One would think that teaching piano to a student who is a perfectionist would be a dream: “A student who insists on doing everything perfectly? Excellent!” The problem is… their fear of making mistakes actually cripples them to the point of where their playing suffers. Not only this, but they are reluctant to take on a challenge – fearful of venturing beyond their comfort zone. You know the “Perfectionist Petes” in your studio… here’s how to help them break free.
Welcome To The “Mistake Zone”
Intervention is needed when dealing with a Perfectionist Pete. Great things happen when your piano student feels free to experiment; to push themselves beyond their comfort zone and try new things and take on new challenges. They need to know that the earth doesn’t swallow them whole when they make a mistake. So… practice making mistakes. Give them the chance to feel what it feels like to “fail” in an environment where mistakes are not simply tolerated…but celebrated! Some of our best learning comes from the moments where the unexpected happens. Try the following:
1. Take away the music – play a game where you will “steal” their sheet music at random intervals while they play (and then put it back after several bars). They have to continue playing no matter what.
2. Take away the sharps and flats – have them play through their piece ignoring the key signature and all of the accidentals. Delight in the horrible sounds! Give the piece a new name to match its new sound.
3. Have him teach you – trade roles and have him become the piano teacher while you are the student. What kind of piano student are you? Do you listen well? Do you pay attention to your music? Do you play perfectly? I hope not!! How do they deal with a student like you? It’s liberating to be on the other side (for both of you!)
4. Compose! – Perfectionist Pete takes great delight in being in control. Give him many opportunities to be in the driver’s seat by creating his own music. Don’t know how to teach this? Check this out!
5. High-Five the wrong notes – My Perfectionist Pete would to say “oops” after every single wrong note. It used to drive me nuts. Until we changed the “oops” into a high-five. It’s hard to be hard on yourself when you’re high-fiving your piano teacher. And when you’re not being hard on yourself a lot of the mistakes go away.
Perfectionist Pete’s Mom Will Thank You!
Aside from helping Perfectionist Pete loosen his iron grip on his piano skills, you’ll also be helping him cope with other uncontrollable aspects of his life… you can bet he isn’t this way with just the piano. Allowing him to experience the thrill of throwing caution to the wind is something he will never forget. Add your own fun ways of making your Perfectionist Pete’s mistakes “okay”... and watch those mistakes magically disappear.
Want to help Perfectionist Pete break out of his shell?… Our resource “Shhh…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Practice” is the perfect way to bring the fun back into learning to play the piano. Our wildly imaginative practice exercises will have your Perfectionist Pete having a ball on the piano bench while reinforcing good practice habits. Check it out here!