Is it just me, or do piano teachers receive a whole host of incredible reasons for missed piano practice?
We recently asked for the craziest excuses piano teachers have received on our Facebook page and the answers were hilarious…
“I couldn’t practice this week because I had to make cookies for my sister’s birthday.”
“I couldn’t practice because my mom put the washing machine on top of the piano.” (Yup, seriously).
Over my years of teaching piano… and slaying the dragon that is ‘home practice’… I’ve been able condense those excuses into 5 categories. Sure the excuses get much more inventive than the category titles I’ve given them below (“My dog gets sick when I play the piano” is one excuse I will remember forever!) but by placing each excuse into a broader category, I’ve been able to find effective solutions for each of them.
So now, no matter what my students throw at me, I can look at the big picture and fix it.
If you’re growing tired of missed piano practice… if you wish you didn’t have to supervise practice during lesson time… or if you’d just simply like to make those practice excuses go away, check out the categories below and the solutions for each!
1. “I Didn’t Have Any Time.”
This is the #1 excuse for missed home practice. And while it may seem true for those kids who are enrolled in extracurricular activities every day of the week, there is always time for piano practice.
For the “I didn’t have any time-ers”, the solution that has worked the best for my students has been to practice before breakfast. This often means getting out of bed 30 minutes earlier (or not watching cartoons in the morning). It may take some getting used to in this regard, but having piano practice completed before the craziness of after school play dates, sports, dance class, dinner, homework etc. makes for much more continuity.
Practice is less likely to slip through the cracks if it is completed early, and at a consistent time of day.
Not only does this practice strategy work, but it also helps your students learn how to prioritize tasks that must be completed each day and to find effective solutions for time management. Can anyone say “well adjusted future adults??!”
2. “I Forgot.”
My personal favorite. The piano is quite possibly the largest piece of furniture in their house and yet they forgot it was there! Amazing 😉
“I forgot” actually usually means that there hasn’t been any sort of routine established at home. Days go by, music bags are left in mini-vans for half the week (washing machines are mysteriously placed on top of pianos… apparently…) and then all of a sudden it’s piano lesson day again!… Oops.
While piano teachers don’t have control over home routines, we do have the ability to get those music books out of music bags and up on the piano (often the biggest hurdle in getting home practice started during the week).
How? Students are more likely to “remember” to practice if they have a piece of music they absolutely love, a fun theory game to share with their family members or a motivating performance goal. It takes a bit of work to make sure every student has one of these three things every week, but the results are worth it.
3. “It was too hard.”
A lot of excuses fall into this category… whether or not your students comes right out and says these exact words. Eliminating possible frustration before your students leave their lesson is key, but so is teaching effective strategies they can employ when and if they “get stuck” at home.
No matter how well you think your students know their material in lesson time, you can bet there is going to be some sort of struggle at home. It’s in how students deal with that struggle that makes for real progress.
While teaching, don’t forget to also teach your piano students how to effectively practice. Just as children need to be taught concepts, they also need to be taught learning strategies.
4. “I didn’t feel like it.”
It’s easy to understand the kids who are “too busy” and the kids who get stuck and frustrated… even the students who “forget”. But when kids who are in piano lessons because they want to play the piano, don’t want to… play the piano… it’s odd. The “I didn’t feel like it” kids may not actually come out and say “I didn’t feel like it”, but they’ll definitely demonstrate this attitude in their less-than-stellar progress or less-than-desirable lesson behaviour.
The solution to this excuse is simple: your students need to love what they play. If your piano kids are passionate about the music they are learning, they’re unstoppable… but if they’re apathetic about the music they are learning to make, it’s hard to get them going. Your piano students need fresh repertoire that speaks to them. They need to learn to create their own music. They need to be so inspired by what the piano enables them to produce that they can’t wait to sit down and play.
5. “It wasn’t my fault”
The “it wasn’t my fault” kids place the “lack-of-practice” blame on others… Mom forgot to remind me… my sister was sick… my brother stole my piano books… you name it, we’ve all heard it. And part of their excuse is valid; for young children to learn the piano effectively they do need parental support at home. They need reminders, they need help, they need encouragement.
The trifecta of awesome that is the student-teacher-parent connection is interrupted when one part of the triangle bows out. Keep the balance (and banish these excuses) by setting up clear expectations and helpful assistance to enable parents to be a part of the practice solution.
Need to help your piano parents become more involved? Send home this hand-out to lay out expectations for involvement and then give them this “Not-So-Musical Parent Cheat Sheet” as a great way to get started.
Piano Practice… With No Excuses
Piano teacher heaven is piano practice that just happens… with no excuses and no bribing; piano practice that happens because routines are established, effective strategies are learned, great music is provided and parents are on board. And when you put it that simply it certainly seems attainable, doesn’t it?
When we set out to create our home practice resource we wanted to produce something that hit those four needs… establishing routines, teaching effective strategies, involving family and making it enjoyable. Hundreds of teachers have raved about our practice activities… want to rave too? Learn more here.