The Top 5 Reasons Folks Do Not Continue Music After Starting It

5 main reasons that have been used as answers for "Why did you stop playing after a while?"

Ultimate Guitar

Time and time again, it would seem many more folks are quitting music than they are starting it back up. Usually, it's not even because of a lack of time or focus or energy. They give in to the temptations of not playing or not practicing because of other reasons which, to many who can't actually play (health reasons as the main part of that), would infuriate those same folks who want to play but never can. I myself have fallen victim to a few of the following reasons.

5. "It's too difficult"/"It's too easy"

Many come across a song that sounds incredible to play. It's fluid; it's dynamic; it's calming; it's got the insane solos and rhythms and lyrics. It has everything they could ever ask for in a song, even. But then comes a major dilemma: what would the sheet music or tab for the song look like? Or what would it sound like if I tried to play it?

So they get an instrument that will work for the song or they get their own that they have had at least for a short time. They get so excited and pumped up to try the song out. Then they get to actually playing the song. They realize, it's not as they had thought. For some, it's the solos which end up messing them up.

"Who uses tap solos for this song, anyways?!?" in the case of a guitarist colleague of mine. Consequently, some might feel that the verses and chorus, as it turns out, are too easy for their tastes. "Why bother learning a song I can always remember because it contains a simple E-C-G-D chord progression?" as same colleague suggested.

4. "There's not enough time to learn more"/"My schedule is too full"

This one comes up plenty more times due to the simple fact I am at the College I am at. It's known for writing, business, the sciences, the maths... But its music department is insultingly on the low end of the totem pole. As a result, the vast majority of members of the College don't focus on music a lot, and the ones that do always seem to be busier than their music will allow.

Of course, I could branch this out to a much bigger spectrum of, say, the whole state or nation or even planet. These folks feel that because so much is on their plates, they cannot begin to focus on music at all even if it's their career choice. There are quite a few that have the valid reason of that as enough to not be able to do music, but for the rest, it simply comes to a case of poor timing and planning.

3. "I'm too (old, injured, inadequate, horrible, etc.) with music"

I have trouble trying to truly justify this one in a lot of cases. On the one hand, some of these folks have so many complications and issues that they truly can no longer learn or do music at all, and that is fine. That is to be expected for some. However, for the rest interviewed or asked about, what the majority told as their reasoning really came down to either a lack of confidence or a case of laziness or both.

"I'm not getting any younger! I have so little time left, and I don't want to waste it doing what I did when I was your age" I get told a lot. Same with "I would definitely continue music if I was able-bodied like you, but my fingers are not exactly of optimal condition to do it." Many of these folks fail to realize there are some that will never sing or talk again due to permanent damage to vocal cords or even cancers. Some will never be able to play piano again because they have extensive arthritis/osteoporosis or their arms and hands were blown off or smashed or crushed or destroyed and prosthetics don't play well compared to actual limbs. Some can't play drums because of the combo of broken or deadened limbs and so much time spent away from it. All that is being said is, the excuse of being too off from music should not be used so much.

2. "Music wasn't fulfilling my means, so I went for something else"/"Music doesn't pay nearly enough to keep me"/"Who wants to do music when it won't get you noticed?"/"I want to be a famous musician when I grow up"

This reason alone makes me cringe and sigh with despair. I remember to be grateful to grow up with a time where music was still solely about fun, passion, and just doing it for the privilege of doing it. So many nowadays do it for all the, seemingly, wrong reasons. They see some up-and-coming musician be successful and rich in the monetary sense, and they give up trying to do music for more "purer" reasons.

A main example I give on this is my best friend, James, and his cousin who is a bit younger than him. James has been playing music for over 20 years, but never once went for a record label or for fame or fortune. Overall calm and collected dude that garners respect in a different way.

Now enter his younger cousin, Brady. Brady wants to do music not because James has done it. Oh, no; he wants to do it because he saw, and I quote, "Justin Bieber being surrounded by women and money and everything I wouldn't mind at all." Brady did not continue music after a year of playing it. Why? Because he noticed no one was paying attention to him. He kept on going for power and greed, and it cost him.

Now, I am not saying that one shouldn't quit music if it isn't doing well for them, nor am I stating that they should give up their dreams with music if they don't suddenly become famous for it. I am solely stating that going for music JUST for fame or fortune is a very bad idea.

And the grand reason most who decide to try music give it up overall is:

1. "I don't want anyone to make fun of me for it"/"I will get bullied if I do this ever again"/"So many have put me down for music. Why bother anymore?"

It truly breaks my heart when others are messed with for their tastes in music when they are just starting out with it. Plenty of friends and family just gave it up because too many criticized them and ridiculed them and shunned them because they went for music. For quite a few of these folks, that has only ended badly. It's caused the ending of lives, the ending of relationships, the start of pain and misery and woe, the lowering of self-esteem, the wanting of a way to make it right, a needing for others' support which they will never have.

I myself remember going through guitar and music before and getting picked on for it. I remember all those times of actually crying myself to feeling better, and if that didn't work, music was there for support when no one else was. I remember feeling so much negativity and anger and grief and sorrow that I almost did give up music overall. But what pulled me out of it? What pulled me through it? Music did. Music brought back old friends that had moved away; it brought family closer together; it brought all the hecklers to reconsider and just move past it all; it brought peace of mind and happiness and self-esteem and the ability to take criticism well. Music has done so much for me, for everyone around me, for anyone really. That is its magic, its saving grace: it heals and helps.

With this list, there are many exceptions to the reasons that are legitimate or decent to have. All that is to be taken from this list is, there is always other options. There are always more chances, if one looks hard enough for them. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks to have songs and music with it.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Totally Yankee
    I was having a great time playing the trumpet when I was 14-15yo (early 1970's). I couldn't put it down. Then the adults took over, saying, "Stop wasting your time with that Tijuana Brass crap. Here, this is the stuff you need to practice for All State." My mom even took away the books I collected and the things I had transcribed. Everyone was critical. I was afraid to make mistakes. I became a sweating, nervous wreck. I made All State ... and quit.
    Damn, that's harsh. What a bitch. What's All State? I'm self-taught and know literally nothing about music courses/programs.
    I agree with the main point of this article, i.e. "playing music is good." I play guitar myself, and I certainly think it's been worth it so far. What follows is little nitpicks. 1. You say that more people are quitting guitar than learning guitar, but I think that's part of the college life. As someone outside of college, I can say that none of the guitarists I know seem like they'll quit anytime soon, and of course I'm surrounded by people who "want to learn." 2. Injury and age are legitimate reasons to quit music, and you pointing out that "some people are worse-off" as a reason to keep playing doesn't make sense to me. By your logic, one shouldn't quit snorting cocaine, because some people don't have noses. Also, if someone is 40 and doesn't want to waste their time with guitar, you ought not argue with them, because they know much better than you what they do and don't like, especially since a 40-year-old guitarist has probably been playing for about as long as you or I have been alive. 3. You talk a lot about music being beautiful and transcendent, and I actually agree with you. However, none of that means you have to play music. I don't think I'll ever learn a Van Morrison song, but Astral Weeks is still a beautiful and complex album. Also, some people may not get the same positive feelings you do from music, and trying to get people who don't feel the same as you to play music won't help anyone.
    Fair enough, fair enough. First time doing a music article, gonna have mistakes I should have mentioned it wasn't just at my college, but in my vicinity in the nation, which is Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. Hey, if one is able to still do it, more power to them. But folks who seemingly have, to the rest and to even themselves, "minor" injuries are a good turnoff for folks. Plenty more people who are injured and old, combined, that still do music as opposed to those who are affected by either or both. I agree that one who listens doesn't need to be a musician. It's not too cut out for everyone, but I mean to simply at least try for it. If it doesn't work out, all's well. If it does, even better. I agree to not force folks to do music if they don't want to, hence the "there are many exceptions" part. I apologize if I am just responding back in a cruder way than intended, or not being considerate of others, but the article is what it is.
    One reason I have not seen is "People keep asking me to play things I have no interest in playing - Therefore, I will stop playing" -- If one is playing for his own enjoyment or - If you play to demonstrate and expand your musical knowledge and proficiency - This should not get in your way - If you want friends, music is a lonely way to get them --
    I sort of meant to bunch that up with reason #1, but again, lot of my article is still a major work in progress
    Totally Yankee
    It's a state-wide competition. I remember being asked to play scales, sight read Grade 5 music, and perform a solo (Haydn's Trumpet Concerto, of course). There was more to it than that. It was no fun at all. Every 15yo dreams of wearing a coat and tie and playing classical stuff. NOT! Before the adults got involved I was playing what I heard on the radio, like Chicago and Bread and Jesus Christ Superstar. I took up the trumpet and flugelhorn again 5 years ago and am having the time of my life in community bands playing popular tunes. But I'm in this forum because in December I started playing Bass Guitar (Yamaha TBRX304 candy apple red and an Ibanez GWB35 Fretless 5-String Bass Flat Black). I have weekly lessons from a local pro. I'm learning how to play the blues. This morning I'm listening to the bass in "Driven to Tears" by The Police. I'm gonna figure it out.
    The main takeaway I wanted for this article was simply this: don't let certain reasons hinder one's ability for music, unless those reasons are drastic enough. I admit it's up to the specific person, but mostly, my article was a collective form of a survey, and those were the main 5 reasons picked from said collective survey. True, a lot of what was said is somewhat limited in thinking or off, but I didn't control what others stated based off their observations
    Bass Builder
    You make many valid points. I too played trumpet starting in 5th, but quit because I did not want to march on Friday nights. Are chicks a valid reason to quit? Took up guitar through high school and college, and had some fun. Put it down for 15+ years after getting married. Again, quit for a chick. Then after divorcing I met a guitar guy in my new hood and started playing again. 6 years later I have a full studio with drums, backline, vocals, and 7 guitars. And I will never quit again. There is only one thing in the world more therapeutic than playing at full volume on Friday nights.
    I started playing guitar when I was 33yrs old. Learned from Frederick Noads Solo guitar playing. I played some songs off of radio but didn't have the sheet music to know if I was playing the arrangement correctly. I had a class in college where the teacher taught us how to harmonize melody and the book he taught in was Frederick Noads, which I had been learning from for 2yrs. My repertoire was classical, baroque and I am now performing for convalescent hospitals and retirement communities. I use ultimate guitar to find chord arrangements for 1950/60's songs that have great vocal melodies that I can use with my performances.