That fun mountain

Learning an instrument is like trying to answer this question: do you want to climb a mountain? Even if you hire a guide, in this case a piano or a drum teacher (I know an excellent one, by the way), you still have to climb. And climbing is not easy. There are difficult terrains to deal with, some detours to take, some long plateaus to go through, some thick forests, some dry deserts, some predators, some long boring time repeating the same motion (one foot in front of the other, or for drummers R L R L and for piano players scales and arpeggios). The process seems never ending. When doing a task, the word never ending always conjures up the feeling of boredom. Digging up a hole to fill up another hole, that sort of thing.

Ah! Now we’re talking. We are in the thick of it: if someone wants to learn an instrument, they surely will suffer for it. That’s the common thinking.

But I do not agree. I think that learning something can be exciting, interesting, captivating, that it can bring joy and fire to someone’s life. Will you have to climb the mountain? Yes! Do you have to cringe your teeth all the way to the top? No!

In drums, my students play along with a song on their very first lesson. They get all 4 limbs going in a rock rhythm and follow a metronome without realizing it. They almost immediately have the sense that they are flying at high altitude. It’s exhilarating. I can see on their face the delight they feel when they participate in the music.

In piano, same thing, they read and play their first tune right after we meet. Is it Rachmaninoff? No! Do they care? Again, no. What they realize is that they’re putting notes together that make sense. They recognize the melody, they know the song. Isn’t it wonderful?

After that I designed my whole teaching to preserve that initial enthusiasm, to make that spark a fire.

They are climbing with a smile on their face and a light in their eyes. Curiosity is what compels them to take the next step and the one after that. They are not obliged, mind you, to do anything and they know that. But they know that if they don’t, they’d be missing the next step, the one that will uncover another beautiful landscape, another thrilling skill. Can they play this page by Erik Satie? Can they accompany their favorite band? These are great incentives to continue. The mountain has become fun and educational. Why would they stop? They continue exploring, they keep going. Mountain climbing isn’t boring anymore, it’s fun. A fun mountain to climb.