The last 5 weeks or so has been absolutely crazy at my house. I’ve had my car broken into, blog hosting problems, 2 computers, a printer, a router, and a treadmill choked their death. And then just the other day, when I thought it was all done not only did our water heater bite the dust but it leaked all over the garage into my son’s bedroom causing water damage that has needed attention. You can say I’m feeling a bit defeated these days.
Which made me think… do my students ever feel defeated when learning music? Of course I hope they don’t, but I know better. There is a time in the learning process where most students hit that wall. And when they hit that wall a couple things happen. They embrace the feeling of defeat and give up or they keep on truckin’ and eventually get through it.
Well we know in life, we must keep on truckin’ despite the feeling of being defeated. So why should it be any different when learning a valuable skill?
Here are a few suggestions to help our students who are feeling a bit defeated.
- Break it Down. (Alright, how many of you who grew up in the 80’s just said “Hammer time?”) As we know, it never works to eat an entire cookie in one bite. The same goes for learning music. Students need to learn the concept of breaking their music down into small chunks. Which leads me to…
- Teach How to Practice. Most students don’t naturally know how to practice. They will sit and play a piece from beginning to end over and over and over again. And quite often they won’t even notice their mistakes as they do it. It is important to take a moment sometime during a lesson to teach basic practicing skills. My favorite camp that I’ve done for students a few times is a practicing workshop. I feel that this workshop needs to be re-visited every few years. Piano Maestro by JoyTunes also does a great job of teaching students basic practice skills in their “learn” mode by dividing the piece up into smaller sections, hands separately, then together, without background music and with and so on.
- Turn It Into a Game. Philip Johnston has some great ideas in turning practicing into a game. His books, The Practice Revolution and Practiceopedia has been great resources in my studio. You can download some practice game ideas here.
- Positive Attitude– I like to teach my students that it is important to have a positive attitude when they come to lessons. They will get a lot farther if they simply try and have a good attitude. When we have a bad attitude about something, progress is typically halted. My favorite quote is on Attitude by Charles Swindoll. My favorite part of the quote is at the very end, “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” Each small step counts towards progression. I always include this quote in my students binder to remind them of this. Feel free to download and use it with your students!
- Be a Cheerleader. Sometimes the key ingredient that is missing is simply confidence. They take one glance at the music and say “I can’t do it!” This is before they even touch a note. This is where the teacher becomes the cheerleader, encouraging them along the way. Before they know it…
I had to laugh the other day when my last student of the day was playing on my Clavinova and all of the sudden it just shut down. I tried several things (including unplugging and plugging it back in) and sure enough it was not turning back on. After they left, I called my husband over to see if he could figure it out. I then got on the floor to see if anything was unplugged and upon looking up I saw that the power plug underneath was bumped off. A big sigh of relief and a little laughter of what I thought was “one more thing” turned into a simple solution by just looking up.
So let’s encourage our students who are feeling a little defeated these days to simply look up and do what my cousin likes to say, “keep on, keeping on.” I also like to say to my students, “let’s work together!”
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