Piano Lessons: “My kids don’t practice so what can I do about it?”

bigger frustrated at piano

The latest piano forum quandary surrounds daily practicing. Parents are wringing their hands as teachers impart the latest advice of the week.

Even adult students are plagued by “shoulds” and perfect routes to success, planted in their psyche in early childhood.

They’ll cancel their own lessons if they didn’t get to the piano every day.

Take it one step further,” An EVERY other week student might never show up given such a perfect personal practicing paradigm. (I call it “pppp,” and it corresponds with super duper soft playing–the type that’s very inhibited and boxed in)

On that low note, I have a pupil who shows up if the weather is cooperating, relatives have departed, she’s touched the piano each day, and it’s been recently tuned–all requirements having been met for a positive lesson, on her terms, with a heavy control component.

(She thinks she won’t PLEASE ME, otherwise) It goes with the punitive parent syndrome…”pps”

But Piano lessons SHOULD NOT be orchestrated to be END-oriented in the first place. They SHOULD be PROCESS-centered.

It means a child or adult comes to lessons to learn more about himself, and how to express profound emotions through music.

Keep it SIMPLE and not saddled with baggage that should have left when the last cousin visitor hit the road.

It’s common sense that if students spend the week following a lesson typing out notes mindlessly, even daily, it does not amount to a form of creative self-realization….

Which draws on my own personal musical development: I practiced whenever I was so inclined as child, and my parents, non-musicians, did not put me under strict surveillance. I was not FORCED to practice, or threatened with loss of lessons if I didn’t. Why inject intimidation into music study even with a Cold War backdrop? (Krushchev pounded his shoe at the U.N. and Sputnik launched an insidious space RACE in my day)

Fast forward to the mega sports Millennium:

Kids who might want to practice now and then, are IMPEDED by an impossible after-school athletic itinerary.

If they manage to sit down in between activities, it’s going to be a quickee race to the finish line..

One parent placed an egg-timer on the spinet beside a ticking metronome. (the antithesis of a music-loving journey)

Obviously, it didn’t work and the child gave up piano, never returning as an adult. I call those individuals “pcbr.” (Permanently crippled and beyond rehab)


In my considered opinion, the only way to motivate thoughtful, self-blossoming practicing is to model it as teachers and parents in our daily lives, not just in our professional undertakings.

Loving what we do, and embracing time spent, being inquisitive, focused, and patient are transferable to our children in any number of activities.. You can say, by osmosis, we learn ways of knowing, experiencing, embracing.

If I love my work, if I love daily expression, if I can live in a non-combative environment and grow in increments, but not by perfect measurement, then I will have nourished a part of me that enriches my life.

Youngsters today are on a quick gratification treadmill; they communicate by cell phone; drag iPods around, barely making it to the next sports romp.

How can they begin to practice piano in an environment that is not harmonious with artistic expression?

There’s little more to be said and lots to think about.



8 thoughts on “Piano Lessons: “My kids don’t practice so what can I do about it?””

  1. Thank you, Shirley. Lots of wisdom here. Given your childhood background described (lucky you!), I’d wager that we adults who eventually made the commitment are in a bit of a disconnect with youngsters who are still experiencing the process, be it ever so scattered at times. Patience, patience, perceptive patience!


  2. Thanks for your lovely thoughts! I receive several excuses each week from various students. And then I say, ok let us start from where we are now. People aren’t machines and we all have ups and downs. I remind them that we all need a vacation from time to time and that is healthy. I accept their changes and try to motivate them to be drawn to the piano because they love it and because they feel so happy when they play a piece of music well. Enjoying the process is what life is all about, isn’t it?

    Eventually they realize that it takes time and some dedication to bring their pieces to a high enough standard to perform them. And then the rest is history hopefully!

    It does take lots of patience and enjoying each student for what they are capable of based on their life at that particular moment in time.


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