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Allowing Yourself Time to Learn

Playing a musical instrument is an all-encompassing activity.  It can become therapeutic for people just by its very nature. It forces the student to take time to examine himself or herself in a way that our culture does not normally require. Often times the difference between a beautiful sound and squeaks on the violin is just taking a moment to ensure that your bow is on the right part of the instrument. The student may know where the bow goes; it’s that taking a moment to check that must be trained.

With so many things going on in our lives (jobs, families, social activities, extra activities, etc.), private music lessons are a good way to press the “reset button.” In a world where instant knowledge is widespread, learning a slow, difficult task will make you reexamine your concept of time.

Much of a student’s success with an instrument will depend on if they allow themselves the time to learn. Starting something new is exciting but eventually this excitement ends and the real work sets in. As the teacher, I will watch this same sense of frustration from four year old students all the way up to seventy-four year old students.

Young students will not understand why they do not get to instantly play the violin and adult students will berate themselves by saying, “oh, I started too late so of course I’ll never be any good.” To both of them I say, “well you’ve only been playing for six months, what did you expect?”

At this point it is important to examine your musical journey as a whole. Perhaps you did play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” worse this week in your lesson than you did at your last lesson. But were you even playing “Twinkle” one year ago?

Even the most accomplished of musicians had, at some point, to be at the same stage you are on right now. One does not simply go from never playing an instrument to being highly proficient. Before anyone becomes proficient, they first have to allow themselves the time to learn.


  1. So true. I like the quote you said above, "Before anyone becomes proficient, they first have to allow themselves the time to learn." I find that I have so much more patience teaching others, than I find teaching myself. But it's about perspective - where we are now, compared to where we were then. When we get too results oriented, we run into problems and forget the big picture.

    Learning how to learn is just as important as learning itself. And it's an important topic to the ongoing conversation about music education. Thanks for bringing this up.

  2. It's also just learning to value learning. As you said, we are results oriented. But the problem is what we consider a "result." When students just start, playing the instrument is a huge result and they're happy. But then once they start playing they assume the next logical result is playing like a professional which is just totally unrealistic. There's a large "intermediate" stage that needs to be worked through first.


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