The Importance of Consistency in Music Study

“Use It Or Lose It!”

You have made a substantial investment in your child’s education.

Music is kind of like exercising; if you exercise your body regularly, there has to be a benefit in great health. But, just because you exercised for 10 months straight, doesn’t mean you can stop exercising for 2 months and keep your health exactly where it was the last day you worked out!

No, of course not.

What REALLY actually happens is, your health begins to deteriorate slowly. Do that for a number of months, and all of your hard work is reversed.

The same thing happens in MUSIC. Your child (and you!) have worked hard on their instrument/voice all school year, and if they take the summer off from lessons they will LOSE IT because they didn’t USE IT all summer long.

Imagine what would happen to your waistline if you didn’t exercise and ate whatever you wanted for 2 months! (If you are one of those people who can eat cheeseburgers and french fries all the time and never gain a pound, please don’t tell me!)

So, USE IT (your music lessons, that is) and keep the momentum going all summer long so you don’t LOSE IT! Learn new things in a more relaxed setting, when your child has more time on their hands to practice without juggling homework.

Why When you don’t “Use” it, you “Lose” money:

Many parents figure they will “save money” by stopping music lessons for the summer. This is actually quite a big short-sighted decision – because it is not taking into account the “attrition” of skills and techniques, and having to re-learn these things come Fall “Back to School” time. If you have to learn something TWICE you have wasted your money.

Here’s how you “Lose” when you don’t “Use”:

January 2011: Pay $100, learn middle c position, play various songs in middle c position, learn notes and rests

February 2011: Pay $100, continue middle c position, play hands together and apart, learn a contrary motion c scale, reviewing music terminology from 2010.

March 2011: Pay $100 tuition, learn C Major Position, C Major scale, using chord progressions

April 2011: Pay $100 tuition, continue C Major Position, learn F Major Position and scales

May 2011: Pay $100 tuition, continue above, learn transposition in C and F; learn rests values

June 2011 (only 3 weeks): Pay $75 tuition, prepare for recital; continue above

Total: $575

July 2011: OFF (no tuition, no learning)

August 2011: Off (no tuition, no learning)

September 2011: Pay $100 tuition, struggle through songs from June 2011, re-learn C Major position, do hand exercises from 2010 because fingers have lost some dexterity and independence, student is frustrated and losing morale

October 2011: Pay $100 tuition, re-learn F Major position, continue C Major position, practice scales from 2010 and 2011 to get finger strength back to where they were in June 2011. Still frustrated, student wants to quit. Parents are now frustrated, too.

November 2011: Pay $100 tuition, getting ready for Winter Recital, but have to pick a song learned from May 2011 because the student has not been able to learn any new material — they’ve been stuck re-learning material from March-June, 2011.

December 2011 (only 3 weeks): Pay $75 tuition, perform in Winter Recital. Student feeling better about their playing, now back in a consistent practice routine. Play a Winter Recital song that is on the level of where the student was at as of June, 2011. Teacher can now plan to learn new material after winter break, in January 2012.

Total: $375.

However – if you review the above, you’ll see that this is the SAME $375 that was ALREADY PAID between March and June. Nothing new was learned, it was all re-learned. So, this was a waste of $375.

TOTAL PAID FOR 2011: $950

However, $375 was a waste – parents paid TWICE for the same learned material!

Plus: Motivation waned; parents had difficulties and stress at home between lessons; student misses the opportunity to do the Studio CD for the holidays, students’ overall satisfaction is down.

What would have happened if the student took lessons in July and August?

January – June 2011, same as above: $575 total

July, 2011: Pay $75 (took vacation); learned G Major position, scales in G Major. Since the student doesn’t have homework and therefore more disposable time, the student is assigned duets with another student, and some fun, popular pieces which encourages him/her to practice more. Technique soars, motivation increases!

August 2011: Pay $75 (took a week off): Learning transposition in CMajor, FMajor, and GMajor; scales are fluent, finger dexterity and independence have increased, the practice routine has been consistent throughout the whole year, and the student is loving playing duets.

Summer Total: $150

September, 2011: Pay $100; Student is adjusting to the new school year, so the teacher cleverly assigns challenging but fun pieces, gives student finger technique exercises, has student write a song in either C, F, or G as a relaxing project.

October, 2011: Pay $100; Student is already thinking about the Winter Recital, so teacher starts assigning Holiday pieces to work on; since the student’s technique and practice has been consistent, teacher also assigns a Christmas Duet with another consistent, trustworthy student. Start to learn hand over hand techniques, including arpeggios, in C, F, and G.

November, 2011: Pay $100: Continue working on duets and Holiday songs; refining expression marks such as legato, staccato, marcato, sforzando, and dynamics such as crescendos and decrescendos.

December, 2011: Pay $75 (only 3 weeks): Getting ready for Holiday Recitals, work on stage etiquette and audience etiquette, do a fun “recording project” with GarageBand in the teacher’s studio; take part in the “Holiday Studio Make a CD Project” with the other students who are ready — give out the cds as presents to family members.

Fall Total: $375

Total for the Year: $1050

AND: Student’s motivation is consistent and flourishing, back to school time was an easy transition as the student was used to practicing in all year long, stress at home is limited, and student was able to advance substantially in their material. Students’ hands have been improving and advancing in their capabilities. Student has had encouraging and motivating new experiences, such as playing duets, playing new, more advanced material in the Winter Recital, and is SO proud of being a part of the Holiday Studio Make a CD Project! Student practice with little to no effort from the parents. Student identifies himself/herself as a musician to friends at school, and is happy to show off to their class.

Although in Scenario II, the parent paid $100 more for the yearly tuition, the student has advanced consistently and is that much closer to having “music for a lifetime” instead of just “music for now”. The parent has made an INVESTMENT in the child’s future and the future of their grandchildren – this kid will likely continue in music until fluent enough to play for fun, at parties for friends, and perhaps even make money at this or go to college and study there. This is an enriching, consistent, and educational experience – part of the child’s fabric of life.

In Scenario I, it appears the parent paid $100 less, but in actuality they paid $375 MORE because of the repetition. The child had a rough start to the school year because he/she had to re-create a practice routine at the same time they were adjusting to their new grade level. The parents were stressed at home in between lessons, and even contemplated quitting altogether at a few points. The child does not see himself/herself as a “musician” as it is not consistent in their life. If this continues over a few or more years, the child will likely quite by the time they go to high school, and will lose these skills forever – they did not make “music for a lifetime.”

Bottom Line: Don’t take the summer off!

Musical Fast Track Lesson 2 – Put Yourself On a Mission

In the last lesson of “21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician” we talked about musical values. We talked about how making choices based on our values will focus our musical efforts and ensure an individual and original sound and approach, the goal of all jazz musicians. In this lesson we will talk about being “on a mission.”

Now that you have determined your values and what’s important to you musically, the next step is to create your mission statement. In a nut shell, this is the ultimate purpose and objective of your practicing, gigging, listening, studying and composing. This is a sentence that explains what you are aiming to accomplish.

Think about it this way: When NASA sends a shuttle on a “mission” to space, they have a reason for it. They don’t just say, “Hey, we’ve got nothing to do today, let’s send the shuttle up into space, for fun.” They send it up for a reason. They send it up to put a satellite into orbit, to repair the XYZ doo-hickey on the space station and to complete a particular experiment. Now, it seems ridiculous to send the space shuttle into orbit and spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours of work for no purpose–in other words, with no mission. So why would you want to spend thousands of hours practicing and thousands of dollars going to school and studying with no purpose for your music?

Write down your mission. Write down in words what it is you plan to accomplish with music. What is your main focus? Don’t rush this. Spend some time thinking about it. Writing down your mission or “major definite purpose” will have profound effects on your musical progress. Without a mission it’s as if you are on a road trip with no destination or reason in mind. This might sound like fun for awhile, but unless you are extremely lucky and the exception to the rule, you will end up nowhere. If you intend to make a major contribution to jazz and become a monster jazz musician, you must have a purpose and a mission.

Here’s a great exercise to help you get started on your mission statement: Write a eulogy for yourself. What would you want people to say about your music after you’re gone? What do you want to be remembered for? What will be your legacy? If you know the answers to these questions, you are in the minority and on the fast track to realizing your musical dreams.

Once you have crafted a mission statement, use it as a springboard. Refer to it when you are making your practice routines. Refer to it when you start a new musical project or even buy a new method book. Use it to help you make all of your music-related choices.

Action Step1: Write your own eulogy. How do you want to be remembered?

Action Step 2: Get a blank piece of paper. At the top write your new mission statement. Remember, this is the ultimate goal of your musical journey. Next, write your list of values. These will be your guides and signposts on your mission. Refer to the list of your favorite players from Lesson One if you need inspiration. You have now begun a strong foundation to support yourself on your way to success.

In our next lesson we’ll start to get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about deciding exactly what you want to learn and achieve with music. Until next time…

Do Not Lose Music Lessons For Your Child

As we continue our conversation on the advantages of music education for children, I want to make sure you understand that music schools and private teachers do not have it in their agendas to make a great musician out of every student!

Have you ever talked to people who have completed only half of their music education? If not, then I recommend you do. Certainly, they had some difficulties in training, because studying is hard work! But I bet you’ll hear them say that they regret quitting. Later in life, people understand that the kind of push they received in their emotional and intellectual development was due to musical training in their childhood.

I talked to many adults who had taken music lessons as children. Some told me amazing stories about how the music helped them improve their memory (and not only musical). Others noticed that their spoken language became richer, and their voice more expressive. I’ve also met people who use their once-musically trained hands and fingers to do dainty, nimble work in skillful projects. For example, among these are many who work as secretaries or at jobs that are closely connected with a computer.

Children who study music can better and more expressively recite poems than other children. Many “musical” children grow up to be fine actors.

Also, very few people know that the most successful among those who are multilingual used to play musical instruments in childhood! And, the longer their training was as a child, the better their grip on foreign language speaking and comprehension as an adult! Ninety-five percent of polyglots used to or still play musical instruments.

Also, it is obvious that playing music makes the hands – and especially the fingers – of painters or artists quite skillful and capable. Having listed the advantages of music education, I’d like to add that former “musical” children, even if they did not become professional musicians, having grown up, regard their work with more responsibility and professionalism. They are pleasant to talk with because they love people. Due to their specially developed ear for music, “musical” people understand their relatives and children better. The majority of them are happily married, and they choose jobs that have to do with communicating and working with people. There are many teachers, doctors, personnel managers, lawyers, bank clerks, counselors, as well as translators, journalists, etc., among them.

Now, dear parents, hopefully I have dispelled all your doubts about choosing music lessons for your child and answered the question as to “Why I want my child to get music education.”

Yet having made such a serious and responsible decision, I am sure that many of you still have some doubts and questions. And those of you whose children have already begun training will come across certain issues and require assistance and guidance in resolving them from time to time.

Drawing from my own experience, I have noticed that while preparing children for music lessons, parents do not always use the recommended literature, which, unfortunately, is really hard to come by. Sometimes such books are written in “dry” and complex language not intended for easy reading and understanding.

Copyright (c) 2010 Tatiana Bandurina