It’s a happy day! You are about to attend your first music lesson and you are excited and filled with hope and anticipation! You have a goal, you want to be able to make music, and you are looking forward to the day when you can. You know you will need to work hard - you are OK with that. So you show up to your first lesson and leave with some things to practice and learn, and you are MOTIVATED!
Now, jump ahead a few months, or weeks, or even days. You’ve seen the scenario. Now, your attitude is not quite as spunky and hopeful as it was. You’ve experienced some opposition and found that this is going to be harder than you thought. Maybe you are even questioning whether you really want to do this…?
Guess what? Truth: MUSIC IS FUN WHEN YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO IT WELL!
Truth: Few musicians love playing a piece when they can’t play it well - when they are still in the early learning stages.
Truth: When you can’t play a piece yet, it’s hard, and frustrating, and your rendition of the piece does NOT match the sound you pictured in your head. Ugh.
But how can you “actually do it” (play music well) when you are just a beginner, or just learning a new piece? You are not yet able to play like a pro, and this lack of fun is sapping your energy and, therefore, your motivation.
This is how: When you are learning something new, it is so important that you keep POSITIVE ENERGY flowing, otherwise, you will quit. 80% of piano students quit in the first two years - that is the national average in the U.S. WHAT?!?!?! How is this OK?!?!? IT. IS. NOT. OKAY.
So why do so many students quit? Research tells us that the reason why students quit is because They Feel They Are Not Progressing. This is why it is so important to keep positive energy flowing, by making and noting progress.
Parents! This is a great place for you to jump in with attention, rewards, and encouragement. When your child has a new piece of music to learn, capitalize on that novelty! Be excited about their new piece while they are still excited about it. Do what you can to help them learn it quickly so they get to the fun part!
The way you do this is by learning how to break a piece down into not only small daily goals, but very tiny “Minute Goals” (a goal you can get in a minute).
The Process: Take ONE measure, or however much you (or your child) can learn in one minute. If you are studying piano, play the left hand first (because it lays the harmonic foundation for the right hand - it is the foundation for whatever else is there).
1 - PATTERNS (intellectual memory). Notice (maybe even write in the music) the patterns you see. If you know music terminology and analysis, use that language. If you don’t, it’s fine, just write what makes sense to you: for example
this note moves up; this is the same as measure 4; even drawing squiggles representing the shape is effective.
2 - PLAY (kinesthetic, visual, and aural memory). Play this left hand passage over and over, allowing it to feel as easy and effortless as possible in your hand. As you play, look at your hand playing it on the keyboard, and “memorize” what that looks like. As you play, listen to how it sounds - what are all the parts and pieces of the sound - bass notes, filler, etc.
THIS WHOLE PROCESS ONLY TAKES A FEW SECONDS when you get used to doing it.
3 - Do the same for the right hand.
4 - Put the hands together and repeat playing it over and over - thinking about the patterns while also feeling, looking, and hearing what you are doing. BECAUSE YOU ONLY DID A VERY SMALL PORTION, you can do this quickly. (You can do anything hard for one minute!!!!) And now … you love to play that part, and oh boy, do you ever sound awesome!!!!
Now, your brain rationalizes that if you can learn one measure that quickly, and sound that great, and have that much fun, then you can do it for the whole piece, one measure at a time. Do the math. At this rate, how many days will it take to play one page or even the whole piece? The old adage is true: how do you eat an elephant - one bite at a time!
It’s a happy day! You have been in lessons a while now and you just finished showing a friend what you can play. They actually smiled, and so did you! You feel pleased with your accomplishment - you are progressing and learning and just maybe, you can play that really awesome piece you want to play … someday. But more importantly, you WANT to keep playing. Why? Because you are someone who sets and gets goals! You feel good inside sharing music with others, and this also motivates you and gives purpose to your efforts. Your brain rationalizes - “I LOVE MUSIC!”