Reader Question: What habits do you want to establish with your students?

We discussed habits in our faculty meeting, and Rebecca Pennington brought up a phrase commonly heard in parenting circles:  “Start as you mean to go.”  For example, if you want your 14-month old not to throw his food on the floor, don’t ignore this habit and hope it will get better later.   Some habits we would like our students to develop, not in any particular order:

1)     Steady Pulse:  Establish a steady pulse from the very first lesson with movement and listening activities.

2)     Sitting Position:  Help students to make the connection between the seated position and the sound.  Proper height and distance are crucial!

3)     Technique:  Some desired qualities:  Good posture, naturally rounded hand position, free arms, notion of arm weight.  Tracy Grandy likes to use imagery as a tool:  “Let me see your ballerina fingers.”

4)     Practice Habits

  • From the very start, use some practice steps which will aid in achieving an accurate first performance and cause the student to study the music before playing.
  • Develop the habit of practicing with a slow, careful practice tempo.
  • Show the student the value of meaningful repetition.
  • Involve the family of the student in establishing a regular practice routine.  If the parents are working in cooperation with the teacher, good results are much more likely.

5)     Ownership/High Standards/Self awareness: This is possibly the most difficult habit of all.  Our desire is for students to self-evaluate both in the lesson and in home practice. When a student draws a bracket for special practice, without any advice from the teacher, and decides to practice this part first every day, the student is on the road to independence.  When the student is dissatisfied with some aspect of the sound, without teacher input, the student is really listening and will progress much more quickly.  If the student becomes his own “teacher,” it is like having 7 piano lessons a week, instead of one.

What have we left out?  Join the discussion.

4 thoughts on “Reader Question: What habits do you want to establish with your students?

  1. My number 1 goal is for students to experience the beauty of sound in making music as a means of self expression. My job is to help them develop the tools necessary to do that. If they don’t connect with music, all else is for naught.

  2. Well said, Arlene, and too often overlooked! Being able to do this requires a great many habits to build this skill. Focused Listening, flexible technic, texture awareness, accounting for and accommodating the range of notes played together, automatic recognition of consonances and dissonances on the page and knowing how best to make use of them, a steady non-stop pulse, accurate pitch recognition, articulation and how best to use it. This just starts the list, but I have an early appointment tomorrow morning!

  3. I think there are “lesson habits” or apsect of the lesson that are reoccurring, allowing the lesson to run smoothly and efficiently. This may be some of the comments and patterns that happen within the lesson. Or it could be a lesson routine that happens often. Of course, there is no set program for a “perfect lesson.” However, relying on repeating routines and habit can give the student security in the familiar and also help them understand how to establish a proper practice routine at home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *