Stop me if this sounds familiar.
A new piano student walks in your door. They’ve had a few years of lessons and their parent told you they’re playing some pretty impressive intermediate repertoire. You’re excited to work with such a promising young student.
They sit down on the bench…and the glass shatters. What are they doing with their wrists? Why are they sitting like that? How on earth is that happening with the tips of their fingers?
If you’ve been teaching for any time at all you’ve probably had this student.
The best case scenario, when you get a teen transfer piano student with terrible technique, is that they’re self-aware and motivated to fix the issues. Even then it’s going to be a challenge!
But, the worst of all? When they simply don’t care. They don’t think their way is wrong and don’t see why they should fix it.
Let’s tackle that stubborn teen first.
Get them onto the bus
Teenagers basically run their own lives. If they don’t think something matters, they’re not going to do it.
So, rather than spending agonising lessons going over and over technique exercises that never get practised, you need to have a proper chat with your teen piano student.
- What do they want from piano lessons?
- Is there a piece they would love to play one day?
If there is a dream piece, whether that’s the Moonlight Sonata or Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s a great opportunity to open up a conversation about what it takes to play that piece well.
Likely, their current technique isn’t going to cut it, and you can explain the specific reasons why. You can also lay out a map of the steps they would need to take to get to that dream piece.
By making it more concrete and tangible they should be able to see that you’re not just a nag. There’s a reason you care about this stuff, and it’s ultimately for them.
These types of discussions, combined with training that encourages them to listen more attentively to their own and other’s playing, should be enough to get them onto the technique bus. And once they’re on the bus, you can get to work.
Work on technique in short bursts
But don’t try to enter them straight into full-on technique boot camp. That’s the quickest way to get a teen transfer piano student to jump right back off at the next stop.
In my experience, technique is best tackled with teens in short, manageable chunks.
Let them keep studying the pieces they were learning and enjoying before, open them up to new and exciting things like improvising or playing from lead sheets and introduce a few minutes of technique work. Keep it balanced and you’re more likely to get results.
You’ll get more results with short bursts because they’ll actually be awake during this portion of the lesson. And they might even be motivated to practice technique at home too. 😉
What’s your biggest struggle with teen transfer piano students?
Is it technique or is there another bad habit you see in your studio? Tell me your teen transfer woes in the comments.