How a little “!” Can Make Piano Miracles Happen and Your Cheeks Hurt

By the 8th student of your teaching day you’re probably feeling a little tired.  It’s the umpteenth time you’ve heard “Sailing in the Sun”… and the the umpteenth time you’ve corrected fingering, reminded about a rest, worked on legato playing… a piano teacher’s day can be a long one.

Piano Enthusiasm Image

But did you know that a very simple adjustment to your piano teaching approach can actually make your day fly by, your piano kids practice and progress more, and your overall mood lighten?
All you need to know is how to teach piano with a whole lot of !

Perfecting Perky

If you’ve ever sat and watched a kids’ entertainer in action you’ll notice how animated they are. Everything is exaggerated, everything is enthusiastic.  We as adults can sometimes find this tiresome (okay we find this tiresome always!) but kids eat this up and these entertainers know it!  As a child, life in general is pretty darn exciting… and if an adult is there and is excited with you… well then that excitement factor ramps up like crazy.

! gets results when working with kids.

! in your Piano Studio

I don’t consider my piano teaching day a success unless my cheek muscles hurt from smiling.  If my face is feeling fine then I probably haven’t been giving it my all.  Crazy?  Perhaps.  Does it work? Yes.  I’m confident I can take any young piano student and have them over the moon with happiness in less than 12 minutes.

Before you begin “perfecting your perkiness” you’ll want to check out this blog post on the importance of well-timed praise as everything below doesn’t work as well if you don’t have your timing down. But after many many many years of making piano kids feel good about themselves, I’ve been able to narrow down the “how” into an exact science…

1. Use the child’s name – recently my 6 year old piano student played through “Beethoven’s Door” in her piano book top to bottom with absolutely no assistance from me and she did it perfectly.  It would been sufficient to simply tell her that it was great… but it makes a greater impact I instead exclaim “Kiara!!”…and follow it with a look of pure astonishment and a moment of amazed silence.  Try it… your piano kids will literally burst with pride.

2.  Immediately list “The Three” – What’s “The Three?” It’s a term I use for the 3 things you can come up with the fastest on which to compliment your piano student.  For example, with Kiara it was “You knew exactly where to start, you held every half note for exactly 2 beats AND you remembered all of the dynamics we talked about!”  If you say this with enough ! then you can be guaranteed that your piano student will always remember to do each of “The Three” every single time they play this particular piano piece.  Change up “The Three” with each piece and you’ll soon have a piano student with a huge dose of perfecto!

3.  Ask your kids to reflect – Following up your initial exclamations, give your student the opportunity to revel in their success.  Ask them “Did you know you could play that well?!”, “Do you remember when holding half notes were hard for you?!”, “Look way back here in your book… you could only playing with your right hand!” etc.  This gives your piano kids the chance for some self-reflection (which quickly equals self-esteem if you’ve given them this opportunity frequently enough).

4.  Be conscious of your inflection and expression – how you deliver statements can make a huge difference.  Adding a bit more ! can really make your piano students’ day.  Consider how we naturally speak to our pets.  I bet you can get your dog’s tail wagging just by changing the tone of your voice (even if you’re saying “Want to go to the vet?”).  Children are the same – the way you say something means as much as the words you say.

While it make take a bit of time to find the perfect amount of !, the payoffs for this effort are huge. Children who feel good about themselves are more confident, more apt to take risks, and are more willing to accept challenges.  And enthusiasm is as contagious as yawning.  If you’re enthusiastic your piano kids will be enthusiastic.  If your student is enthusiastic then you in turn will be enthused.  It’s a wonderful circle effect.  And, it makes time fly and increases your job satisfaction too; humans love to make other humans feel good.

With a studio full of piano kids who feel good about themselves and who associate piano lessons with these feelings of success ,how can you go wrong? You can’t!  So go ahead.. make your cheeks hurt the next time you are teaching :)

9 Responses to How a little “!” Can Make Piano Miracles Happen and Your Cheeks Hurt

    • says

      Hi Lisa – glad you enjoyed the blog. It can be tiring, but I’ve found that when you get used to it enthusiasm can actually be energizing too! They say that singers look younger longer because they use their facial muscles more often… I think the same could be true for happy piano teachers. That… or we’ll have more laugh lines. LOL!

  1. says

    I love this. I agree we absolutely need to stay positive, happy and smiling. I know I’ve put my all into a lesson when kids smile and skip to their parents shouting, “I learned a new song!” Thanks also, for the reminder about the THREE!

  2. Grace says

    excellent. It personalizes things when you use the students name and it is special. I will try that. I remember one time I went through a red light accidently and the policeman looked at me after reading my licence and said Grace you didn’t even try to stop. It had been a yellow turned red. But the point is he made me feel good using my first name. It is very personal. I didn’t get a ticket by the way, just a warning but it kind of made my day being called by my first name.


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