Learning music and studying online
This post attempts to draw a parallel between the benefit of playing a musical instrument and the benefit of learning online. We highlight an advantage offered by playing an instrument and then compare the opportunity with learning anything online.
Before we forget, let’s start with memory!
Playing an instrument increases your memory capacity. And makes you brainier.
There are lots of memory based learning games available online and as Apps and there is a good reason for their existence as numerous studies show how memory performance can be improved with a number of techniques. Many of these are ideally suited to software driven online presentation.
Time management rocks
Playing an instrument helps you with organisation and time management. Successful musicians learn early that quality of practice is more important than quantity.
Learning online can be a liberating experience as you free yourself from the constraints of the classroom. However, managing your time becomes more important than ever if you’re not going to be distracted by the myriad of temptations that lurk a click away. Learning to take ownership of the time you set aside is a great life skill to acquire.
Playing an instrument isn’t something that offers instant gratification. Perseverance is an important skill: patience and practice are fundamental requirements that learning an instrument teaches well.
Online distance learning isn’t a short cut approach to learning. If the qualification is worth achieving then it will almost certainly require a degree of rigour to achieve. By studying online there isn’t a teacher guiding you in the same way, so developing perseverance skills is important. Courses that offer rewards as you progress are generally more successful in retaining and engaging learners.
Playing an instrument is good for your reading. Recognising notes on a page and translating that to a position on the instrument have been shown, in many studies since the 1950s, to be beneficial.
A great advantage of online learning is the possibility of escaping the tyranny of the A4 page! Turning content into bite-size, manageable, chunks is beneficial to reading skills, although it should be remembered that trainers and tutors often like the idea of a logical course that follows a linear sequence. There may be logic to this, or it may be habit. Either way, studying online generally offers a more liberating experience as learners have the chance to roam away from a structured order and to discover content from other sources. Encouraging broader reading is therefore an important cross benefit from online learning.
Playing an instrument is good for your maths. Counting notes and studying musical theory have been shown, in many studies since the 1950s, to be beneficial. Having a basic grasp at some of the more commonly used mathematics concepts is a real cornerstone of learning.
Playing an instrument does require discipline and concentration. Pitch, rhythm, tempo all matter when playing solo. If you add a group dynamic then concentration on your playing in relation to others to keep a harmonious group is vital.
Learning online also requires discipline and concentration. Online courses shouldn't be cluttered with adverts or complicated user interfaces, but even if they are, following the course will boost powers of concentration in other fields.
Playing an instrument offers an outlet of self-expression that is acknowledged by many players as a stress reliever. Music therapy is even used to treat some people with conditions such as autism and depression.
What does an online course look like to you? Have you included an audio podcast in your list? Relax with an expert on a subject and learn whilst you relax.
Playing an instrument is something that should offer a sense of pride. There is no need to set out to be a concert pianist in order to take pride in the achievement of learning a new piece of music. Whether you play in private or in front of others, making music on your instrument is an achievement.
Studying online allows learners a wonderful opportunity to take a wide and varied range of courses from around the world, often for free. For people who work in multiple locations, or away from traditional seats of learning, online study offers a range of opportunities that traditional classes can’t.
Playing an instrument can be a solo endeavour, but equally, it can highly social. Joining a band or a choir is good for developing social skills.
Self-study learners find a 'sense of community' to be critical, according to Liu X, Magjuka R, Bonk C & Lee S in 'Does sense of community matter? An examination of participants’ perspectives of building learning communities in online courses.' and Lie K in 'Virtual communication: An investigation of foreign language interaction in a Distance Education course in Norwegian.' and Murphy L in 'Supporting learner autonomy: Developing practice through the production of courses for distance leaners of French, German and Spanish.' and White C in 'State of the art: Distance learning of foreign languages. Language Teaching 2006'. A sense of community can be derived from a social approach as found in the Learning Line, particularly where interaction with other learners and mentors is available and where feedback and on-going acknowledgement of progress is given.
Playing an instrument takes a degree of dedication. There will be challenges to overcome, but as with so many things in life, really good things often require discipline.
Going hand in hand with discipline is the concept of learner autonomy, and in this regard, 'the ability to take charge of one's own learning' (Holec, H. Autonomy in foreign language learning) recognises that autonomy is driven by the learner rather than the situation. In other words, 'learners do not develop the ability to self-direct their learning simply by being placed in situations where they have no other option.'
Playing an instrument means taking on responsibility for the care of the instrument as well. From tuning to cleaning and making time to practice, you become responsible for your own success.
Software can test, analyse and recommend, but it lacks the soft-touch approach of a teacher analysing a student through simple interaction. On the other hand, an online approach should be a tool kit made up of accessible content that is responsive to the device being used and which allows a broad range of innovative strategies to offer the user bite-sized learning. The learner has some responsibility in the outcome here as they should be encouraged to buy into the fact that learning isn’t a matter of simply memorising facts, instead, it’s a question of understanding key ideas (eg, ‘supply varies to meet demand’), grasping procedures or processes (how to graph a linear equation), or absorbing essential facts (cut the blue wire, not the red one).
Playing an instrument is rewarding and should be fun. Learning new skills takes effort, but the reward that you'll feel when you play your instrument and the reaction of those you play to is almost certain to put a smile on your face.
Improving your knowledge is a worthwhile and productive venture. Doing so online just makes it all the more convenient.