In “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Amy Chua describes how she would force her children to sit at the piano and practice. It’s an account that reads like something from a horror film and you wonder how, left alone to practice scales, the children didn’t stuff newspaper under the lid, set it alight, and burn the instrument of torture to the ground.
And yet, we can’t help but also feel some sympathy for the author, however tyrannical. We know that learning an instrument is best done when we’re young and we know too that young people have a long list of things they want to do when they’ve finished their homework — and that blasting aliens, watching YouTube, and beating up their siblings feature much higher on their list of priorities than touching keys and plucking strings.
That’s why it’s so important for parents who also play music to set a good example.
Children should see people they respect pulling out their guitar or their violin or sitting at their piano, and playing. They should hear them playing music that they want to play and they should hear them practicing, making mistakes, and doing all of the things that we have to do when we’re trying to play a new piece for the first time.
If we expect our children to put up with the difficulties and challenges of practicing music, it helps if they can see us suffering through those difficulties and challenges too.
But that good example stretches beyond practice and playing. It extends to instrument maintenance too. A guitar or a violin is likely to be the most valuable object for which your children will be responsible. Their instrument is likely to cost more than their computer, than their iPad, or their iPhone. And just as we worry about them dropping their phones or leaving their computers on the bus, so we need to worry about how they look after their instruments.
Good examples are key here too.
Put Your Guitar Away Carefully
When you’re not playing your instrument, your children should see you packing it away in the case, not leaving it lying against a wall or on the floor. They should see you keeping it clean, looking after the strings and checking the heat and humidity levels when you put it in storage, even if you’re only storing it in the bag.
You want to be certain that when your children see you using your guitar, they want to pull out their own and practice too. And you want to be sure that when they see you put your instrument away, complete with its humidity control, they’re putting their instrument away too — complete with its humidity control. Incidentally, Music Sorb humidity control makes that obligation as easy as pie…easy pie, that it.
The alternative is not just that your children won’t learn to play their instrument as well as they could. They also won’t be playing on an instrument that is as good as it should be. Care for your guitar and there’s a much better chance that your children will look after theirs — and play it well too.