Teaching piano is a real balancing act. We all want our students to be successful, and yet, at the same time, we don’t want them to think that the piano is a walk in the park. In fact, if I find a piano student is continually telling me that her pieces are “easy”, I start to get tense. I get tense because when I hear this, I immediately assume (often correctly) that my student is developing the mindset that she is a “natural”.
It is because of my fear of “the natural” that I avoid praising a piano students results and instead focus on praising effort.
I don’t want my piano students to think that they are naturals… because it gives the impression that people are either piano players or are not piano players… and that innate ability is more important than hard work and dedication.
I want my piano students to realize that the success they have on the piano is the result of their hard work and dedication, not an innate natural ability.
Because what happens to the naturals…
At some point in the future, the “naturals” will come up against an obstacle. And if they have spent years believing that their musical achievements on the piano are the result of an ability bestowed upon them at birth, they won’t have built up strategies for overcoming that obstacle…
After all, who needs strategies when you are a natural?!
Which Is Why Repertoire Selection Is So Important
To avoid “the natural” mindset, piano teachers must put a great deal of thought and effort into repertoire section. Piano students must always be appropriately challenged.
Give them something too easy and they become “the natural”. Give them something too hard and they become “the un.. natural”.
Give them something “just right” and you have piano students who will learn that their musical achievements are the result of hard work, dedication, and perseverance.
Should Piano Teachers Avoid “Too Easy” Repertoire?
So, does this mean piano students shouldn’t play music below their abilities. Of course not! Playing “easy” music for the pure enjoyment of playing has many benefits for piano students, but it is in the way that “easy” repertoire is presented that makes all of the difference.
Before beginning an “easy” piano piece, students should know that the reason the piece will be “easy” is because of the work and effort they produced in the past. Examine the “easy” piece with your piano students and have discussion about aspects of the piece that they at one time found very challenging. And then discuss what they did to overcome those challenges and why those tricky bits are now easy.
A Video Your Piano Parents Need To Watch
The inspiration for this post came across a TedTalk I watched recently on the idea of “grit” as it relates to education and learning. It is a fascinating video that all piano parents need to watch and certainly reinforces the value of sticking with piano lessons.