I have a teen piano student who is literally flying through everything I give her. She started off in September a bit nonchalant… okay a LOT nonchalant. I could hardly get anything from her both in terms of conversation and in terms of progress. She’d play anything I gave her… but without enthusiasm. She’d practice, but not really make any great gains. She’d answer my questions but with one or two words. We just didn’t connect.
As I’ve mentioned before – I hate silence and so I’d fill our time with my merry chatter (probably annoying her to no end). I’d give her reams of material trying to find something that would click with her and ignite some sort of response. But this past month it’s as though she suddenly woke up. She’s practicing like mad, she’s laughing… giggling even! I’m no longer dreading our lessons – I look forward to them. And it’s all because I started asking the right questions.
Asking the Right Questions
The “right questions” are the ones I’ve discovered below:
1. What did you work on the most this week? I used to ask for a specific piece to hear first, but have quickly realized that asking for the piece she worked on the most sets a great tone for the lesson. Why? She gets to show me what she put the most effort into, rather than having to feel guilty about what she may not have focused on.
2. What is your favorite part of this piece? This question has given me the most insight into repertoire choices for her. I was (incorrectly) assuming she loved soft and beautiful pieces when in fact, her favorite parts of her music were fast and boisterous. She would never come out and say “I don’t want to play this kind of music” and so this question set us on the right track in terms of her repertoire.
3. What part are you going to work on this week? What used to be me directing her practice goals has now become her taking initiative and being invested in her own learning process. The parts that I’d like her to work on may or may not be the same parts that she herself wants to focus on. I’ve learned a lot about how this particular student “ticks” – what she considers to be her weaknesses, what she wants in terms of goals, what she recognizes as needing polishing. It’s helped me to then change my approach to suit her, and it’s resulted in greater progress.
With the Right Questions You’re Off To the Races
With the knowledge I gained from asking the right questions my student has completely transformed into a participating piano student. As we laughed our heads off playing through “Schooch” (a duet from March’s PianoBookClub book) she blew me away when she turned to me and said “This is the best part of my week!.” and then quickly followed it up “I really need to work on this section so I can keep up to tempo.” Mission accomplished!