Thursday, September 25, 2008

Daily piano tip #22.

After yesterday's article, I don't want you to think that I refuse to say good things to my students and only criticize negatively. One must be careful with compliments, though. Here are some things to remember when complimenting students:

1. Be sincere, phony compliments help no one.

2. Never compliment the person, compliment what that person does.

3. Don't pit students one against the other.

4. Be as specific as possible.

5. If there are too many absolute compliments (that don't have a "but" after you say them), they tend to lose their worth.


  1. Can't agree with you more.

    Sometimes I wonder how we really do define talent? You see there are some students out there that only practice for half an hour a day, and there are others that put in two hours. Sometimes the one practicing for half an hour a day succeeds but this could be because of practicing productively. The one practicing for two hours could just be 'mucking around' without a goal. Sometimes there is the student who doesn't understand concepts easily, to me, this could mean that the teacher teaches in a way that caters to visual students. If the teacher approached it a different way then maybe the student would understand it. Einstein hated structured education and he was a failure in school, but the was one of the most intelligent thinkers.

    I agree it ultimately comes down to hard work. Still as a student (I come top in class often) I know its because of yes, hard work and I know that I have many teachers to turn to when I am not sure of something. The rest of my class don't have the luxury of extra teachers. Because of this many students turn to me and ask: Am I talented? Can I play/sing well? I need your honest opinion. ... This question to me entails that they don't have much of a self esteem. After reading your article I don't know how to really express it. I would often say "You play fine! ... You are really 'raw' talent, you just need to work on it ... you need to spend some more time practicing and refining your work." ... Then two weeks later I ask "How much time do you spend practicing?" ... They say "two hours a day" ... (that's more than I do ... I only do one hour). This makes me realize that there is a lot of hard work but there is no guidance. On, my part as a fellow student I don't think its my responsibility or position to teach them. At the same time I don't want to inhibit any harm when giving a serious comment. I think they are just students who haven't discovered their capabilities. I know I am fortunate enough to have access to five different teachers whereas these students don't. I really would like to help but I don't want to inflict any damage.

    Any suggestions?

    (sorry for the long response)

  2. I figure the best thing you could do is advise them to find another teacher, and frame any advice you give with context on where you are coming from with that advice.

  3. I have honestly advised for them to take private lessons and issues of cost come up. You see, this is a high school I am on about and I am in my senior high school years. Students choose music as one of their course choices but they don't take private lessons. Most of them are self taught learners and have the sincerest belief that they can succeed from teaching themselves. There is a plenteous supply of videos and articles geared to piano. Many students believe that this is sufficient.

    Its tricky really, I suppose in the end I can't change them but the expense is the main issue when it comes to private lessons and many students are reluctant to take lessons. Sometime they come to me asking me to teach them ... I really feel inadequate to teach them. But, I don't want to leave them with no help.

    Thanks for replying to my comment.

  4. Perhaps teaching themselves with videos and books is good enough for what they want. Not everyone wants to be a pianist or a musician; most people are happy enough being able to plunk out the notes to a song they like with one finger.

    Eventually they might get to a point at which they will feel the need for an actual teacher if they want to get better.