Within 2 to 3 years of starting piano lessons 80% of children quit. Were you one of the quitters? You’ve always wanted to play piano, and you always regret quitting lessons as a kid? You’re not alone. You don’t hear this phrase a lot “I really regret learning the piano.” (or any other instrument). Why? Because it’s a rewarding, fun, relaxing, and just overall a fantastic skill to have! So why do so many people quit? Let’s break it down.
1. No Time To Practice
Let’s get this one out of the way. You, your kids, the prodigy next door, we’re all the same. No one progresses without practice. Unfortunately there is no magic pill. This is the big one. But not having time to practice is a myth. As an adult, and especially as a child/teenager you DO have time to practice.
We all have 24 hours in our day. You need to prioritize what is most important for you. If binge watching Game of Thrones is your priority, you’ll make time for it. If practicing piano is your priority, you’ll make time for it. It doesn’t even take a lot of it. You can get solid progress with only 30 minutes of daily practice. Heck even 15 minutes will still move the needle.
I forbid you from ever saying you don’t have “time” to practice. You do. You know you do. Let’s try this instead. “Music practice isn’t a priority, so I don’t do it.” That’s the honest truth. Then make sure you add “Binge watching Game of Thrones is my priority.” If that’s what you want for your life, that’s no problem. Just be realistic about it. It may make you think twice.
2. My Child Doesn’t Practice
So maybe the one taking lessons is your son or daughter, but they’re not practicing. You know they have time, but they just aren’t prioritizing their practice. This isn’t really their problem.
When I was in high school and college I was extremely obsessed when it came to practicing. I would practice 4-8 hours a day on the weekdays and often over 10 on the weekends. It was crazy. My entire life was practicing, and yet I very seldom liked it. No one forced me, but good practice is hard work. It takes a lot of focus. I liked the results of practicing. I was likely a little addicted to them.
There were definitely days that I didn’t practice at all, and boy did I feel guilty. There were also days I would practice for hours and get nothing done because focusing hard, for that long, was just impossible for me.
No, I’m not suggesting that your child should be practicing for insane insane amounts of time, but what I am suggesting is practicing is very difficult whether it’s 15 minutes or 6 hours. Sometimes I think we expect a little too much of our young children.
Can we really expect our 8 year old to sit down and have focused practice consistently when as adults we struggle with it?
One major reason people get private fitness trainers is because they know if someone is with them encouraging and leading them they’ll actually go through with the exercise. When left on our own, most of us tend to get tired and being consistent is difficult.
Unless your budget is unlimited, you likely won’t be able to hire a teacher to come over every day and practice with you or your child. So what can you do? The answer is simple. Practice with them. Even if you don’t know music, you can sit in on their lessons and have a basic understanding of what needs to be done.
Then set aside time and make sure your child practices effectively! Unless students are extremely intrinsically motivated, they are very unlikely to practice without supervision. It’s not a bad thing. It’s helpful.
You’ll likely find that as they progress and start enjoying the music they hear from their instrument, they will begin to be intrinsically motivated. Then the coolest thing happens. They learn to stick to something consistently. They see the amazing results that come from learning a skill. Their lives will be changed in so many more ways than just learning to play music. Then you will see that you don’t have to even suggest practicing to your child. They’ll just do it themselves.
Avoid Being Overly Controlling
Research has actually shown that students with parents that were more musically inclined had a higher drop out rate than students whose parents weren’t. The assumption from this data is that these parents were too controlling during practice time. Make sure that you don’t make lessons confrontational while you help your child practice. Make practice time a time to bond with your child, not fight.
How Much Practice?
This is the magic question. Studies show that students grade 2-4 that stopped taking lessons practiced around 80 minutes a week, or about 15 minutes a day 5 days a week. Students that continued practiced about 155 minutes a week, or 30 minutes a day. Twice as much. It makes sense. Eventually students get bored with Mary Had a Little Lamb. However, if the the student doesn’t practice much that’s the type of music they’ll be playing for years.
3. How Old Was The Child When He/She Started
Very interestingly studies have found that students that started at age 7 had a much higher drop out rate than students that started at age 6. One year may not seem like a lot, but that one year is a lot in the development of children. Does this mean since your child was older than 6 when they started that they have no chance? Of course not. We should just be aware that if given the option, starting earlier can be beneficial.
4. Lessons are too expensive
This can be a difficult one. There are a few options though. Did you know more and more students are taking online lessons now? I mean with an actual teacher over a webcam. The technology has come so far that it actually works really well. I know what you’re saying, “but I couldn’t learn like that I need hands on learning.” I bet you would be surprised.
The reason I bring up online lessons is because most teachers charge less for online lessons. Sometimes a lot less. If budget is a big issue for you, definitely look into this as an option.
Still too expensive? There are a lot of online video courses that can actually teach you a lot, for many different instruments. To take it one step further you can purchase music lesson software that can also be very helpful. There is no substitute for a good teacher, but you can get a lot of enjoyment out of learning through different online courses.
5. I Don’t Want to Force My Child to Learn
Were you forced as a kid and hated it? Yeah, you don’t want to do that to your child. Hey music isn’t for everyone. Let me say this. I’m definitely a little biased, but I sincerely believe that just about anyone can really enjoy learning music. The biggest reason I see for students that do not like to play is because… wait for it… They can’t play well. How do you fix that? Practice! It seems like a simple answer, but that’s the truth. A little hard work and odds are very good whoever it is will end up liking it.
So back to the question. Your parents forced music lessons on you. But did you actually practice? Was it focused practice? Did you actually progress? Be honest. So do something different with your child. Help them progress, and they will like it.
6. We’re in too Many Other Activities
This comes back to priorities. Is soccer a more important skill than music? Is it more fun? The answer may be yes to both questions. It may be no. We have to decide which activities to have our children in and prioritize the ones that are the most important.
There are two sides to this issue. Some parents believe that you should have a well rounded child who has experience with every activity possible. Some parents believe one or two extra curricular activities are enough.
Again I’m biased obviously, but I want my children to find something they can stick with for their entire lives early on. I see so many people that have a little experience with a lot of different things, but don’t have any real skills because they never pursued any of them for very long. My life and self esteem have been positively influenced by having a skill that I’m good at. I want that for my children.
7. The Teacher Isn’t Good
There are bad teachers out there. I’m not denying it. But often it’s not really the teachers fault. I’ve talked to thousands of students over the years about their teachers, and whenever this comes up it’s a sad.
Very often the reasons that the teacher isn’t good is because of something small like “they don’t teach theory”, or “they aren’t strict enough”, or “they’re too strict.” The reasons go on and on. The unfortunate truth of the matter is, you need to let your teacher know what you’re looking for. Just about every qualified teacher can teach theory. Maybe normally they don’t focus on it a lot, but if you ask them to I bet they will be happy to.
Is the teacher too strict? Did you tell them that? Be nice about it. Say something like “could you expect a little less from James, he’s sensitive.” Most teachers will be happy to oblige. Now if it’s really becoming an issue, there are plenty of teachers out there. Find one that works for you a little better. Unfortunately often when students don’t have a good experience with their teacher, they end up stopping altogether. Don’t let this be a reason to quit!
8. Extended Breaks
Going on a vacation? The most likely time for a student to stop lessons for good, is when they go on vacation. You may just not contact your teacher when you get back, and the teacher may never call you back. Well that’s it. No more music lessons. That’s a really bad reason.
Don’t trust yourself to contact them when you get back? Why don’t you schedule an email to be sent to them the day you get back? That may be all you need to get the ball rolling again. Seems silly, but you’d be surprised how often this happens.
Please, please, please, Don’t quit! Keep at it. For a long time. A few years is just not long enough. Find someone who had lessons consistently for a decade and you’ll find someone with a skill that they can rely on the rest of their life.
Be one of those people. Make your kids one of those people. Don’t be like everyone else.
What do you think? Are there any other reasons you’ve seen as to why students quit? Why did you quit lessons growing up?