Which is worse?

“I used to play the flute and then I quit in sixth grade. I’ve always regretted it.”

or

“I was forced to play the flute all throughout my childhood, and I hated it. I’ve never recovered from the psychological damage that ensued from being forced to do something I didn’t enjoy and I’ll never get over it until the end of time.”

Feels like being between a rock and hard place, doesn’t it? Here are five ways to split the difference, getting your student to stick with music.

When the going gets tough, consider these tips:

1. Make sure it’s the right instrument

Gauge whether they really do want to study that particular instrument. If not, consider changing it.

2. Pick the right music​

If scales and Bach are getting monotonous, add in some Disney songs or arrangements of pop music. It’s okay to spice it up.

3. Find the right teacher

No matter what your goals are with music, the right teacher will make the activity fun while still stretching them to reach new heights. It is a delicate balance, but in my opinion, meeting the student where they’re at and finding where they have the most fun is key to their success and growth.

4. Make it fun

If they have a problem practicing (which most kids do), think of it as any other discipline they need to build. Memorizing multiplication, doing homework after school before dinner, brushing teeth, etc. Sometimes, a little touch of bribery can be worth it. If they practice 10 minutes a day for a whole week, perhaps they can go out for ice cream or watch an extra hour of TV. There’s also the natural reward of playing really well at their concert or audition.

5. Connect it to real life

Generally, music is scientifically something that reduces stress and promotes enjoyment. It can be an escape from the daily grind activities like school, while also helping to improve academic performance.

Going to concerts is a great way to see music in context. Music can also be a good motivator for getting other opportunities, like college scholarships, new friends, and more.

In the end, if music is not their thing, accept it and move on. Allow the developing person to be who they are, and allow them to figure it out by trying out different methods. Music can always be a positive step on that journey.

Other articles on music lessons and cognitive growth:

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