Once a week, a student sits across from their music teacher for a period of anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour seeking guidance on how to play their instrument. In their hands, students hold a type of mystery box with limitless potential; but without instruction, this amazing tool is useless. After their lesson, the student goes home eager to practice, and then somewhere between that moment and when they sit back down with their instrument, it’s lost. The information and the inspiration are a fuzzy memory, and the teacher is out of reach. This paradox has led me to ask the question, “Why do we take music lessons once a week?”
In thinking about this question and asking other instructors, we have all concluded that more lessons is not the answer unless a student is preparing for something specific, like a performance or audition. On a week-to-week basis, more lessons cannot really excel a student. The reason students study once a week is because they need to spend time with their instrument working on the material assigned to them and internalizing it. This time is not something a teacher—even the best teacher—could ever work around. The truth is that there are no shortcuts to mastery. 10,000 hours. That is what it takes.
We all live in the age of information. Distractions are limitless, and to be honest, I cannot imagine growing up in today’s world and having the discipline to practice every day. I commend each and every one of my students that has the ability to do this and the families that help make it possible. So then, how do we fix the program of information being lost and the inspiration fading? How do we keep inspiration alive between the lesson and practice time?
The key is in the other six days of the week. At SoundLife, we use software to help students and teachers stay connected the other six days of the week and to keep the information and inspiration close at hand. Our students have the ability to message teachers if they have forgotten something, or even video chat with teachers. Our students have their own profile and student app that houses all of their practice assignments, including short videos made by the teacher to demonstrate their assignments. They have a practice timer to help them, as well as their teacher and parents gauging how much time they are putting in. These tools give our students a definite advantage between lessons.
The name of the game when a student first begins learning is instant gratification. We build confidence and trust on the realization that a student can do it, they can play, they can learn, and they can get better. The word "can’t" is not in the SoundLife vocabulary. With that said, we assign students material reflective of where they are in their learning and their personal interests. They then have the ability to follow up with the teacher between the lesson and review the exact assignment over and over again if need be. When they feel like they’ve mastered the assignment, they can mark "done" and let the gratification sink in. As they progress, teachers can assign more and more, and students quickly have a wealth of material to work on at their fingertips.
This process provides an immediate path to progress. It save parents money because they should never have to pay for the same lesson to be taught over again. For the same reason, it saves students time. This makes for a happy teacher, happy student, and happy parents. Most importantly, students see results quickly. These results can be measured, and that helps the teacher refine the material and keep the student learning at a rapid pace.
Though we do live in a time of endless distraction, the good news is that we also have endless tools. And as long as a student has discipline, they can achieve anything. We have come a long way from having to continuously move the vinyl needle back over and over again to learn a passage of music. Instead, anyone who wants to learn can easily go to YouTube and search for whatever they’re looking for. They can even slow the YouTube video down. Sheet music, guitar tablature, lyrics, and chords for every piece of music ever created are at a student’s fingertips. I often get bogged down when I’m scrolling through Facebook, thinking that this is time I could be practicing. On a good day, in that moment, I close the social media, pick up my guitar, and go to these amazing tools to continue my own path to mastery. Since the tools are endless...so are the possibilities.