It's the statement parents and teachers often dread: "but I don't WANNA do it!" What happens when I've arrived for the lesson and that's the first thing we hear?
Consider the "Why"
As noted in my previous post people most often want someone to listen to them. Often my first question will be, "Why not?" Maybe the student had a terrible day, they had a disagreement with a friend, they're hungry, they're tired...or they didn't practice much and are embarrassed to play. Asking first, instead of demanding they sit down and play, opens up the space to show the student I respect their feelings. Think about how many times you've gotten up and thought, "Man, I don't want to go to work today" or "I don't want to do that project today." It happens to all of us, for a variety of reasons, and being mindful of why we aren't feeling in the zone is an important step toward figuring out how to get back in it!
Music is a very physical and emotional experience, and the last thing we want is for a student to associate music lessons with tears or frustration! If they're truly not feeling up to it, it'll show in how they listen (or choose not to) and play (often by banging the keys or hitting the instrument if they're young, or by playing very softly and begrudgingly if they're older). Students will also have a tough time absorbing new concepts if they're not engaged in the lesson.
Encouragement to Play
My next step is usually to encourage the student to play. I'll generally start by playing whatever selection they worked on for homework to see if they get excited and want to play themselves. Sometimes this is all it takes to get them back in the groove. If my playing doesn't help, I ask if they have anything else they'd rather play than the homework - this can be a favorite piece they love returning to and that can be a mood changer. I keep any corrections minimal at this point and instead focus on how they feel now that they're actually playing.
Alternatives to Playing Music
Depending on the student's age, I have a few alternatives to actually playing:
- Student/Teacher - for this, instead of asking the student to play, I play their selections and ask them to correct me. This reinforces any concepts we've worked on and ensures they understand the material, even if they're not the ones playing.
- Musical Games & Flashcards - I have a variety of short games we can play to review musical concepts, ideas, and techniques. There's so much more to music than simply learning to play notes, and games are a valuable tool for a holistic musical experience.
- Coloring Books/Workbooks - I try to keep at least a few music-related coloring pages with me. Some lesson books for young beginners come with accompanying workbooks/coloring books, which is incredibly helpful on the days when the hands don't want to play! When we color or look at a musical puzzle, we talk about parts of the instrument, parts of music, and anything we see. This visual reinforcement may not seem frivolous to some, but again, music is a holistic experience, and the more ways students encounter musical ideas, the better their brain remembers and understands them.
Patience is Key
Remember that learning music is a marathon, not a sprint. Not every single lesson will result in learning a beautiful new piece of music! Sometimes it's tough just to make it through the day and review something we've already learned, but don't feel like recalling that day. That's okay! My goal is well-rounded students, and I believe in supporting the whole student, so if you're interested in playing music with me, please contact me. I look forward to joining you on your musical journey!