Transitioning a Student from “I Don’t Like Piano.” to “I Love Piano!”

Parents who value music in their student’s lives are a tremendous boon to our profession.

From an educational standpoint, you can’t beat music. Math and reading comprehension and they get to make pretty music?

Sign my kid up!

Parents who understand the value of learning music are our allies, our job security.

They know what will best help their little ones grow into responsible adults and will do everything in their power to make sure their precious ones are given every chance to be successful.

They feed their kids vegetables, not because the kids like them, but because it’s good for them, good for their growth.

If music lessons are carrots for kids, how do we turn them into carrot cake?

Start each lesson with a smile.

You know they probably don’t want to be there, so make them feel like you are their favorite.

This is sometimes easier said than done: particularly with the surly teenager set, but sometimes it’s a “fake it until you make it” situation.

I find that with classes/students that are a particular struggle, as I end their time with me with a positive statement, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Not only do I begin to see them that way, they begin to act that way.

Take a moment to get to know your student and make them feel like they are valuable to you.

Help the student make connections.

Take an interest in their other activities. And find music that complements it. When the student starts making connections, they begin to appreciate what they’re learning.

I once suggested a student use a mirror to practice. She was confused, so I asked her why she dances in front of a mirror at ballet practice.

She was much better able to understand the importance of muscle memory and doing the movements correctly and with a discerning eye and ear.

Turn the music into a story and have them tell the story. The student begins to seek stories themselves and really get excited learning a particular song.

Pieces and even etudes are a lot more exciting to practice when you have a story in your head instead of just looking at the black dots and lines!

Give sincere praise.

Showcase to your student and what they are doing well in their lessons. If they pick up a difficult passage quickly that most take much longer to accomplish, brag on them.

A student may not realize that she actually has an innate music gift. Leave participation ribbons out of it. Reward deserving improvements.

When they accomplish something major, bring the parent in to show them something they played well. Or if you teach in a location with many studios, call in another teacher to hear it to reinforce your praise.

Be sparing and cautious, though. It’s very tempting to tell a growing musician that they sound wonderful, but if they don’t, they likely know it, and your praise is no longer valid.

You can tell a student that you loved their energy without making it seem like everything they do is perfect.

Have them choose a song to learn by rote.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the technique, we lose the fun.

I like to ask my students (particularly those that don’t practice) what they would like to learn to play. Then, I allow them to watch me figure out the easiest way to teach it to them using the most basic notes, and then I teach it to them piecemeal.

There’s something about being able to sing the Disney song Let It Go while you’re playing it that really helps a kid enjoy lessons a little more.

Don’t even get me started on Star Wars!

Have a studio social.

If you allow students to socialize, they will play for you.

The reality is that most students do not stick with learning to play an instrument because of the music, the teacher or even because their parents make them.

They continue to play because they experience a camaraderie with other learners.

They like to be part of something, to be a part of a group. Let them see that they are not alone.

Now, this becomes a bit more challenging with private music students, but you can help foster this sense of camaraderie by hosting group lessons on occasion, or other group music events.

It will take a little extra effort to schedule these types of events, but I promise it’s well worth it!

When parents and students mingle, you’ve forged a bond and facilitated a love for learning.


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