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Internal vs. External Motivation for Practicing Piano
My boyfriend often laments the fact that he didn't stick with trying to learn music when he was a kid. He took up a few different instruments over the years but he never stuck with any of them. He insists that his parents should have required him to practice one instrument and stick with it so that he could have developed a strong talent for playing that instrument. I disagree. I'm of the opinion that musical talent really only develops when you have an internal drive to excel at playing the instrument of your choice. Of course, there are benefits to both external and internal motivation for learning an instrument like the piano.
Benefits of External Motivation
There are many benefits of external motivation especially when you are young. The main reason that motivation from a parent or teacher is great is because it requires that you stick with something that you might otherwise opt to abandon. Kids are fickle and are prone to ceasing any activities that require them to invest effort over an extended period of time. This doesn't necessarily mean that they don't want to learn to play an instrument like the piano. Parental motivation can cause them to commit to learning something that they would regret quitting down the line.
Additionally, external motivation tends to push you to go further with an instrument than you might on your own. A parent or teacher will encourage you to go to the next level. You might be content to just keep playing the piano in a messing around kind of way but that external motivation will teach you skills and move you to a more advanced level of playing.
Benefits of Internal Motivation
In contrast, internal motivation is more difficult to maintain. You're always going to have competing interests, especially when you are young. Trying to stick with one thing, like playing the piano, isn't easy. But it does have its benefits. A major benefit is that you're going to enjoy the experience more. People who are forced to play the piano don't derive the same sense of enjoyment from it that people who love to play will get from the experience. Even those people who feel proud of their accomplishments don't necessarily enjoy playing if they're told they must from an outside source.
An additional benefit of internal motivation is that you are more likely to excel at the instrument if you are driven to get better at it because you really want to do so. A parent or teacher can push you to taking that next level of instruction but they can't make you want to do well. That sense of striving must come from within. If you have internal motivation, you'll want to do better and practicing will be a joy.
The reality is that there are accomplished (and happy) piano players who fall into each of these camps. It might be best to have a combination of the two sources of motivation. An internal drive can be supported by the encouragement of a parent or teacher so that you can do your best at what you want to do.