Getting piano students to practise
Get a group of piano teachers talking about what they struggle with, and students NOT practising is very likely to be a hot topic.
- Erratic practise
- Students ‘playing’ through pieces rather than ‘practising’ them, ignoring instructions in the homework book.
- Practising making mistakes. Instead of using practise techniques to avoid them, to practise NOT making them.
Like every teacher, I’m constantly looking for remedies to lack of practise, and to poor practise, because what works with one batch of students might not work with another.
My first experiments with recording in piano class
I turned to the recorder on my cellphone in a desperate attempt to motivate a batch of students to practise – when all other methods failed. Audio or video recordings of any student who’d made great progress, emailed to my students & parents. And was surprised and quite thrilled with the results and the way it motivated my students!
A remedy for the hearing gap
Piano students want progress, and are often unable to understand the quality of work that is required to achieve this. A review of my lessons this year made me realise that students just don’t hear what their teacher hears. This hearing gap is one of the reasons why students get upset with the critical evaluation that’s a part of every piano class.
This November 2017, I decided to put my cellphone recorder and a pile of unused file dividers (assessment cards) to use, to remedy this problem :
- I recorded my student playing at piano class, and both of us (student and I) listened to the recording immediately.
- We then discussed how the student would assess his/her playing and what the assessment criteria I’d set meant.
- We listened again, and my student and I both did separate assessments.
- If my grading/comments differed with my student’s, I’d explain my reasons and the student was free to agree, or disagree if unconvinced, marking as he/she felt fit.
It was an eye opener : I was expecting to have to talk about work that my students marked higher than I did. What surprised me was that they did not register some really excellent progress. I had to explain and get them to listen again, to help them understand how well they’d done!
I started experimenting with recording my piano students after reading a post from the blog of Frances Wilson’s Piano Studio – The benefits of recording your piano lessons class.
Recording plus a Guided Student Self-Assessment in piano class is improving the quality of my students practise and making a very positive difference to the way they respond to feedback. It’s also changing the way I interact with my students and taking away a potential source of student-teacher conflict. So much, that now it’s a regular part of my piano lessons.