Top Ways to Challenge Students With In Home Lessons

Child Playing Guitar Lessons At Home
Learning Guitar

As private teachers for in home music lessons Baltimore, it is our duty to give great lessons that are customized to each individual student.  We find weekly assignments that are progressive in each unique curriculum to develop a student’s ability overall, but also, we find ways to challenge students.  A challenge could be a long-term goal, such as a piece of music that slightly exceeds the level of weekly repertoire, a performance, or a goal with exercises, such as playing all 12 major scales consecutively.

The choice of the challenge is in the hands of the teacher, but as instructors, there are some useful ideas in assisting a student through a challenge that can make it successful and a motivator.

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Here are some ‘challenge’ examples and ideas on how you, the teacher, can use them:

A Difficult Piece

Selecting a piece that is difficult for the student is a classic way for teachers to introduce a challenge into weekly lessons. One of our guitar teachers in Baltimore discussed the way that he introduces difficult pieces with his students and how to incorporate it into lessons in 3 points:

  1.  Assess the student’s interest.  If the student does not enjoy the piece they will be spending a lot of time on, the challenge can become overwhelming and possibly disappointing.  Select a few pieces that you approve as the teacher AND meet the student’s interest (i.e. pop songs they like or even their favorite classical pieces).  Give the student the choice, and they will already feel more comfortable with the challenge.
  2. Make sure the student knows the piece is a long-term goal, and work on a small section each week.  You can easily turn a longer, more difficult piece into short selections that can be practiced as weekly exercises.
  3. Don’t spend the entire lesson on the difficult piece.  Work for approximately a third of the lesson time on the piece, and then re-focus on normal, weekly exercises.

A Difficult Technique Exercise

For every instrument, there are multitudes of etudes (pieces designed to be technique studies/demonstrations), scale variations, etc. that a student can study as a challenge.  In general, these exercises can be a bit more stale than a fun piece, but very beneficial to the student in the long run.  For example, if you would like a student to learn an exercise on guitar, the same ideas about how to break up the practice of the exercise can be the same as those for a difficult piece.  Approach it little by little, and the student can see that the task is not so daunting, and they may not even notice that you are challenging them!  This can be achieved by sectioning and progressively building up the tempo.

Personally, I always try to take the pressure off these types of pieces to let the student know that it is an on-going project, but am delighted when they start to enjoy a virtuosic exercise they are playing faster and faster.

A Performance

Challenges do not always present themselves in the form of a piece of music.  Sometimes the challenge is a push to perform, especially when you, the teacher, think the student is ready.  If the student feels too much pressure or that they are not prepared sufficiently, this experience can be a negative one, but with sensitivity to the needs of the student, you can be an encourager and help them in achieving performance goals.  The most important point is making sure the piece they play is thoroughly prepared.  After that, teachers truly become ‘cheerleaders’ for the student—offering advice, giving pep-talks, and assuring the student of their ability.  Our advantage as music teachers is that we have all had this experience and can be sympathetic and attentive to any hesitations a student may have.

Exceptions

All students are different, which we as teachers recognize in music lessons Baltimore.  This means that some students love challenges!  When this is the case, go with it and keep them inspired.  If you the teacher do not actively develop these types of students and work to continue the challenge, they can become bored.  This is really the great thing about private music lessons anyways:  we are lucky as teachers to be able to reach students with completely contrasting interests and ways of learning and bring out the love of music in all.

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