Recently, I had conversations with some individuals who appeared to think that learning music or an instrument is just about the most straightforward thing to do. Although all of us respond naturally to music, the spontaneous response is quite different from learning the art form and its language.
There are so many cognitive and motor skills involved in playing an instrument:
Hand – eye coordination, coordination of hands and feet,
spatial recognition of the instrument,
reading skills and interpretation of symbols,
auditory skills in recognizing elements in the music (e.g. pitch, phrases).. so on and so forth.
It doesn’t stop here. We have to learn to shape the music, so that it doesn’t sound like just a barrage of organized pitches.
For musicians, we may have mastered the different skills through years of practice that we forget how we struggled at the beginning too. I experience that sometimes! The thought “ It’s just like this… why don’t you get it?” arises. I have to actively remind myself that it was not “just like this” when I started learning too!
Children of all abilities also tend to experience challenges in learning of music as well.
For instance, if they have difficulty in fine motor skills, the likelihood of them experiencing similar challenge in music learning is there. However, we can always tweak our lessons and practice sessions at home (for parents and caregivers) to help them through the challenges.
This could mean:
positive reinforcement in their practice efforts (so needful);
identifying the key areas of need and finding ways to help the child overcome them (e.g. being more flexible in the control of their fingers);
breaking down lessons into manageable portions
setting achievable goals for a child
building in a practice routine at home
ensuring that the practices are done accurately
appreciate it when they had played a section correctly, and encourage them to practise the correct version a few more times such that they don’t get it wrong. ( I noticed that the students are most motivated to continue playing when they get it right and have gotten affirmation for it).
This list is not exhaustive!
Ultimately, whatever we do to help children in their musical journey, appreciate that it is not an easy task and may we never forget to keep the joy and fun in the process!