Friday, February 3, 2012

Early Stages of Playing a Musical Instrument

Children aspire to be whatever they want to be in life and do whatever seems fitting.  They see the world as a place where anything is possible and it is that very thought that lets them gain knowledge.  Motivation is what sparks a child’s interest to learn.  Playing a musical instrument is more than just interest, it takes commitment and most importantly practice.  The study “Commitment and Practice: Key Ingredients for Achievement During the Early Stages of Learning a Musical Instrument” by Gary E. McPherson, illustrates how a child’s value of an activity before they commence learning impacts his or her motivation.
McPerson’s purpose of they study he conducted was to see what children’s opinions were of learning a musical instrument before any instruction and if they would continue to play through out the years.  He states that forty eight percent of six year olds in Britain show an interest; however, that percentage shrinks to half by age seven.  “These findings are consistent with results in countries such as the United States” (McPherson 123).  His explanation for this is that children who display low interest are more likely to quit after a short period of time.  To further support this, he conducted a study in Sydney, Australia in eight different schools.
The children were asked various questions before they began their instruction.  Their answers about how long they intended on playing ranged anywhere from through high school or maybe they will quit when they are teenagers.   A survey was given in addition to the interviews to pin point their interest.  Some said “all my life while others circled “just this year”. From that point through out the nine months they would learn to play a musical instrument, the children were subjected to interviews to measure their progress and interest.
After the nine months were up, the children were interviewed and tested on their performance.  They were tested using “the Watkins-Farum Performance Scale, a standardized sight reading test for measuring performance and progress” (McPherson 124).  Each child’s playing was recorded and later assessed to determine how practicing coincided with how long they thought they would continue play a musical instrument.
Commitment to play the instrument and average weekly playing was how McPherson analyzed which child scored lower and which ones scored higher.  The result of the study was that the highest scoring children were the ones who practiced extensively and would continue to play as they grew older.  As for the lowest scoring children, he wondered what other reason they could have had for playing.  A series of questions resulted that some of the children joined the band because their friends were in it too.
Most of the children who scored in the middle viewed playing an instrument as if it were any other sport or hobby, something they could enjoy but not important.  “The children could differentiate between their interest in learning a musical instrument, the importance of being good at music, whether they believed their learning would be useful to their short and long term goals, and also the cost of participation in terms of the effort to continue improving,” according to McPherson.  For the most part, children foresaw how long they would continue to improve on their musical knowledge.
Practice and motivation are key in learning to play an instrument.  While some children may not aspire to be prodigies, for some it is a form of entertainment.  The early interest in a instrument is not the only thing that makes a child want to learn.  It is their reason behind it, whether it be wanting to be with friends or making a career out of it, that motivates a child to learn to play.

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