A Better Addiction
A recent US/UK survey reveals that the average young adult checks their cell phone 47 times per day and spends an average of nearly three hours a day on their phones. It is well documented that teens who are heavy users of smartphones have a greater risk of academic and emotional difficulties, depression, and suicide. Cell phone addiction is a real problem of today, and it may be even more dangerous than we know.
Lots of specific strategies have been laid out for limiting cell phone usage, but little attention is given to the substitution of positive and productive habits that are (to use a behavioral modification term) incompatible with the addiction. Some good habits, such as running, can be addicting—we’ve all heard or even experienced the “runner’s high”. Perhaps fewer have experienced the addictive power of making music. Just imagine if your teenager were voluntarily spending 2+ hours playing the piano, rather than obsessively checking “snaps” every few minutes.
As a piano teacher, I often preach the importance of making practice a habit. Some of my students have established a wonderful habit of practicing every day—some days more than others, but even just a little on those busy days. (After all, you wouldn’t NOT eat all day because you were busy…) But how can this habit be brought to the next level? To that place where the student runs to the piano on their own, several times per day, because they just can’t stay away? I promise, it can happen; I’ve seen it in students and experienced it firsthand. Of course, since playing the piano is more difficult to master than Snapchat or Instagram, a lot more effort is required for the development of this very lovely addiction.
The first step is to inconspicuously guide the student into the habit. One might convincingly argue that a parents’ insistence on practicing will hinder a child’s interest altogether. This is true if the parent frames practice as a chore or something that must be done before doing something more pleasant. “You have to practice before you get to play video games.” While that may be a good (private) policy, simply by making this statement, a parent has sent a clear message that playing the piano is less fun than video games. Rather, from the very start, a parent should frame practice as an enjoyable extension of the lesson. Piano lessons happen every single day… once a week with your teacher and the rest of the week at home where the student (with parent if the child is young) continues the journey.
It’s actually a pretty easy formula:
Practice everything given, sounds good, having fun, having fun, practice more, sounds even better (repeat) –> easy lesson with teacher, learn more, see progress, having fun—> practice more (repeat).
On the flip side:
Days pass, practice once, forget what’s learned in lesson, get frustrated, no fun, don’t practice, forced or bribed to practice, less fun—>unprepared lesson, slow progress, no fun—>ugh.
Of course, there are additional ways to help facilitate a musical addiction. Finding music that the student LOVES is the quickest route. This is not always possible, especially in the early stages of learning (before they've learned enough to play the really good stuff)… and there will always be some repertoire and technical/reading exercises that they will work on simply to develop versatility and to gain skills to be able to play more AMAZING music in the future. It is the teacher’s role to help students find music they truly enjoy at an appropriate level. A student (or parent) can help that teacher by communicating when, despite considerable effort, they simply are not enjoying the music they are playing. Some pieces of music, while challenging (and at times frustrating) to learn in the beginning, can truly become a student’s greatest love! In addition to (but not in place of) assigned lessons, students should be encouraged to play previously mastered favorites, make up their own pieces, and search for their favorite music to read or mimic.
Another important consideration in the development of any positive addiction is placing limits and taking breaks. Sitting at the piano for hours on end can take a physical toll on the body. It is important to get up, stretch, eat and drink. In fact, two or three shorter sessions at the piano is typically more productive than one long session. If frustration over a piece (or section) is setting in, it is often best to take a break and move on to another section or piece…or even walk away and return a bit later. Validate feelings of frustration as normal and encourage the student to take a small section very slowly when they return.
Finally, while the internal desire to play piano is simply a personal love of playing music, it never hurts for a student to hear how much you enjoy the music they are playing. Compliments focusing on impact of the music itself (rather than how “well” or “poorly” it is being played) are most helpful for developing a child’s love of playing. For example:
Your own love of music is contagious. Spread it around and help a child develop a lifelong addiction to piano playing! XO
Piano Music Ordering
Fall Piano Calendar
New Private Piano Students
While our after-school lessons are presently at capacity, we are presently accepting students
(e.g., adults, home-schooled children) who are available to attend lessons during the school day.
Contact us to be placed on our waiting list for after-school lessons.
I have been increasingly using sheetmusicplus.com for my music needs for a few reasons. Their flat rate shipping is reasonable and efficient, I am able to "look inside" to preview music, they have a huge selection of in-stock music, and they offer the Alfred Premier Piano Course in "bundled" value packs for significant savings.
Now they are offering 8% back towards building our studio lending library on purchases my students make. So, if you are placing a music order, be sure use this link!
Inquire now about
Music on My Own
for 4 yrs old
(see Fall Classes 2019)