A computer is a valuable tool for a musician. Looking at it purely from a musical standpoint, it can provide you with a tuner, a metronome, and a source of accompaniment for your practice as a performer. With a little research you can find instrumental accompaniments and song backings (mp3 or midi file), lyrics and music online. And instrumental practice or music teaching software is now at the point where it can measure the quality of your work – even giving you marks for rhythmical accuracy and intonation.
Probably the most fun you can have as a novice is with a program called Garageband (free with a Mac computer). It is a program that allows you to record musicians or import loops (samples of others playing) from styles as varied as techno, folk and classical music. It presents the music as a stack of horizontal tracks on a timeline and is easy to play with in real time, varying the drum tracks for the verse and chorus for example, or changing the key to suit your voice. Within an hour of installing the program you can be playing along with your new piece, singing or adding harmonies. And after you have recorded yourself and added all the loops you want, you can balance the levels of the individual tracks and mix your piece down. Garageband also provides basic instrumental lessons with stars such as Sting and Nora Jones.
You will need to be able to plug your instrument into the computer, so anticipate purchasing an audio interface as an extra, and you might need a microphone as well. An audio interface or microphone can be as cheap as $30, but it will depend on the quality you want to achieve for your project. A USB keyboard is a standard extra for a music student these days and it can include the audio interface as well so it is worth considering if you are reasonably serious about becoming a better musician.
The value of the computer to your life as a musician however doesn’t deny the importance of a teacher or mentor for your development. Even the world’s greatest musicians still use trainers or mentors to keep them finely tuned!
Do have a creative musical month!