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Ideas on Learning

The Problem of Inertia

inertia | i-ˈnər-shə | a property of matter by which it remains at rest unless acted upon by some external force

Inertia is the enemy of violin students.

When there is no regular music routine, students and parents are continually fighting inertia.

My wife and I were biking in Portland a couple weeks ago. It was enjoyable, but tiring. Unlike the easy rhythm of riding on country roads, we were stopping every block or 2 at stop signs.

Having to think about whether to practice and when to practice is like riding in the city. You can do it -- and even enjoy it -- but it takes a lot of effort.

I often have parents that come to lessons and fall asleep. I totally support the 'lesson naps' because I recall how exhausting parenting young kids can be.

In addition to getting the energy boost from a nap, I encourage parents to create a routine. And that involves:

  1. Pick a time that works.

  2. Create a practice that is enjoyable and rewarding.

We all have a finite amount of energy available to spend most days. If you feel short on energy for your child's music, your first stop is to not waste energy.

Eliminating the ‘whether and when’ component of practicing will eliminate a waste of your energy.

Routines harness the power of momentum. Doing something at the same time on the same day in a predictable manner will simply increase the likelihood that the activity will take place again.

And the more a routine happens, the more power it generates and the more likely it will keep an activity happening.

There are so many musical skills that I want my students to take away from their time with me: rhythm, pitch, harmony, tone, collaboration...

But learning how helpful routines can be in pursuit of meaningful goals is as valuable as any music skill I can teach.


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