#7 What I’ve Learned from Teaching Music: Understanding Your Students Feelings

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It is not enough to be an expert on your chosen instrument, you must learn how to come down to the level of a complete beginner and understand how they feel about you.

There is nothing more intimidating than musicians, to the beginner it looks like you have been blessed from a heavenly source, what they don’t see or can even comprehend at this point in time, is how much hard work and practice hours it has taken you to get to this stage in your career. Just this week an adult student coming for keyboard lessons for about two years, always took an age before she even started play a note, eventually I had to say to her what’s the matter with you? Why does it take you so long to start. Your now at grade 2 and doing really well, with some little timing issues to work on. Her answer was this; You are just so good, I get very nervous and confused when I try to play anything! I felt like a complete heel how did I manage to miss this, with all my years of experience in teaching music? Despite all the compliments I gave her about her playing it made absolutely no difference to how she was feeling, and I probably should have asked her sooner why it was taking her so long to begin playing, I misjudged her feelings completely.

Humility should never be underestimated and is important when students are starting to reach the higher grades in music, when it gets to grade 6,7 and 8 I can read the music and have a go at all the pieces to the scales, and I can tell the student what they need  to do but I have to admit that I would have to practice the pieces just the same as they do, but it’s not me taking the exam it’s them. This works every time, the student starts to realise that it is all down to how much practice you do, although I’ve been telling them this for years, that little touch of humility has brought me down to their level, sure there must be a gift there or a leaning towards your artistic side etc., but essentially it is all about how much you put into it yourself, or apply yourself to the this task of playing music.

There is always a moment in time when the student starts to understand what is happening because suddenly I don’t’ need to tell them to practice because now they are starting to enjoy the practice and they can’t wait to get to the instrument. One student has been coming for 8 years and is now at grade 7 and can play everything months before the exam, I simply asked him. Are you starting to enjoy your practice? And of course it was yes. This can happen at anytime for the student but believe me you will always recognize when it does.

This blog is an introduction on how to educate your students and in the next blog I will help you to create a structure for beginners, because this is the most important stage.

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