Can you believe we’ve nearly made it to October? For many of us, we’ve just about reached the midpoint of our semester.

And maybe, just maybe, some of those students who were so on fire at the start of the term have started to lose a bit of motivation?

That glorious “new” factor has worn off, causing piano to slip into the same old, regular stuff category. And also, your students’ other activities are likely in full swing, leaving them overstretched in the first place.

ALL of the holidays are coming up, and they are coming up fast! We need to help our students gain some momentum back before the holiday break!

How do we ignite a spark during a piano slump?

I truly believe that it’s our job to continually search for pieces that our students will love and be motivated by. And I believe that it’s possible to send them home every single week with a piece they are absolutely excited to learn!

Otherwise, they are really not going to put in much effort. For some students, this will mean all of the wonderful, classical music of our dreams! But for others, why not explore a more contemporary sound, different genres, or help them learn one of their current favorite pop songs using a lead sheet. This is definitely the most important tool for solving a slump. Find the right piece, and watch them get excited…seriously, it works!

Another fun idea to build up some motivation would be to introduce an exciting monthly theme or a different weekly theme for a month. For example, an easy one would be Halloween for October. You could use only Halloween themed activities and music. It’s novel, it’s not what they’re used to doing in lessons. New is good. New is renewing!

Here is a link to some Halloween themed fun.

You don’t have to go with the obvious, either. Instead of Halloween, you could do sea creatures, outer space, pirates, colors, famous composers…It will most likely be just as fun for you to have a change as it will be for your students. And, if you do a Pirate themed month, please please please come to lessons with an eye patch on!

Maybe you’d rather have a new theme every week for a month… really keep them guessing! You could use the kinds of themes previously mentioned, or you could use different piano skills. For example, one week could be improv week, one week could be theory game week, one week could be composition week…you get the idea.

Set aside the first 10 or 15 minutes of each lesson to devote to the new activity.

Your students will be thrilled to come in each week and find out what you’ve got planned!

For more inspiration on themes, check out a calendar of wacky and bizarre holidays. Thank you, Google! I now know that October is National Popcorn Popping Month. Sad to see, though, that I missed National Cream-filled Donut Day, on September 14th. 

Another great motivator would be to plan a performance!

Maybe mid-semester is not when you usually host a recital… even better! We’re mixing it up! And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big, formal deal. It could be more casual, going along with your special monthly theme. Maybe pieces don’t have to be memorized, maybe participants come in costumes! It should be a light-hearted and FUN performance, not one to add more stress to your over-scheduled student.

If everyone is too busy for a weekend recital, why not have back to back students perform for each other one week? Or video your students performing at their lesson (costumes still encouraged) and periodically post these videos on your studio Facebook page.

One more motivator (and the one I use most sparingly) would be to introduce a new practice incentive program.

I’m all about intrinsic motivation and teaching students to practice for the love of the music and pride in their work, but a well-timed practice incentive, if not overused, can be a wonderful thing! If you’re not giving out prizes every week for practice already, then a practice incentive program can be very exciting and very effective! Maybe you do it for a month, and maybe it incorporates your special theme.

Practice during Pirate month would be rewarded with gold doubloons that buy prizes at the end of the month. Hang up a chart in the studio so that everyone can see who is in the lead. Explain to your students that this is a limited time thing and really sell it to them! It may be just the push they need to reignite that spark!

I hope these suggestions help to bring some passion and motivation back to your studio!