Foundational Ideas of FiddleQuest

Using routine to save energy

My daughter, Isobel, is a strong cyclist. She often commutes from Brooklyn to Manhattan on her bicycle.

It is not a long ride, or even very hilly. What makes it a hard ride is the fact that she has to stop and start a lot. Getting a bike up to speed takes a lot more effort than keeping a bike moving. Inertia is the enemy of cyclists. And momentum is our friend.

Inertia is also the enemy of violin students.

When there is no regular practice routine, students and parents are continually fighting inertia. Having to think about whether to practice and when to practice is like continually hitting stop lights on a long ride.

The single most common lament I hear from parents is how tired and busy they feel. I have parents that sit with their child in lessons and fall asleep.

We measure energy consumption of a cyclist in calories. A 15-mile ride with no stops requires approximately 400 calories. A 15-mile ride with frequent stops burns 600 calories.

If you have, say, 100 ‘parenting calories’ available to spend most days, it is possible to do something a slightly different way and get better results. And the first step is to not waste energy.

Eliminating the ‘whether and when’ component of practicing will eliminate waste. 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 make an activity happen.

There are so many things that I want my students to take away from their time with me: rhythm, pitch, harmony, community, collaboration and more. As important as these skills are, learning to use power of routines and practices in pursuit of meaningful goals is as valuable as any music skill I can teach.