becoming a musician. Make sure she knows she’s not alone, she’s free to pursue her own path, it’s better to keep a positive outlook, and that perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

What is another song that could help a kid learn an instrument? Share in the comments!

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