Progress: What's Really Happening When Things 'Slow Down'

Periods of slow physical progress are inevitable at certain points of any music journey, but it doesn't mean progress as a whole has stopped.

PROGRESS: whats really happening when things slow down

Learning an instrument is a true journey. There are ups and downs, challenges and wins, and periods of great progress, and periods of slower progress. 

As a student, or a parent who is watching their child embrace a music journey, we tend to put a great deal of emphasis on progress - and rightly so. I mean, let’s be honest, we want to improve! It’s one of the main reasons we have music lessons, right?

Progress in a music journey comes in so many shapes and sizes, and sometimes we misunderstand what kind of progress is actually taking place. I tend to split ‘progress’ into two categories; Physical & Internal.

Physical progress is the one we tend to get hung up on most. It’s the type of progress that is directly related to skill development. Internal progress, on the other hand, is a much more subtle progression and it is often harder to spot. Both types of progress often bounce off one another, pushing the other forward, but they don’t always take place at the same time. 

A music journey constitutes so much more than just mastering an instrument. It directly impacts our confidence, understanding and acceptance of self, and emotional regulation and channeling (just to name a few). It is these things that make up ‘internal progress’. 

So, the next time you see a slow down in ‘progress’, have a little think about if you are seeing a slow down in physical progress. Periods of slow (or even absent) physical progress are inevitable at certain points of a music journey, but it doesn't mean progress as a whole has stopped. Take a step back and look at everything as a whole. Sticking things out while physical progress has slowed is essential in building perseverance, thus, internal progress is sure to continue. 

When the physical progress slows down, the greatest amount of internal progress will take place. Lack of physical progress is frustrating, but it's how we overcome this challenge that will build character. It's during these times that one starts to learn the importance of sticking things out, we begin to understand our strengths, weaknesses and limitations, and we learn how resilient (and brilliant!) we actually are when we come out at the other side. 

If you are ever worried about progress, my biggest piece of advice is to open up a dialogue with your teacher. Express your concerns and ask for insight. They have a very thorough understanding of musical journeys and may be able to give you a deeper understanding of what kind of progress may be taking place at that point.