At the start of every piano lesson I carefully observe my piano students as they begin their warm-ups. I feel much like Jane Goodall studying chimpanzees; engaging with her subjects all the while making copious mental notes about their behavior, emotions and attitudes.
(Just to be clear, I am not comparing my students to chimpanzees but rather my observation style to that of Jane Goodall… although… there are certain days when some kids act like a bunch of monkeys!)
Warm-ups, of course, are an incredible tool for building finger strength and muscle coordination, note-reading skills and sight reading abilities. But they are also a window into your students’ minds… and because the warm-ups are performed at the beginning of a piano lesson, they can also be predictive of how the lesson will unfold.
5 things I Look for During Piano Lesson Warm-Ups:
1. Their general attitude
Kids deal with a lot during their busy lives, so it’s no surprise that your student can seem like a completely different person from week-to-week. During these first 5 minutes of a piano lesson, I’m looking to see if my student is more easily frustrated than usual, or more easily distracted than usual. I’m also looking to see if he seems sad or bothered.
2. Their energy level
In a perfect world, piano lessons would take place after breakfast and before lunch… not following a long day of school. Unfortunately, it is what it is, so during the first 5 minutes of a lesson, I’m always observing my piano student’s energy level. If she seems sloth-like then I know it’s time to call on some off-the-bench activities.
3. Their posture
Sometimes I am guilty of not paying enough attention to the posture of my students. By adding this to my start-of-lesson checklist, my students are now always perfectly positioned to play the piano.
4. Their anxiety
I’m pretty friendly and easy-going, but I still occasionally have a particularly sensitive student who still gets anxious during a piano lesson. By observing the technical warm-ups I can tell if a piano student is anxious, allowing me to tend to that during the lesson.
5. Their dedication to practice
And finally… by observing the first five minutes of a piano lesson it becomes very apparent if a student has even touched the piano during the last week and if it is worth wasting precious lesson minutes listening to any “run-throughs” of an unpracticed piece.
While it’s easy to keep these five things in the back of your mind as you observe technical warm-ups at the start of each and every lesson, I find it particularly useful to create a quick spreadsheet in my binder for these 5 characteristics and give a rating between 1 and 5 for each student every week. This allows me to see long-term trends that may emerge in my piano students’ overall disposition.
The Perfect Tool For Technical Warm-ups
If you want an easy-to-implement resource that reinforces technical skills during the first 5 minutes of each lesson, and also allows you to be able to sit back and take the time to observe the 5 characteristics listed above, then you’ll definitely want to check out TEDDtales.
We promise… you’ve never seen a technical exercise resource like TEDDtales! Our interactive, story-based approach will have your piano students begging (that’s right, we said it!) to do their technical exercises.
Also, I wanted to thank everyone who shared their piano teaching quests last week. While we loved them all, we had to narrow it down to two… so, Kerri (who created a quest based on MineCraft!) and Linda (whose inspired quest will teach students to “do some good”) will be getting their own copy of TEDDtales!