“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” -John Lennon
Like many kids, I grew up hearing pearls of wisdom from my mom that sounded like they belonged on an after school special. You know the ones: “A penny saved is a penny earned,” “Actions speak louder than words,” and other sayings that I usually returned with a cringe or an eye roll.
And like many adults, I now find myself thinking back on those phrases and making the connections to real life. I guess mothers really do know best – and those little sayings apply not only to important life lessons, but they can be adapted to learning music, as well. In fact, your mom probably taught you several lessons that can translate to your success as a musician – even if she couldn’t sing a note in tune, or still doesn’t know the difference between the violin and the viola (cue the eye roll).
I’ve put together a list of 5 “momisms” that I think especially ring true – no matter if you’re tackling a completely new instrument, refreshing your memory of the instrument you played 20 years ago, or striving to make it as a professional musician. Wherever you’re at, and whatever you’re struggling with, sometimes we all just need a bit of motherly advice. So with that special day coming up, let’s give a special shout-out to all the moms out there – to the years of support, advice and words of encouragement. Happy Mother’s Day!
1. Practice makes perfect/Do your homework.
This one is pretty simple – just like you had to do your homework to pass all of your classes in school, there will be things to work on and practice if you’re going to learn a new instrument, song or technique. My mom even used to suggest that if I didn’t have any homework that day, I should create some. While I never took that advice (sorry, Mom), I see her point now. Whether you’re memorizing multiplication tables or the Circle of Fifths, there will always be homework. And if you really want to improve, forget your excuses and just do it.
2. Reach for the stars.
I think sometimes we all need to be reminded of this. Sure, you might have other responsibilities: work, family, errands… the list might go on and on. But the simple fact is: if you want to learn an instrument, do it! It will take commitment, and you’ll need to set aside time. You’ll have “homework” that might not be fun. But much like everything else in life that requires hard work, the end result is always worth it.
3. Everyone makes mistakes.
Again, another good reminder that we sometimes forget as adults. Most children don’t think much of their mistakes, and are quick to turn around and give it another go. So why, as adults, are we so hard on ourselves when we mess up? I played the flute for 10 years, but after taking a two year hiatus, I was incredibly disappointed to find I was struggling with a few of the high register notes. The muscle memory was there, but my embouchure had already lost much of its strength. I knew it would take some hard work to get back to the point where I left off. Which leads me to the next piece of advice…
4. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
When I say this, I’m referring to how you talk to yourself – you know, that little voice inside your head, your inner critic. The key here is knowing when to silence that voice, and how to give yourself honest feedback without being too hard on yourself. Instead of berating yourself if you played a wrong note in a performance, take it for what it is – a learning experience – and move on.
5. Patience is a virtue.
You’ve no doubt heard the story of the tortoise and the hare, proving that patience in the long run will help you through to the end. This can absolutely be applied to your music lessons, and should be kept in mind especially when you’re learning something completely new. You’re not going to pick up a guitar and be a pro in a matter of a few days, so patience is key here. Take it one day at a time, and eventually you’ll get there. And if you don’t? As my mom would say, at least you took the first step.
- Suzy S., TakeLessons staff member and blogger
Readers: What have YOU learned about music from your mom? Stop by our Facebook page and share your own story!