Foundational Ideas of FiddleQuest

#2 - The 2 Types of Motivation for Violin Students. Use one with caution.


Children are naturally curious. They want to learn and explore new activities.

Everyday in some town or city, a child hears someone play a violin and they are inspired to learn.

Some kids go on to become lifelong players…maybe even great players. But others hit an obstacle -- like practicing (or any of these things)-- and quit.

The fact that one child carries on to enjoy playing throughout their adult years and dozens of others quit is not an issue of talent or innate ability. It is due to motivation.

So, how do we increase motivation in students? researchers have been studying motivation for decades.

Edward Deci and Richard Ryan have done some amazing work on this topic and one of the important things they have learned is that there are, actually, 2 very different types of motivation…students can be ‘intrinsically’ motivated or ‘extrinsically’ motivated.

Students with intrinsic motivation describe playing the violin as ‘fun’. They play the violin because they simply enjoy it. These students learn faster, are more creative, have more positive emotions about playing and are more likely to continue playing music as adults.

Students who are extrinsically motivated are playing music because they want a reward or are avoiding a punishment. They describe playing as something they ‘should do’ or something they ‘have to do.’ They are less creative, feel worse about music in general and are much more likely to quit playing once the reward is achieved or the threat of punishment is gone.

So, the BIG QUESTION is -- how do we get our violin students to be intrinsically motivated? Unfortunately for parents and teachers, intrinsic motivation is not something that can be directly influenced by simply changing the style of music or practice requirements.

What we can do, though, is create an environment which encourages intrinsic motivation to grow. And that is something we know more about now.


Duane Whitcomb

FiddleQuest, founder