A Day in the Life of a Student - Part 2: Settling In
"...Its this progress that leads to a place of eventual self motivation to practice which will in turn lead to further progress. Its a beautiful 'catch 22' that will fuel your passion."
I can safely say that I am falling in love with the cello, and as the weeks progress, I can feel myself slipping out of that 'new student phase' and transitioning into the 'settling in' phase. From previous experience (when I was a piano student), I have come to understand that this is the longest phase as a budding musician. It basically covers all the years of hard work and dedication involved in being a student.
Over the past few days, I have found myself deeply reflecting on what it was like for me in the 'settling in' phase, and I came to this conclusion: some days it was great, and other days it was extremely challenging. Today I will aim to simplify the most common highs and lows that you will encounter as a student learning an instrument.
Part 2: Settling In
I knew I was shifting into this new phase once the novelty began to wear off. During those first few weeks, everything was new and exciting. However, as the weeks progressed that excitement factor began to dwindle. It takes perseverance and patience to push through this initial bump in the road, but trust me, the rewards for doing so are definitely worth it! This is technically your first challenge as a budding musician. I'm not going to sugar coat it, so here goes... This is far from the hardest challenge you will face, but it is definitely character building. It is the combination of overcoming these smaller challenges that will give you the skills and the willpower to overcome the larger ones. The amount of time it takes to push through the novelty wearing off will vary from student to student. Some can over come it in a matter of weeks, while for others, it may take months. Some students never push past it and they end their music journey as a result. As a teacher, it pains me to see this happen, however we can only motivate someone so much. The rest of it must come down to the individual.
Another challenge every student will inevitably face (time and time again) is finding time to practice. We all live such busy and full lives. Practice time often becomes the last thing on our minds. I like to think that I am very realistic as a teacher. I don't expect my beginner students to practice 45-60 minutes a day (although it would be very nice!). Being a student again has reinforced this fact to me. Some weeks I do well with practice time, and other weeks I don't. The most important concept relating to practice time is that it is not about finding time, its about making time. If you don't make time to practice, it most likely will not happen. Regardless of your age or stage, structure is vital during the 'settling in' stage. You must set aside a specific time to practice each week, and more importantly, stick to it! Only then will practice time start to creep up on your priority list.
Without regular practice, your skill development will slow and potentially become stagnant. This can be extremely demotivating. On the other hand, regular practice will allow for progress. I cannot explain how satisfying and empowering it is to see yourself progressing. Having that realisation that a particular skill you were once struggling with comes with more ease now is extremely uplifting! Its this progress that leads to a place of eventual self motivation to practice which will in turn lead to further progress. Its a beautiful 'catch 22' that will fuel your passion.
In time, others will begin to recognise your progress, too. That positive affirmation and support can also do amazing things to a growing musician's ego. They will stop to listen to you play out of true curiosity instead of politeness. A simple compliment can be enough to turn one of your least favourite songs into one of your favourites.
As you begin to progress through your journey, you will set goals and achieve milestones. Each one pushing you and encouraging you to get better and tackle something harder. A word of warning must be issued here. Musicians are often perfectionists at their core. It is what pushes them to practice and improve. On the other hand, it can be a very disempowering trait. We tend to be very hard on ourselves and may put ourselves down for not being as good as we believe we should be. Try not to do that to yourself (easier said than done, I know!). Embrace the fact that you are still learning and believe that you are getting better every single day.
Your experience with being a new student is something that can change on a daily basis. My advice to all students in the settling in phase is take each day as it comes. Some days will be great, and other not so much. The key is to not give up. Push through all the barriers that crop up and know that every time you overcome one, it is building you up to be a better musician.
My advice to family and friends, as always, is be supportive. Understand that there is an emotional hot-pot bubbling away within your loved one. Positive methods of motivation are the only acceptable methods to be used. Don't be afraid to pay them a compliment (but only if you mean it). It can go a long way in terms of pushing your budding musician into a place of self motivation.
In the end, all those gruelling hours of work we put in as musicians is guiding us towards the final stage: The Maestro. Its a beautiful place to find yourself inand I will tell you all about it next week!