In my experience, when people stop learning their instrument, the majority retain, no matter how small, a fondness/casual liking of what they learned. They may on the odd occasion return to their instrument, if only to play for pleasure or ‘mess around'. However the reasons they stopped learning (which are vast) generally mean they don't tend to return to their instrument soon after quitting. It can therefore be many years before their interest is rekindled.
My feeling is that while it might be understandable to stop lessons, quitting learning the instrument altogether (or even playing for pleasure) is drastic. Unless you had absolutely no ability and made little progress, it would be a mistake to abandon your instrument altogether because of:
- the time and money spent towards lessons
- the experience and knowledge gained from learning and playing various pieces
- the satisfaction in being able to entertain others
- your own personal happiness in being able to play for pleasure
It is understandable if as a child you had ‘pushy' parents and they drove you hard to pass your music exams in pieces that were of no interest to you. The hard work and preparation can be draining and too much for some, totally putting them off their instrument once the exams are over. However in months and years to come, you should recognise how well you did in working hard towards your exams because in doing so, you raised your level of playing. So even if you never have another lesson again, your standard would have been raised to such a level that you now benefit by being able to learn other pieces for pleasure that would have been far harder before your exams.
I have also met people who had ideas for songs which they could play part of on the piano. The great shame is that these people tell me they lost all that because they stopped playing completely. And to think that some possible gems might have occurred from their ideas if only they had stayed with their instrument in some form. If you're in a similar position where you have stopped lessons but were creative with tunes for songs, don't go down that route! Find an outlet for your creativity.
When I speak with adults (especially the parents of those learning an instrument) I am always delighted to hear they kept music a part of their lives. Often, this has led to some even doing extra curricular music activities such as:
- Help out at a their school/ church/singing class/play/dramatic production
- Play in a band or other group
- Fulfil a lifelong ambition learning pieces they didn't have the patience to learn when they were younger.
My suggestions for what to do once you've ended lessons are:
- Give your instrument a break rather than turn away from it completely. Anything from a month to 3 months (bear in mind the longer you leave your instrument, the rustier you become)
- Listen to music you really enjoy and see if there are easy versions of that for your instrument. You might be surprised what's out there.
- Go to concerts and live gigs. These will help maintain your enthusiasm for music at some level.
There is a saying that "one is not old until regrets take the place of dreams". Don't be a living example of that.