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We Give Consistent Effort

Updated: Jun 7

A student cultivates dreams for future musical study by attending all kinds of musical performances. At these performances, students have a chance to hear different instruments, styles and can discover what they want to do with music. Those performances are also a great time to open the discussion of, "How do you suppose those performers became master musicians?"

Students are relieved to find out it's way easier than they think. Becoming proficient at an instrument is easy because, first, you don't have to be born naturally great. There's a load off your mind! Admitedly, there are some who learn things more quickly, but the vast majority of us find a new instrument to be a huge challenge. No matter! Humans were designed to create music. You can do this.  As long as your feet are pointed in the right direction, you're on track. Hooray! 

The Magic of One Little Stone

The second reason it's easy to become a master is because any progress is still progress. It’s important to remind our children with a confident message that they can accomplish the practice assignments by the end of the week. Parents and students are surprised when we learn Bounce and Roll in the 3rd year of class, and at first just to learn only the first line! “That's so little,” they say.  Yes, if every day you get marginally better at playing one line, or one tricky measure, or one drill, you're that much better. After days and days, these little bits add up. Soon you know several songs. Then you start learning more challenging songs.

Playing a tricky song can seem as crazy as moving a mountain. Here's an analogy for you to share with your child. If you wanted to move a huge pile of rocks from the front yard to the piano room, no excavating tools allowed, it might seem impossible. But, if you take a small stone or two from the pile each day and carry it to the piano room, and repeat it every day for three years, you will have moved that mountain!  

The Hard Part

If everyone started from zero and took increments of progress, everyone would eventually become a fantastic musician. What happens? Other things come along and we forget to save time to practice or help the child practice. Often moving single stones is too small for our commitment. The day-to-day progress is too boring, not to mention challenging. "Why should I sit and practice for 10 minutes? I'll hardly improve!? What fun is that?" 

The hard part of mastering any skill is consistency to keep at it, even when the progress is incremental. It takes consistent effort at every level to master an instrument. Looking down at the small stone, or practicing one line, might seem hardly worthwhile and very boring. Possibly, even frustrating the student enough to say, "I'm working so hard, and I’m not getting better."

What we must cultivate is the ability to see past the small task asked of us today and recognize the greater whole it creates. Perhaps the next time your child wants to skip practice, remind her of the analogy of the stones. For fun, keep a jar of stones on the piano as a reminder! "It seems like today you don't feel like you can do a boulder, but could you do a 5-minute pebble? 

If a student forgot to move one stone per day for several months, or years, he could decide to pull an all-nighter and do nothing but move stones until he was caught up on stone-moving. Can we catch up on missed piano training?  

Well, we can make practices longer and more frequent, but because piano training involves muscle memory and creation of neural connections, the repetitive days and months of practicing cannot be replaced by cramming. Long practice sessions usually lead to mental fatigue and limited learning.

Weight-lifters can't spend two straight days in the gym and expect to build muscles they haven't worked for months! Neither can pianists.  On the same note, just as a bodybuilder takes a day or two off, pianists can do the same. During your rest day, your brain assimilates your efforts and commits them to memory.

The take home message? If you have 5 or 10 minutes to practice, do it! If you find 5 or 10 minutes later in the day, practice again! It will be more beneficial  than waiting for a day when you have 40 undisturbed minutes. Those teeny-tiny pebbles are going to be your key to success!

A Life Lesson

Let's Play Music is not just about making every child into a superstar (although that's pretty nice). We also believe in helping educate well-rounded humans. Music lessons offer a perfect venue for teaching the value of consistent effort applied long-term. The discipline to practice and learn can be applied to every pursuit your child chooses to embrace.

A child who learns to reap rewards from her long-term efforts is, not surprisingly, a better student and worker.  Many recent research articles have delved into the benefits of music lessons and found that the mental workouts achieved in music lessons strengthen areas of the brain and improve a variety of skills. 

Music students score higher on tests and get higher grades in school.  Is it because the music made them smarter or because their music study helped them learn consistent effort?

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