No, not tips for weird music teachers. Just some offbeat ideas to help with those difficult music lessons.
Your student didn’t practice this week? Did they forget to bring their music to their lesson? Maybe they need some help, motivation or inspiration? Or maybe they just feel stuck?
Sometimes teachers feel stuck too. But I have learned a few tricks over the years that help me turn a potentially frustrating lesson into one where the student makes progress and we both have fun. I hope these tips can help you too!
1. Sightread duets. My favorite, and it’s extremely helpful. If you don’t have two harps, you can always each play one hand of a piece and share one harp. Tricky but fun!
2. Play “Measure Lotto.” With a difficult piece or passage, I assign random numbers to each measure. The student chooses a number and then must play that measure. A fun and useful little game.
3. Scale and arpeggio games. Nothing is better than a lesson of scales and arpeggios. And when you combine them with different rhythms or hands together in sixths or tenths or even contrary motion, you can make them fun.
4. Practice with your student. This is a great technique for helping a student push forward through a difficulty. By keeping up with the teacher, she can gain forward momentum and learn good practice techniques.
5. Play for them. When all else fails, I like to play for my students. I will play a piece that they will be able to learn soon. We discuss musical and technical features of the piece, which helps them learn how to listen and develop more musical understanding.
I have some “don’ts” as well. These are my iron-clad rules for keeping us both honest.
1. Don’t let the student talk the lesson away. He is there to learn. When conversation is instructive or explanatory, that’s fine, but too often talking becomes a way of avoiding playing.
2. Don’t let the student off the hook. If the student is unprepared, I need to call her on it. And we need to use the lesson time. No free passes just because you didn’t practice. You’re here for a lesson and you will get one.
3. Don’t punish. I will correct, and I will point out work that is not up to standards. But punishment has no place in a music studio. If they don’t do their work, they know it and they know that I know it. And that’s punishment enough.
What tricks do you use in those difficult lessons?