What makes musical people different from non-musical people?

When I meet someone new and they find out I’ve been a musician for almost 35 years. And I’ve been teaching music for over 25, the conversation eventually turns to their own experience with music.

And I’ve found that when it comes to music, there are basically two types of people:

People that say they’re not musical.
People that say they are musical.

Let’s take a look at each of these groups.

Not Musical

The non-musical group includes people that never pursued music. Either they didn’t have the opportunity or it just wasn’t something that they or their parents really thought was that important. So they never started. Maybe you’re in this group and the reason you’re here is because you don’t want your kid in this group when they grow up.

The non-musical group also includes adults that pursued music for a bit as a kid but quit. Maybe their teacher moved out of town. Maybe they didn’t make progress as quickly as they wanted. Maybe they hit some other bump in the road. But for whatever reason, they quit before they reached a point where they consider themselves musical.


The second group is the people that consider themselves musical. Some of these are professional musicians, but the vast majority are adults that know how to play an instrument and occasionally make music for the enjoyment of it. They may say they’re a bit rusty or they wish they had time to play more, but whatever their level of ability, They kept at it long enough to consider themselves musicians.

What they tell me

There’s a common theme to what the non-musicians tell me next…

I wish…

I wish I had the opportunity

I wish I started

I wish I would have stuck with it

There’s this sense of regret for either not having the opportunity, not pursuing the opportunity, or quitting too soon. Sometimes you can really hear the regret in their voice and see it on their face. Some of these stories are heartbreaking.

What they NEVER tell me

Do you know what I have never heard from a non-musician?
In over…

15 years leading the Oregon Music Academy…

25 years of teaching music…

35 years as a musician…

I’ve never heard anyone say they’re happy they quit.

I’ve never had someone say, I didn’t pursue lessons and I’m so glad I didn’t.

It just doesn’t happen.

Zero instances of non-musicians saying they’re happy they’re not musical

What I do hear is regret. 100% All. The. Time.

Musical people don’t regret that they’re musical

There’s something else I never hear when talking to adults.
I’ve never had a musical adult tell me they regret taking lessons as a kid and sticking with it long term.

Every musical adult tells me that they’re glad they kept at it.
They may say:

I struggled with it a few times as a kid.

I didn’t like some of the music my teacher chose.

There were times I wanted to quit.

They might say, when I was a kid, I had times when I didn’t like it. But I’m glad my mom and dad dragged me to lessons kicking and screaming.

But people that are musical are happy they pursued it and continued long enough to reach a level where they consider themselves musical.

So what’s a parent to do?

Let’s look at this as parents. As much as possible, we want to limit future regrets. We all want our kids to grow up to be happy, well adjusted adults, with skills that will serve them well in the future. The clear path to raising a kid that grows up to be an adult that can understand, appreciate, and make music is to help them start and stick with music lessons long term.

If you’re ready to get started, here’s where you can learn more about private music lessons and group music classes for kids at Oregon Music Academy.