Dessert Music – Having Pudding Before You Eat Your Meat

We’ve all been told as kids that you can’t have any dessert until you’ve eaten all of the healthy stuff first.  You can’t have your ice cream until you eat your vegetables!  This isn’t because our parents wanted to torture us.  This is because our parents understood the value of a healthy meal and all of the great nutrients provided to our bodies before we were mature enough to understand this concept.

We just wanted the good-tasting stuff.  This same concept can be applied to the materials us music teachers want our students to practice.

The Veggies Of A Music Lesson

Let’s start with those veggies!  In regards to music lessons, the “vegetables” are closest related to the basic exercises that are going to most improve the students’ skills, especially early on in their learning.  In drum lessons, these veggies may be playing quarter notes, nice and slowly with a metronome.  In piano lessons, it may be slowly practicing scales and doing basic finger exercises.  With guitar lessons, it may be holding down one note and continuing to pluck that note until you hear the note ring out all the way.

Win The Race

Sure, these are not the most exciting things that can be practiced.  However, these exercises are going to provide the skills necessary to take any student’s performance to the next level.  This is the way to really succeed at lessons and create the most outstanding players.  Slow and steady wins the race.

Understanding Music Teachers

The teacher knows all of this to be true because they have been through all of this before.  They have seen the results and know what it takes to nurture the best musicians.  Some of us wish we had the opportunity to learn it all over again and go back to the beginning and do it right: play slowly with a metronome and focus on the most basic exercises at the beginning.  This way, whatever we are playing ten years later will sound so much better than what we are actually playing now!

Chocolate Ice Cream

Unfortunately, kids can not really understand this concept.  They haven’t been through the musical journey yet and they can’t comprehend the importance of practicing seemingly basic and boring exercises.  They just want to play the fast stuff, the loud stuff, the fun stuff, that glorious bowl of chocolate ice cream.
How do we, as teachers, explain dessert music to our students?  Well, we can try to explain the benefits of these exercises as any parent can try to explain the benefits of broccoli, but that doesn’t always work out how we want it to.  So we do this:  We allow them their dessert, as long as they eat their veggies first.

Understanding Dessert Toppings

And what exactly is the dessert music in this food metaphor?  Perhaps it is playing a song on their instrument.  This could be allowing the student to play along to songs they love with headphones (which, by the way has its own wonderful benefits).  Maybe they really want to write a song.  Maybe they want to just free play and bang on their drums as loud as possible.

Healthy Dessert

Unlike eating ice cream, all of these activities are beneficial if they are doing something with the instrument in their hands.  This dessert is totally fine!  As long as they eat their veggies first.

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