As you might know from my very first introductory post, I am both a scientist and a musician. I bring up both these points because that’s how this story starts–in the lab, talking about music.
Specifically, talking to our lab tech about her daughter’s piano practice. This may be an odd thing to say, but I can see a lot of parallels between her daughter and my younger self. Neither of us really loved playing, but didn’t want to quit either because we didn’t want our future-selves to regret it.
Several times now, our lab tech has asked me about my enthusiasm for music, because she doesn’t see the same level of dedication in her daughter. She doesn’t want to force her kid to play, but at the same time, she wants her to practice less grudgingly.
I told her what I already told you in the previous post–that I didn’t always love playing the piano. I didn’t revel in music practice. Why? Because, in a word, it sucks. It’s hard. It’s painful. For the 99% of us that aren’t prodigies, learning how to play an instrument is just balls.
I’m not just saying that to say it either–I’ve seen it. I used to teach piano when I was in high school, just to earn a little pocket money on the side. And honestly, none of the kids I taught really seemed to love the instrument. Sure, they learned quickly and well, and it was obvious that most of them practiced at home. It was also equally obvious that they were only there because their parents were making them do this.
And it’s hard to teach kids like this too. It’s hard to teach the boring beginner stuff to someone who doesn’t really want to learn. There are ways to make it fun, though. “How?” is the question. Well, everyone’s “how” is different, and this is what I told my labmate.
This might seem stupidly obvious, but music isn’t just in the lesson books, it’s everywhere–and maybe it’s not the best advice, but it’s what I had to offer. Love the music you play. It’s simple, for sure, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the answer, and may go overlooked.
So, if you can connect with your kids and figure out what they like, chances are, you’ll be able to find some song or another that they can relate to. Maybe it’s a track from the latest movie. Maybe it’s the newest release from their favorite pop star. Or it could be the theme song to the hottest TV show. Whatever the case is, encourage them to go in that direction. Sheets are everywhere on the internet now, usually transcribed by fans–sometimes official sheets exist too (usually not for free either), but I find that most of the time, fan-transcribed sheets are just as good, or better. Why? Because they love the song too, and isn’t that the whole point of this?
Regardless, find the sheet music for them that’s within their skill level. They already have the tools to learn how to play it, you just need to put something in front of them that they’ll want to learn how to play. Chopin, while a phenomenal composer, isn’t exactly…fun or relatable. Legend of Zelda, on the other hand…yes!
As you might have guessed from my previous example, my “how” was video game music. Yep, when I was a kid (and even now), I looooved video games. And pretty much every video game ever made has a soundtrack. So, I’d go on wild hunts for video game sheet music on the Internet. I’d download everything I could get my hands on, and print it all out on my parents’ crappy old HP printer. There’s no way I could bind it all together into a nice book (and I didn’t want to use binders because I’d rip right through the hole punches with my frantic page-turning), so I–actually, my mom–taped everything end-to-end until I had these long-ass strips of 8×11 sheets.
These unwieldy strips of paper became my salvation. I’d practice my piano homework just so I could get to the good stuff. I played everything from Final Fantasy to Legend of Zelda, to Lord of the Rings, to Castlevania to Harry Potter, to Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross.
Video game music served as the bedrock of inspiration for one of my more recent hobbies, music composition. Game/movie covers were my greatest learning tools when it came to arranging melodies and audio recording, and this was when I really started to “get into” music. But that is a story for another post 🙂