Foundational Ideas of FiddleQuest

Using our time well

Amidst all the strange misallocation of resources in the world, one resource is distributed fairly: Time.

We are all given the same amount of hours in a day.

There are some wasteful behaviors I can understand, but I can’t bear someone throwing away time.

When I ask my students if they’d prefer to practice or play outside with friends, they all prefer the latter. But they also want to learn to play the violin well, so I try to help them figure out how to use their time well.

A student who practices with focus can accomplish in 15 minutes what might take another student an hour. They follow some simple steps. Get the melody in your ear first. Start with small sections. Learn it at a slow tempo. Focus your attention on the hardest parts. There are ways of practicing that are more effective than others.

I don’t think playing music increases a student’s intelligence. But I do think that learning music can teach students how to use their time well.

Students that learn to practice smart become students who learn to study smart.

Whenever I hear someone explain the academic benefits of learning music — increased math abilities, improved SAT scores, etc. — it always sounds like someone encouraging students to eat their vegetables.

But as one who values time highly, I’ll be the first to promote the side benefits that smart practicing offers students in all stages of life.

For a 10-year-old violin student, it means becoming a good fiddler and having more time to play outside. For a college student, it means getting good grades and getting enough sleep because they developed a habit of working smart when they were young.