If you had asked me twenty years ago what the most beneficial things to creating lasting progress in music I would have had a long list of important ideals:
Students need to be listening to music regularly
Step-by-step progressive instruction in music notation and theory
Instruction in proper physical technique at the instrument
Have an emotional connection with and get to play music they enjoy
While all these are important aspects of learning music, after teaching for over twenty years I see consistency in practice as the golden key to success. Just like school takes 5 days a week, if a student practices daily and does what their teacher asks, they will learn and progress in music. Unfortunately the opposite is true as well. Practicing less than 5 days a week will hamper healthy progress, and most students end up repeating levels of standard curriculum if they do not complete their music homework on a daily basis.
As a child I thought the story of the Tortoise and the Hare was so frustrating. Why didn’t the quick rabbit just stay focused and finish the race?! Why did the slow poke turtle have to show him up? I was naturally pretty impatient growing up, so the idea of crawling through a race seemed miserable. But, while it might be tedious, its not really hard to put one foot in front of the other. Whenever a student comes to a piano lesson and happens to sound exceptionally good, I will often ask, “So, what did you do in your practice at home this week?” Almost every time the answer is, “I just did everything your wrote down.” The little successes that simple consistency gives, can be such big motivators too! When a student puts in the work to make a song really great, then they end up having fun!
There is an old saying, “There are no short-cuts to anywhere worth going.” This is so true for learning music. Whether it’s the painstaking study of complex theory and hours of session practice with charts that jazz musicians do, or the hours of scales, sight-reading, drilling and listening that classical musicians do, there are no shortcuts to true artistry. In a way this is encouraging. If you want to learn music or you want your child to gain the skill of playing an instrument, do the small things well and often, and don’t give up. Like the tortoise, you too will win!