A few years ago I wanted to check out the camera on a new computer, so I snapped a shot out my office window. Just the other day I was looking out my window as I often do, and noticed just how much everything had grown, how beautiful it all was and how autumn was adding colour to the scene before me. We don’t usually notice growth because we don’t actually watch it happening, but over a period of time we can see that there has been significant change.
I see huge parallels here with what happens with our young musicians.
If we hadn’t taken the time to plant 6 years ago, we’d still be looking at bare ground.
If you want your child to learn an instrument, you need to actually start somewhere or, before you know it, they will have passed those optimum years for learning and getting skills established.
Though I didn’t see the actual growing happening, nevertheless it was.
It’s the same with learning an instrument. There are times when it seems nothing is happening. Don’t stop “watering the plant!” Keep encouraging the budding musician and be encouraged yourself – when they started they knew nothing at all!
My husband Robin is the gardener at our place and he loves to experiment with how and where he grows things in the garden. Some things work and some don’t. It’s all good though – he learns from trying things anyway, and the more he experiments, the more he learns about how the garden functions best.
If something is not working in your children’s music practice routine, try having them do it at a different time of the day, or change the order around within the practice set. It may be they just need a fresh look at the way to do something.
Robin has put a good deal into making sure the soil is healthy. Without good soil the produce may seem okay, but not the best it could be. I get to see the lovely flowers and taste the variety of yummy fruit and vegetables, without realising all that went into development at the soil level.
A child may just want to sound amazing at the piano with a particular piece. But he or she may need help realising some of the basics that have to go into making it right. Counting aloud to get beat and rhythm sorted, knowing all the note names, practicing scales: these are all foundations in music learning. I can usually tell if a performer has had these solid foundations. A well performed piece of music doesn’t happen without them.
I love that we have a huge variety of plants in our garden. I notice that many modern landscaped gardens in new subdivisions all look very nice, but there is a sameness about them.
We can do the same with our music. At the beginning there are particular skills that need to be in place, but even there a pupil needs to be exposed to a range of different, interesting pieces. Some the pupil will like; others they will hopefully learn to like. If they are not exposed to variety, they may think there is only one style of music to learn. Having a varied repertoire gives a wonderful stimulus for creativity too.
Things look different in each season of the year. I love living in this part of NZ where we can enjoy the four seasonal changes. In the garden there are various tasks appropriate to the season in order to nurture the plants through changes. The result is the best flowers and fruit at the right times.
I like to give my pupils the opportunities to push themselves and work towards an exam. But after the exams I like to have a complete change of focus and do some creative playing. It breaks up the year and keeps a variety of musical interest and motivation. Look for ways to keep your child’s interest in their music throughout the seasons of the year.
Robin would be the first to tell you that he is not an expert in the garden, but likes to give it a go and see what happens. He has found the internet a great source of help when he needs specifics.
Whatever your role is at your place in music, I hope you continue to give it a go. Maybe you are learning an instrument as an adult, learning with your child, putting stars on star charts for your child’s practice, chauffeuring them to music lessons – whatever it is, I hope you feel free to get in touch if there are things happening in your “garden” that you might need help with. It might mean you are interested in knowing more about my online course coming soon for parents who want to teach their own children the piano. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if that’s you and I can let you know more.
Be encouraged, there is probably more going on in your child’s music than you realise. One day you will look up (literally) and realise those little children you were nurturing have come a long way, because you will remember what it was like when they first began.