When I was learning piano, I took lessons from a Russian woman who I swear never smiled. Even when I came in with the best of jokes, not even the slightest movement of the mouth. Now before you start thinking, “Well… Maybe you aren’t that funny?” Before I go and resent that, I’m going on record to say I am hilarious. She just never smiled. Ever. Our lessons were very structured and extremely intense which I actually responded well to just due to how I was raised at home. Then again, I knew I wanted to be a musician and I knew that was the only way to succeed in the business. I was never normal.
Keep Piano Lessons Positive
The majority of students taking lessons start because the know music is fun, some students fall deeply in love with it and some of those choose to consider music as a career. That’s the facts. So in my experience, I keep piano lessons positive as my main method. I come into each lessons with a positiveness as opposed to a European approach for example.I have found in my years of teaching and even as a working musician, you can still be structured and even intense when need be all with a positive attitude. This is what I do to enforce a positive attitude when it comes to lessons.
Set Up A List Of Off Limits Phrases and Words
The ones I say nix to are:
– “I can’t do it.”
– “It’s too hard.”
– “I’ll never be able to do it.”
By banning these phrases, it forces the students to come up with another way to express their difficulties usually resulting in questions in how to succeed versus defeat. These even help the parents to change their thinking to how can they help their child versus just automatically jumping to quitting lessons all together. By taking out the can’t’s and replacing them with how-tos changes the dynamic of the lessons entirely because all parties are now focused on achieving an actual goal.
Be Encouraging, But Don’t Lie
I never say something is perfect when it’s not. Nor do I give praise unless it’s actually deserving of it. Lying is not encouraging. When students make a good attempt, I let them know. If they make a mistake I make sure they know how to correct it all with a smile and encourage them to try it again. I ask them questions when I feel something may be challenging so it gives them an opportunity to let me know if they just are not understanding. Whenever something is done to perfection, I make sure I let them know. Keeping things genuine helps build the bond between the families and the teacher. It also helps all parties build realistic goals and action plans to achieve said goals. By being honest, it creates a safe and comfortable forum to ask questions and help when needed.
Be Prepared To Ask Questions
I’ve been teaching lessons long enough to know a meltdown is inevitable no matter how positive you are. I’ve even had a meltdown or two or three during my own lessons. (Yes I still take lessons because as a musician, you can never stop evolving.) It’s normal. Even though it’s normal, you can still prevent the majority of them from ever happening. All you have to do is to make sure they understand what is being asked of them. This even helps topics be reinforced. Usually if you get in the habit of asking questions throughout the lesson as well as after, it can prevent any feelings of defeat.
Hopefully these 3 little points help you out in your next lesson or maybe the next time you feel on the verge of defeat.
Article by Maria McDonald, Piano and Voice Teacher – Atlanta GA