You’re No Fun Any More!

It often happens–a child whines for music lessons, and begins, and after a month or two realizes she or he is not going to immediately sit down and master the instrument in a few weeks. Worse, the child is introduced to all kinds of technical skills she or he is expected to master, such as reading music or playing scales or exercises, and then suddenly music is a chore and parents and children are locked in a fight about practicing.

blonde girl in a white dress plays piano while a brunette girl in a green dress looks on

Young Girls at the Piano, 1892
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Successful musicians lead a life that is far less glamorous than most people realize:

  • Up to half your waking hours may be spent working alone, practicing
  • Technical exercises will take up much more of practice time than repertoire until a high level of mastery is achieved
  • Most of the technical work is boring
  • Perfectionism is rewarded; getting by is not rewarded
  • A lot of ancillary facts must be learned along with the music
  • There is a great emphasis on theory and structure

The rewards of this level of attention to detail and deep understanding are evident in increased academic and work performance (more about that another time), but if you (or your child) enroll in music lessons, it is far better to go into lessons with the understanding that, like any other skill you learn, about 90% of your 10,000 hours to mastery is not going to be fun. Students who have that understanding are more likely to succeed, and less likely to quit after a few weeks.

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