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 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 which 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?
- What do they think it will take to get there?
If there’s 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 (and demonstrate!) 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.
Include practice expectations in that map, but be careful not to dash their dreams – help them discover how just a little technique work will make a big difference in opening up their repertoire world.
By making piano technique more concrete and tangible, your teen transfer student 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 which encourages them to listen more attentively to their own and others’ playing, should be enough to get them onto the technique bus. And once they’re on the bus, you can get to work.
For more help working with teens, check out my centralised hub page all about Planning Piano Lessons.
Work on technique in short bursts
Whether your technique-challenged transfer student is the self-motivated kind or the stubborn kind, 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, teaching technique to teens is best tackled 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 just a few minutes of technique work in each lesson.
You’ll get more results by keeping it balanced 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 technique your biggest challenge, or is there another bad habit you see in students who transfer to your studio? Tell me your teen transfer woes in the comments below or in our Vibrant Music Studio Teachers group on Facebook.