The Heart of Healthy Practice Habits

It’s more common that you might think: an adult calls or emails, or is referred by a mutual friend for lessons, and at some point they say “I used to take lessons when I was a kid but I got really frustrated and quit… I wish I had stuck with it!”

Sometimes they become a student, sometimes not. Often they wish they could but just don’t have the time and they run the cycle again, and quit again. 

But why did they really quit? Why were they frustrated?

Here’s 3 of the most common themes: 

  • They struggled with practicing for some reason and didn’t make progress.

  • Their lessons stressed them out somehow.

  • Their parents were forcing them to take lessons and they quit as soon as they were old enough to make their own decisions.

Sometimes it comes out differently though. They think they “just weren’t talented” or they “couldn’t read music”.

Every situation is unique, but there’s enough common threads to ask more questions. What if things had turned out differently? What would it have taken to light a fire of inspiration in them, all those years ago?

As children, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of extrinsic motivation. Whether the reward is candy, or points, or even money, doesn’t matter. Bribing children with a token of some kind or another can be a highly effective way of shaping behavior, but eventually they’re going to need to take the motivational training wheels off and do things for the right reasons, because eventually they won’t be getting paid in bribes anymore. 

Eventually, they’ll just be left with their own complete and total authority over how they spend their time. 

And guess what? 

They’ll do whatever it is that they always wanted to do. 

  • If they always wanted to rent a red convertible and drive around with a hawaiian shirt and sunglasses, they’ll do that. 

  • If they always wanted to work with refugees teaching English as a Second Language, they’ll do that. 

  • If they always wanted to learn the stock market and get way into a business lifestyle, they’ll do that. 

And if they always wanted to play music, they’ll never stop. 

So what is it that leads someone to actually want to practice and play music? 

It’s simple: 

  • Freedom

  • Creativity 

  • Fun

  • Leadership

  • Skills

When kids of all ages (let’s face it, adults are just big kids) are given the freedom to truly explore their instrument with curiosity and inquisitiveness, they tend to pick it up a lot more. 

When they are allowed to be creative, to explore sounds and to improvise or alter the music they are learning, it makes it easier for them to recognize patterns and enjoy the process of learning technique. 

When music is fun, practicing becomes something students look forward to. 

They don’t need to be bribed. 

And in the context of true leadership in their instruction, they will develop skills that will give them confidence and proof of competence. And this confidence will carry over into other areas.

Freedom, creativity, and fun, are at the heart of healthy practice habits and all the scaffolding, rigorous instruction, mapping to standards and technical work in the world can be layered on top, for a lifetime of confidence in provable skills, if the foundation is solid. 

At Musico, the foundation of music is a love of sound, the freedom of expression, and creative engagement with music because it’s a true passion meant to be shared for life. 

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