Have you taught a student like this before?: Breeze Ahead Brittany sails through the first 25 pages of her primer level book. She begs for more songs each week… “I can do five! Puhleeeze can I do five?!” She gobbles up every piece you hand to her with exuberant enthusiasm. She’s somewhat receptive to polishing, adding dynamics and the like.. but mostly she’s interested in reaching that coveted “last page” in her book.
Breeze Ahead Brittany and the Piano Student Wall
Breeze Ahead Brittany is an easy student. She’s self-motivated and she learns quickly. But Breeze Ahead Brittanys often quickly hit the “Piano Student Wall”; the moment where things become hard for her. And when she hits that wall her motivation crashes as her playing suffers and that sense of instant gratification and fast progress disappears.
The Piano Student Wall appears when a piano students’ playing abilities don’t match her knowledge level and experience. She’s learned to “play the game” in her method book – she understands patterns and she’s got the skips and steps thing down pat. This carries her through nicely until all of a sudden… bammo!
When you encounter a Breeze Ahead Brittany, take note of the following strategies to help her to sail over that wall like superwoman.
How to Teach Your Piano Kids to Avoid the Dreaded Wall
1. Make use of method book pairings – Keep Breeze Ahead Brittany motivated but yet somewhat stalled by making use of supplementary repertoire right from the get-go. Use an accompanying book of the same level to satisfy her need for more music and your need for appropriate time spent solidifying concepts. This way, instead of just 2-3 pieces spent on one concept she instead gets 4-6.
2. Introduce “Super Simple” from the beginning – Instead of playing catch-up once Breeze Ahead Brittany hits the wall and scrambling to hand over easier material that is sure to bruise her ego, introduce the concept of always playing super simple material from the very beginning. This is a good habit to get into anyway as it prepares your piano student for eventually having scales, triads etc. to practice along with her pieces. It also paves the way for regular sight reading habits. Grab a book like “Dozen a Day” and use it to ensure her knowledge keeps up with her piece-gobbling.
3. Use her pieces to teach in-context theory – Breeze Ahead Brittanys really benefit from lots of in-context theory instruction done directly on the page of her music or using her music to complete theory activities. Doing so gives you the opportunity to truly solidify and check-in on what she needs to know before moving on, instead of relying only on how she plays each piece.
4. Resist the urge to “fly at ‘er” – no matter how rewarding it is to watch a piano student fly through the pages of their method book with the pace of a Greyhound… resist the urge to continue or perpetuate this rapid pace. There’s a fine balance to be found between maintaining that lovely spark of excitement vs. missing out on needed teaching opportunities. Breeze Ahead Brittany may be able to instantly recognize how a concept works in its most pared-down format, but as soon as other aspects are added (hands together, accidentals, longer pieces etc.) the holes in her understanding become glaringly apparent.
Maybe Not Brittany… But Similar
The Piano Student Wall also affects students who are not Breeze Ahead Brittanys, but who may have erratic practice habits (every day for two weeks and the nothing for three weeks). In actuality, the 4 tips above are good reminders for any piano student who has the potential to swerve and hit that Piano Student Wall. With a little guidance and a soft foot on the brakes we can steer them safely around and on to the open road.