Easy Phrases for Students

I love teaching! This is my first week back to teaching after my summer break and I am loving it! I took a little more time off than usual this summer, so I was afraid my students would be pretty rusty. I have been pleasantly surprised. I think I’m rustier than most of them! 🙂

There are a couple of phrases that I’ve found myself using with students this week that have been very helpful:

Play this like it’s the easiest thing in the world for you.” – I use this when I observe tension in a student’s hand and they are having trouble making transitions from one place to another on the keyboard (i.e. parallel 5ths). Usually this is a result of them feeling like they can’t leave the keys or they might lose their place or hit a wrong note. So I demonstrate with a really relaxed hand and arm motion, floating off the keys, looking away from the piano, etc. and then landing back down in the new key position. Inevitably they find that it’s not as hard to make the transition as they were making it on themselves.

Drill that section until it feels easy to play.” – Instead of telling them to practice a section a certain number of times, I’ve started using this phrase that requires them to honestly evaluate their playing and progress and puts them in charge of deciding how much practice it needs. They are not focused on counting repetitions, but rather on making progress. So what if they can play it 4 times in a row perfectly? If it still doesn’t feel easy in their hand, they will probably mess it up anyway.

My focus this year is on mastery, so I’m trying not to let my students get away with barely scraping by. I want them to feel comfortable and at-ease when they are playing, not like they are walking on the edge of a cliff and could experience a disastrous slip at any moment. So, for example, if every note of their scale has me on pins and needles wondering if they are going to make it to the end (and please tell me I’m not the only one who hears scales played like this regularly…!), they don’t get to pass it and move on. They have to convince me that they’ve put in the effort and have mastered it in order to progress to the next scale. We’ll see how that plays out this year!

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