The Importance of Positive Reinforcement in Private Music Lessons

One of the biggest differences between music teachers of any instrument can be teaching philosophy.  This has to do with what the teacher hopes to achieve overall with their students, in addition to the student’s individual goals, and how they make it happen during private piano lessons.
As an in home piano teacher in Baltimore, when I tell people what I do, I often get a comical response of, “So do you get out the ruler during piano lessons,” playing on the fact that it is a stereotype for music teachers to be strict and unforgiving of mistakes from their students.  Though these teachers very much still exist, many musicians do not share this sense of negative reinforcement and work to constructively make in home music lessons just as educational and progressive as those who motivate with excessive discipline.


What defines negative reinforcement?

Negative reinforcement boils down to equating a student’s self-worth with how well they are doing on their instrument.  For example, a teacher with this mentality reminds the student that if he or she is not succeeding and giving 110% all the time, they are not serious or living up to their potential.  This type of pressure can damage the student’s enthusiasm for an instrument they may otherwise enjoy, and leave them with a negative impression of their ability and the experience of music lessons, in general.
Some things a teacher may say or do that can reveal a tendency towards negative reinforcement include focus on the student or family wasting time or money on lessons when the student is not ‘serious’, or saying that they will not work with a student who does not practice consistently, because they have other students on a wait list who will.  Other, subtle characteristics can include a stern or aggressive tone with the student and a surplus of complaints without the neutralization of positive feedback.
Some families want this type of discipline and an earnest outlook in the experience of learning an instrument.  While this is not a ‘wrong’ way of approaching an in home music lesson Baltimore, it definitely shapes the experience of learning an instrument differently.  Teachers who use these techniques are also not necessarily ‘bad’ teachers, but their way of thinking may be something that scares away their students ultimately if their goals and the student’s goals are not working towards the same objective.

What defines positive reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement focuses on constant encouragement and the good things that are being accomplished during lessons.  Figuratively speaking, it’s seeing the “bright side” in what every student has to offer and building upon successes.  Just because positive reinforcement is a teacher’s philosophy does not mean that he or she is less effective in stressing the important techniques associated with learning an instrument.  It is simply achieving the same goals while paying attention to the student’s educational and emotional needs during lessons.
Having a teacher that utilizes positive reinforcement ensures that the student will not feel as though they are constantly failing at an instrument if they do not practice for their lesson in a given week, or cannot understand a difficult playing technique or piece.  The constructive way that positive teachers approach learning can work as a much more powerful motivator than negative reinforcement, because the student knows that their teacher still values them and cares about them as an individual, regardless of how ‘well’ they are doing in their in home music lesson Baltimore on a given week.
Positive teachers also are more likely to customize lessons to the needs and goals of the student, as this is the most important aspect of making a good connection and making the lessons rewarding.  They will be attentive to student preferences, as far as musical likes or interests are concerned, and will shape a curriculum that the student can enjoy.


The way a teacher motivates and interacts with a student in lessons is a very important factor in the success of an in home music lesson Baltimore experience.  Though some families may have reasons for wanting a teacher who is very strict, disciplined, and adamant about following their goals for a student, most families are looking for a more positive experience.  Music is a source of joy, and the experience of studying an instrument can be encouraging and even fun!
For more information about Lessons In Your Home’s teaching philosophy, and to start customized in home lessons, contact us!

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