Every piano teacher hears excuses every week from their students. Does "I forgot," or "I didn't have time" sound familiar? With these helpful tips, no matter what excuses your students throw at you, you'll be ready to get them inspired to practice!
Every piano teacher has heard a lot of different excuses from their students! The most common one is definitely "I forgot," but there's always some funny ones, too. Some teachers have shared excuses such as "I couldn't practice because I couldn't find the (digital) piano," or "I left my music books in the car all week."
Most excuses result because of the Seven Deadly Practice Sins. They also usually fall into the following categories:
- I forgot.
- I didn't want to practice.
- I didn't have the time.
- I was sick or out of town.
- I lost my music books.
- No one reminded me to practice.
- I don't like these songs.
Now, it's time to jump into each one of these excuses and learn how to overcome them.
Forgetting to practice usually means that the student isn't excited about his assignments. If that's the case, change things up and give him repertoire or exercises that sound cool while increasing his technical abilities. If your student is excited about his assignments, he will want to practice without being reminded.
Not practicing can also be due to other reasons. Ask yourself the following questions to see what's the underlying cause of your student's forgetfulness.
- Is the student excited about his piano homework? If he hates the pieces/studies/technical exercises you've assigned, he won't want to work on them. Make sure to find pieces and exercises that make your student excited.
- Is the student's homework written down for him to reference during the week? Most students will conveniently forget what they were supposed to do, even if it is written down. However, having a written record holds them accountable and also gives the parent a list of things their child needs to work on that week.
- Does the student's parents require him to practice consistently at home? As the teacher, you cannot force a student to practice daily at home; only Mom and Dad can do that! Make sure your piano parents take an active role in their child's musical education, or the student--especially younger ones--will not play at home consistently.
"I didn't want to practice."
This ties in with the "I forgot" excuse. Ask your student exactly why he didn't want to practice, and you'll probably get some of the following reasons:
- "I don't like the sound of my pieces."
- "It's boring."
- "These songs are too hard."
- "I'm not learning this song fast enough."
- "I'm frustrated with this part of the piece."
What's the theme here? It sounds like your student doesn't like his pieces. Remember, as a teacher, your goal is to inspire your student to love music in general and to improve his skills at the keyboard. Change up his homework to make it fun and exciting, and he will suddenly want to play at home!
Keep in mind that kids naturally have a shorter attention span than adults do, and they will usually choose the activity that is the most fun. In order for your student to choose to practice on their own, piano has to be more fun than playing video games, sports, toys, or hanging out with friends. Your goal as a teacher is to create a technically challenging and mentally engaging selection of repertoire customized for each student.
Need some ideas for making practice fun? Check out these tips for motivating your students for some inspiration.
"I didn't have the time."
Skipping piano for this reason typically means that the student doesn't have an established routine that incorporates the piano. Talk with the parent to make sure that your student has sufficient time in his schedule to play 4-5 days per week. It's vital that the parents be on board with their child's musical education, as most students will need reminders from their parents.
If the parents are unwilling to incorporate a consistent practice time slot into their child's schedule, then the child shouldn't be taking piano. Making progress playing any musical instrument is inextricably tied to how much practice the child can do at home.
Also, make sure that your student is excited about his homework. If he has time to hang out with friends or play video games, then he has time to practice! If he wants to play the songs and exercises you assign, then he will make time to sit down at the piano.
"I was sick or out of town."
It is rare for a child to be sick for a solid week, and if they are, then that is an exception. A mild cold shouldn't stop your student from practicing.
Every teacher knows that a day trip out of town doesn't mean that your student wasn't able to practice for the other 6 days in the week.
If your student keeps saying this excuse week after week, talk to the parent to see how the child was feeling and how long they were away from home. Almost every time, the child was feeling well enough to play and had enough time to practice, so don't let your student fool you with this excuse!
"I lost my music books."
This sounds like your student was desperate for an excuse! Make sure you have copies of the music you assign your students so you can give them a duplicate if they do lose it during the week. Backup music is also a wonderful secret weapon to use when students conveniently show up at lessons without their music.
"No one reminded me to practice."
Your student has probably already exhausted their use of "I didn't have time" and has moved on to this excuse. Again, make sure that you have the full support of your parents to hold your student accountable at home. Remind the parents that you can't daily remind the student to practice; that's the parents' job.
There is some truth to this excuse, however. It's important that there is enough time in the child's schedule to allow for proper practice. The student also needs encouragement and support from his parents and siblings to stick with the challenging process of learning piano. Do your part by helping your student develop enthusiasm, patience, and perseverance with piano and encourage your piano parents to do the same at home.
"I don't like these songs."
Students of any age will naturally shy away from pieces and exercises that are too difficult, don't sound good to him, or are boring to learn. Your job as the teacher is to build a customized set of repertoire pieces and technical exercises to challenge your student while making them excited about practicing and learning music. Your students will be much more motivated to learn classical music or challenging songs if the pieces sound cool or if your students have an opportunity to learn the style of music they prefer.
If you know that your student is discouraged with a particular piece, make sure to encourage them. Let your student watch a video of a professional pianist performing the piece, or give him some historical information about the song to pique his interest. Keep things fresh and exciting!
If all else fails, change the repertoire. It's not worth killing your student's love of music by forcing them to practice a song they hate. As my teacher likes to say, "Life is too short to learn songs you don't like!"
Have you encountered any excuses from your piano students? How do you help them overcome these difficulties? Let me know your tips in the comments!
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