Did Beethoven Have a 4:00 piano spot? – Why Timing Might Be Everything

If you’ve read Malcom Gladwell’s book, “The Outliers” you’ll know that a disproportionate number of professional hockey players are born in January, February, or March. And here’s the quick explanation:

If you’re a young hockey player born in January, you are more physically mature than your buddies (who could be born as late as December). Because of this, you get picked to play on “rep” (more competitive) teams. Rep teams receive better coaching and more ice team. Therefore, the talent gap between January-born players and others increases even more. Before you know it, everyone in the NHL is born in January :) 

This seems to support the notion that success requires a lot of skill and a little luck… in this case  “luck” being your birth date.

Does An Early Birth Date Affect Piano Success?

No. Birth date does not affect success on the piano, but is it possible that lesson timing could be the “little bit of luck” that separates Beethoven from Burger Flipper?

Whether we choose to admit it or not, every piano teacher has a teaching sweet spot; that time of the day when everything just clicks! It stands to reason that the student who has “lucked” upon this timeslot, may receive a lesson of higher quality; hereby propelling her to stardom!

Do You Think I’ve Missed The Mark? 

So what are your thoughts? Am I wrong? Obviously “propelling piano students to stardom” is a bit of an exaggeration but is there something to my theory or am I full of it? Do you have a piano teaching sweet spot? Are you a strong starter with heaps of enthusiasm early in the day, or do you need time to kick it into gear? Let us know in the comments below.

8 Responses to Did Beethoven Have a 4:00 piano spot? – Why Timing Might Be Everything

  1. says

    I definitely have more energy earlier in the day… And any student after about 5.30 pm doesn’t get me at my best! But for this very reason I try not to schedule evening students…

  2. says

    I do think that the success of lessons has a lot to do with the timing of lessons. However, I think the “sweet spot” is more dependent on factors other than a certain time of day that the teacher is more energetic or motivated, etc. For example, the most successful lessons will be scheduled earlier in the day for very young learners and at a time when they are wide awake. Lessons scheduled right before or after naps usually don’t go well. Then there is the hunger factor – hungry students and piano lessons just don’t mix well. Lastly and maybe more importantly when it comes to the “teaching sweet spot”, I find that has a lot to do with the student personality mix. If a teacher has 3 very active students back to back then by the time the 4th student arrives the teacher may be drained. The great thing about piano teachers is that we tend to have the wonderful gift of being able to adapt to a variety of situations. Thank goodness!

  3. says

    The variety of the teaching day/week is one of the things I enjoy about teaching. Sweet spot for me has more to do with my energy resulting from which students I have, so I schedule my students with not too many stressful ones in a row. Half-hour lessons are stressful, so I allow them only added to a 45-min sibling, and some students take more energy. I like older students in the evening because they actually ‘play’ music and I can enjoy the lesson.

  4. Sue says

    Yes there is a sweet spot! But it is the time that works best for the student. Some students work best in the mornings, some best later in the day. Some families drop their student for a lesson in a rush. The student has been told to “hurry up and eat. Hurry up and ____.” That does not set a student up for a productive lesson so it’s best to have a time that works for the student and the student’s family. When I have a student at their best time, I do my best too!

  5. says

    I think there are several different answers to this.

    First, I do think there are certain days/times that I teach better. I’ve omitted Friday lessons altogether, because I have found that I simply don’t want to teach on Fridays. (And the cancellation rate on Fridays is insane, anyway.) And I teach better in the mornings and after school until about 7:30. My worst teaching time is my mid-afternoon…after lunch until about 3:00. I just want a nap then.

    However, it’s also important to note that every student has an optimum learning time. And no matter how focused or exhausted I am, that student will always learn better at that time. I have a young student who begs for my very first morning slot….8:30am. I have a 6th grade autistic student who, until this fall, could only handle having his lesson on Saturday morning around 10am….late enough to sleep in a little, but not after school when he was already wiped out from school. (I never liked getting up to teach on Saturday at all. But I did this for an entire year, because it was in the student’s best interest.) I have others who do best if they come straight from school, and others who prefer to come later on after all homework, playtime, and dinner is finished.

    So, each year, I try to plan a schedule that not only meets my own preferences, but also meets the needs of my students. I still teach students during that afternoon time, when I’d prefer to be napping, because that is what works best for my adult students and some of the homeschoolers. But I only do it on two days/week. I’d prefer not to teach on Wednesday evening when my kids are all gone at youth group functions and I have an opportunity for alone time with my husband. But I do, anyway, rather than put those extra students in time slots that will be pushing their bedtime.

    The schedule is an important thing to evaluate and re-evaluate every year. And you’ve got to constantly be open to allowing it to change a bit from year to year.

  6. Mary says

    I think it depends on the student rather than me. If I have a student who is overinvolved with many outside activities after school, I find it difficult to overcome their almost constant yawning during the lesson time let alone see a lot of progress due to lack of time to practice at home. I do get energized when a student has spent the time in practice and it shows at the lesson-not matter what time of day whether morning, afternoon, or even evenings after 8 pm.

    • says

      I agree with Mary. When it comes to enthusiasm, I really find it to be a 2-way process. We can be the most enthusiastic of teachers but if the student is simply not interested, it can be quite deflating. But if the students is enthusiastic also, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is and time flies!

  7. Jackie says

    One of my most “successful” students has never kept the same day/timeslot from year to year. First she was Thursday, now she’s Tuesday. 4pm became 6pm became 5:30pm. Another “successful” student of mine has had the same experience. Saturdays, then Mondays, then Wednesdays. 9am then 1pm then 5:30pm. In both instances, Mom plays decently well and understands the demands and results driven from good practice. Why they are practicing on ready for the dump hand me down pianos is another discussion altogether. I’ll have to observe more consciously if I have a sweet spot timeslot or is it actually a sweet spot in my heart for my students that creates the atmosphere for stellar lessons. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

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