How to Motivate Lethargic or Uninterested Students

Taking in-home violin lessons is a great experience for every person to have at some point in their lives. Even if you do not end up becoming a professional musician, studying an instrument provides an appreciation of music and sense of discipline that translates into other areas of life. As teachers, we sometimes see students who become lethargic, or uninterested, in their music study, but this does not necessarily mean a student should stop lessons completely. Instead, the violin teacher can provide ways to elevate and enrich the experience through use of new pieces, interactive technique/practices exercises, refine goals, and even work on collaborative pieces.


What defines a lethargic student?

A “lethargic” music student is not lazy or underachieving—it simply means that they have lost interest in their instrument and need help from the teacher to resurge the same excitement they felt when they first started. The loss of interest can come from many places, including feeling as though the music they are working on is too difficult, busy schedules, etc. Whatever the reason, though, a teacher can still constructively make the lessons fun and exciting again!

Bringing in New Music

Many times, a student can feel the progressive pieces used in common method books are stale and do not relate to what they listen to and enjoy. There is a very simple way for a teacher to remedy this issue: inquire about the student’s music (and even entertainment) interests! In a violin lesson, for example, a teacher may find their student loves The Hunger Games, and with that small amount of information, could bring in a selection from the movie’s score. Instead of working on the normal weekly assignments, the teacher can re-focus the lessons on repertoire the student enjoys and immediately spark an interest that lasts.

Try Interactive Technique Exercises

Technique exercises can become tedious, but they are very valuable and important in refining a musician’s skill level. Also, musical development and progression rely on the teacher fostering good technical habits. But how can we as teachers make this engaging? Take time in the lesson to work on them interactively. This means having the student count out loud, developing a game around an exercise, playing together, etc. As teachers, being creative in teaching technique can make something very boring very fun. Also, it reduces the burden of a student learning a technique exercise on their own and shows them that they can do the difficult work with you, the teacher. Then, weekly practice of the exercise is much easier for the student.

Refine and Develop Goals

One of the most motivating factors in music lessons is having a goal. Examples of goals are playing a difficult piece, a performance, or completing a method book series by a certain date.  Often times, interest in music lessons is lost, because a clear goal has not been defined. A student in a violin lesson could mention that his or her goal is to make within the first 3 chairs of the school orchestra. You, the teacher, can hone in on this goal that your student has created and give them the confidence to achieve it.

Work on Collaborative Pieces

For me personally as a musician, I have had the most fun when I was working on small ensemble pieces. This means a small number of players are involved and include duets, accompanying, chamber music groups, and even playing in a rock band. For a violin lesson, a teacher who also plays cello could bring in a piece for both instruments and work on it with the student. It’s a simple approach to collaborative exercises, but can bring a lot of motivation and excitement into learning a new piece for the student in knowing that the success of the performance depends on them learning their part.


There is never an excuse for lessons to become boring, and if you have a student who seems to be lethargic or losing interest in their music lessons, it’s time to amp up the excitement! Changing the way that the music lessons flow is the best way to achieve this, and fun, new pieces, ensemble opportunities, and interaction are the keys to success. So teachers, let’s stay creative! Continue to make in home music lessons a great experience your students will carry throughout their lives.
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