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Why It’s Important to Continue Practicing Music

Why It’s Important to Continue Practicing Music

Published on April 27, 2020

Why It’s Important to Continue Practicing Music
Dr. Sean Hutchins

We know, we know: It’s hard to keep up with music nowadays. Indeed, it’s hard to keep up with anything today! But one thing that experts — from child psychologists to astronauts — agree on is the importance of maintaining routines during periods of change. Familiar routines help to ground us and provide stability, which can benefit our physical and mental health. Practicing music is one of those routines.
Of course, music practice remains important for all the reasons it was so before social isolation — boosting cognitive skills, building social bonds, and the sense of achievement it provides. But the main reason to continue practicing music is to get better at it. If you don’t practice, you won’t improve.

“Summer Loss”

In fact, evidence suggests that putting lessons on hiatus for longer periods of time can have negative consequences. That’s due to a phenomenon called “Summer Loss,” which finds that children’s academic abilities not only stagnate over the summer months, but even regress.
Though summer break can be relatively short, at about two months, children will lose on average a month’s worth of progress during that time. The loss is even greater for students who don’t have access to resources or support at home.

Double down on your abilities

What this means is that without reinforcement, skills that have been painstakingly learned over time will be lost rather quickly. To put it another way, time spent practicing music — especially guided, focused practice — effectively counts as double towards skills retention.
And that gets us back to routines. Music, like any activity, is easiest to maintain if you make it part of a daily routine. The same schedules that help to keep our lives balanced can also help to sustain our hard-won abilities. The upshot? Practicing music can help us get through this crisis and make us better musicians!

Sean Hutchins

Dr. Sean Hutchins
is a neuroscientist and the Director of Research at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He received his Ph.D. from McGill University, studying music and the mind. His current work examines the role of musical training and experience on cognitive and linguistic abilities.