How To Present Difficult Music to a Younger Student
Music teachers need to be presenting new and sometimes difficult music to their younger students on a regular basis. It is important to decide how difficult the new material should be, how soon to present it, and in what manner to present it. Private teachers should consider the following when making music decisions for their students.
1. Don’t choose sheet music that is too difficult
We never want to set a student up for failure. Sometimes, we want a student to learn something that is really cool and we think that they will really enjoy playing. However, what is easy and cool and fun for us is not always going to be attainable for the student at this point in their progression. We need to be careful. When a student is presented with material that is too difficult, they will often get discouraged, and then where do you go from there? If you do present material that is just too difficult for the student, slow it down to a tempo that is attainable, or completely scrap it with as little fanfare as possible. Then, move on to something they can feel good about playing.
2. Don’t choose music that is too easy
Children often like a challenge. If something comes way too easily to them, they never get that fulfilling sense of pride when they finally can play something that was once difficult before. Finally being able to play something hard is a huge confidence boost that playing easy material on the first try can never really replicate. We want the student to feel like they are really making progress and playing new material that was once too difficult for them. If everything comes easily, they won’t appreciate it as much.
3. Let them know the material is difficult music!
This is a tool I absolutely love using when working with children. I let them know that this new material is going to be hard. As soon as they hear that, something changes in their attitude. All of a sudden, there is a challenge, and they want to win. They want to show me that they can play something that I think is difficult. They immediately focus and give the new material their undivided attention. If I had said nothing and presented them with this new piece of music without a word, the student would never achieve that level of determination. The best part is, when they play the new material well (because it’s never too difficult for them), I get to become really excited and shocked about how well they just played that super difficult piece on their first try! This level of confidence and pride is something we strive for our kids to achieve as music teachers.
Difficult material does not have to be a negative experience. In fact, it can be the most rewarding for the student and the teacher if treated properly. If you give the student the responsibility of taking on a difficult task, they will appreciate and respect you for it. We are working with children, but we need to treat them as capable students if we want them to play like they are capable musicians.