Encouraging good technique will always help a music lessons but it’s a word that scares many parents, students, and teachers. As music teachers, we know the importance of proper technique. If a student learns the wrong way to hold a guitar, hold their drum sticks, or position their hands over a piano during private piano lessons, it can be very difficult to correct that later in a students musical life. And if left uncorrected, improper technique may greatly limit a student’s abilities to play what they want to play.
Sounds simple, right? Just teach proper and good technique in the beginning and everything will be fine and dandy. The difficult part about learning proper technique is that often times, it will take a while for the specific positions to feel at all natural. Our hands and arms and legs will try to resist these movements at first and create our own awkward technique. This is where the teacher steps in and tries to correct this.
Correcting improper technique can be a daunting task that can leave the student feeling discouraged. However, there are ways to correct improper technique while still remaining positive and keeping the lessons fun.
Stay Positive About Good Technique
Let’s say that we have a student sitting down at the piano and playing without the proper curvature of the hands. However, they are sitting up straight without slouching. Instead of harping on what they are doing wrong, instead, praise them for what they are doing correctly. It can be helpful to mention the proper way they should be holding their hands only after they feel good about doing something right. As teachers, we often get into the bad habit of constantly correcting what we see is wrong. Instead, make an effort to praise and congratulate what they are doing right. This student may have issues with how they are holding their hands, but they still feel good about how they are sitting and will mindfully continue to do so because of the praise. “That’s really Good Technique” says the music teacher:)”
Get Creative – Every Student is Different!
Often times, playing with proper technique can be a pretty abstract concept. We may have to get creative about the ways we describe how the student is supposed to be playing their instrument. For example, I teach drums and it’s always difficult to explain how exactly to hold a drum stick. I like to start with “1, 2, 3, V”. 1: make a 1 with your finger and place the stick on the 1st crease of the pointer finger. 2: place the 2nd finger (the thumb) on the opposite side of the 1st finger. 3: Wrap the remaining 3 fingers around. And V: make the sticks into the shape of a V. This works for many students, but not for all. If it’s not working, I may use other shapes and objects that speak to them. In striking the drum, I will often use the metaphor of bouncing a basketball for my sports fans. Or, I show them how it’s like knocking on a door versus turning a door knob. Different metaphors will speak to different students. Get creative!
Reverse Roles – YOU be the music teacher now!
This is a great technique to get the kids both entertained, and more aware of common mistakes. Students love to get to be the teacher and they get some much needed revenge for all of the times they’ve been corrected. It’s a great exercise for both the student and the teacher. Tell the student that they are the teacher now and they have to correct any mistakes that you, the new student will make. Include common mistakes that the student might make. Once the student starts recognizing mistakes that you are making, they are more likely to recognize their own as well and correct themselves without having to be told. This is ideal since most of their time practicing, they will need to recognize their own technique without having the teacher around. This role reversal exercise also provides for a ton of laughs!
Make the Private Lessons Fun!
Technique is important, as stated before. However, the most important thing that we as music teachers can do is to inspire a real love of music in the student. If you are teaching and finding that technique is getting in the way of a fun lesson, switch things up. Spending 30 minutes on proper technique is not really fun for anyone. As music teachers, we have to find a balance between teaching proper technique and having fun. Play songs and play music games and every once in a while, talk about how to correct the technique in a fun loving way.