Setting Piano Student Goals to See the Big Picture

Note: This post about setting piano student goals was originally published in June of 2017. It was subsequently updated in October 2019 and again in June 2020.

Learning to play piano is a long journey.

If you think about it, there aren’t many other activities kids do where they’re still considered a “beginner” after 3 years of study. That’s a big commitment for anyone, let alone an 8-year-old.

Setting Piano Student Goals to See the Big Picture facebook 1

Perhaps your student had a specific reason for studying. Maybe her ideas about it were more vague.

But regardless, she’s here now. She’s in your studio – and she needs to feel like she’s making progress.

Setting goals will help her to see where she’s going, in a way she can understand. In a way she can grasp onto.

piano student dreaming of goals

That means she’s more likely to stick it out for the long haul and get to the good stuff, which consequently improves your student retention.

Psst! If your students are right at the beginning of their piano journey, they’ll need to get a practice routine established before diving into goal setting and self-assessment. Click here to read a great post about establishing practice routines.

When to Set Goals

Many teachers do piano student goal setting at the start of each year. This is wonderful as it gets students involved and empowered to choose their own pathway for their music studies.

Recently, however, I’ve been trying something new. My students and I fill out evaluations during the last week of the spring semester, before our summer break.

The idea is to get them thinking about next year – and all the fun stuff they want to achieve – before summer break and all its distractions kicks off.

This is also a chance for personal growth for my students. Thinking carefully about practice habits, practice quality, attitude and concentration is going to be a great way for us to round off another wonderful year at the Colourful Keys Piano Studio.

Year-End Goal Setting

With that in mind, I put together a simple piano self-evaluation form to help them think about what went well for the last year, what they want to achieve next year, and what resolutions they need to make to achieve their goals.

Piano student goal setting sheet

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Vibrant Music Teaching members can access this self-assessment form in the VMT Library.

Not a member yet? Find out more on the membership page.

Mid-Year Goal Setting

While I find the year-end to be the perfect time to set goals, it just makes sense to check in and adjust the trajectory at the halfway point. I like this rhythm of doing a piano student goal-setting exercise every six months or so. It’s the Goldilocks of goal setting: Not too long, not too short.

Any less often, and students will really start to forget what those goals were in the first place. (A year is a lot longer to them than it is to you.)

More often, and it might get in the way of actually achieving progress. (As you’re about to see, the way we do student goal setting in my studio does take time out of my lessons.

This mid-year student goal-setting exercise is a great one to refocus before a new semester, so grab this free midyear goal setting sheet to you use with all the students in your studio.

Student midyear goal setting sheet

Subscribe to the newsletter and get the Mid-Year Goal Setting Sheet.

Enter your details to subscribe to the newsletter for piano teachers with information, tips and offers.


I hate spam as much as you do! I will only send you emails related directly to piano teaching and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Vibrant Music Teaching members can download the mid-year goal-setting form from the VMT library and you’ll be ready to go.

Not a member yet? Find out more on the membership page.

The Goal-Setting Process

Once you’ve decided when to do your goal setting, here’s the way you should do it:

  • Print out one of the free student goal-setting worksheets, or make your own.
  • Introduce the sheet to your students and explain what it’s for.
  • Walk through the worksheet together in a lesson and give them enough time to fill it in as you go.
  • Encourage them to add more at home if they think of something else.
  • Keep the sheet in their folder and revisit it regularly together to see if you’re on track.

That last one is important; there’s not much point doing this if you never look at it again. You need to be checking in on the goals for them to be effective.

Don’t slack on doing this in the lesson, either. I know how tempting it is to send this home, but it really makes such a difference if you’re there to walk them through the process.

Helping Piano Students See the Big Picture

If you’re interested in more about goals and motivation, you might like this video where I talk about helping students see where they’re going with their studies. (Subscribe to the YouTube channel for more videos like this.)

Do your students set their own goals?

When do you do your goal setting? Have you tried moving it around? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers community on Facebook. And if you need more help developing good practice habits in your students, I have an entire page devoted to teaching piano practice.

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