Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Music Tip - Help! My Child Wants to Quit

Lately I’ve had a couple of piano students that have started complaining about having to take piano lessons.  Shocking, I know!  The mothers have talked to me to ask for any advice and of course, I’m anxious and willing to give them some.  I’ll mention some of the things I’ve told the moms, and tell you the one that has really helped the most.

Here’s some ideas:
1.       Explain that you are a musical family and that’s what the kids in your family do-- take music lessons.  But then give them a time limit of when they can stop.  Maybe it’s when they reach a certain level or age or ability to play.

After that bombshell, give your child some sympathy/encouragement and support to make it fun.  Offer some incentives to keep practicing like purchasing them their own box of cereal—I know, that’s random.  But kids LOVE to get to choose a sugar cereal that you normally refuse to buy.

Or offer to do one of their chores while they practice.  My daughter loved to have me do her turn of washing the dishes while she practiced.

2.       Back off the practicing help.  My moms are Suzuki moms and have been trained to help their child practice at home.  Suzuki children start musical training early-like age 4 or 5 and need their mother’s help.  But by the time the child is 9 or 10, he needs to start learning independence and good practicing skills on his own.  This is a good time to start weaning the mother from the actual practice time session at home. 

This is the saving grace that has helped many a child.  I’ll tell the parent that now the student is old enough to start practicing on his own.  I’ll teach the student how he  should practice his pieces at home and how many times to play a piece and olay!  the fights at home now cease.  Mom is out of the picture and it’s the student and teacher and the pressure is off.

3.       Ask the student what kinds of songs he wants to learn to play.  As a teacher I need to sometimes back off on the classics and introduce more popular and fun pieces.

On my next post I’ll offer some ideas on helping a student practice effectively on his own.


  1. I know for me #3 was the ticket. If I could pick the songs I would practice them, if I had no say in what I was playing, I didn't want to practice. I liked feeling in control of my pieces. (It might also have something to do with the fact that I'm a little bit of a control freak!)

  2. Continuing on the topic of the previous comment, I maintain a weekly audio podcast that exists to help both students and teachers find interesting repertoire that they are motivated to play. The selections are not from the traditional classical repertoire, but are more from the contemporary teaching repertoire- what many of us call supplemental pieces. I, too, have found that students are much more likely to stick with lessons when they are playing music they enjoy. And when they pick the music out themselves, they are even more motivated to master it. The podcast is a way that helps them make good repertoire choices, that is, pieces that they will enjoy playing, but that also have good pedagogical value.

    Check it out.

    If you don't want to listen to me blather on through the podcasts, you can go straight to the library and just listen to the individual pieces.

    And if anyone has suggestions for future episodes, I'm always look for new repertoire to record that has been helpful to other teachers.

    - Luke Bartolomeo




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